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Old 18th January 2022, 08:46 PM   #31
RobT
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Default Not a Consistant Feature

Sajen & Ian,

Although the bolster/ricasso feature is found on faca de ponta more often than not, it is not always present as can be seen in the top three examples from my collection and therefore can't be considered a defining characteristic. My fourth example shows a faca with a ricasso but without a brass (or silver) overlay and thus matches the African examples on Wodimi's site. It is interesting to note that, in the three faca without a bolster/ricasso, a short, thick bolster integral with the blade serves as a tip for the hilt ferrule. My faca with the ricasso has a conical shaped integral bolster at the end of the ferrule. Examination (under bright light and magnification) of the other five faca in my collection (all of which have the bolster/ricasso feature) shows only one with a short, thick, integral bolster.
PS: The brass sheath for the third faca may or may not be original to the piece but it fits perfectly.

Sajen,
When I saw your post about Wodimi's excellent site, I immediately put it into my desktop favorites folder only to discover that it was already there from a previous search I had done about the very topic we are now discussing.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 21st January 2022, 08:49 PM   #32
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Thanks for the measurements Drac2k ! And no worries, as you can see, I was away for some days too !

David, very pertinent remark, convergent evolution and perceived similarities can be very misleading in this field, especially when dealing with weapon with such strong cultural influences.


Martin, good catch with the scabbard, I can definitely see the similarities.



Anyway, I'm still digging through online museum collections, I'll let you know if I find anything. Maybe Tim could tell us more about his theory ?
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Old 19th July 2022, 07:08 PM   #33
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Adding some very interesting information! This is an extract from "La Collection d'armes orientales de Pierre Loti" by Stéphane Pradines, showing an extremely similar weapon! Loti's collection is well documented and we know that this knife was acquired in Senegal. Considering this, as well as the two other known examples on this forum, I think we have good reasons to consider those knives as a type in itself of Senegalese / Malika origin.
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Old 26th July 2022, 01:19 AM   #34
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Default Who Influenced Whom?

Hi All,

So what we have here are three examples of possibly Spanish knives showing African influence and in African sheaths or three examples of possibly African knives in African sheaths and showing Spanish influence. Since the Moors were a power in Spain until the fall of Granada in 1492 (when Columbus sailed the ocean blue), there can be no doubt that they influenced Spanish material culture as heavily as the Spanish influenced the material culture of North Africa. This two-way street quite possibly resulted in knives that both Spanish and Northern Africans were comfortable with and that, in some instances, are virtually impossible to tell apart.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 27th July 2022, 02:09 PM   #35
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I agree with Sajen. Very much a Spanish-style knife with a South American hilt. Most likely from Brazil. The blade profile is a little different from the common 20th C versions of the faca da ponta, but it may be an older historical form. Trade between Spanish colonies was common, and of course such trade was the norm between Spain and its colonies. That such knives ended up in northern and western Africa is quite understandable.
I think Ian’s explanation might be the most “Occam-ish”. Spanish cutlers made S. American style knives and exported them to Brazil. Having found a degree of demand in NW Africa, they expanded their export to an easily reachable nearby market.
That would also explain African scabbards with African suspension cords : scabbards are perishable components and can easily be made locally.

Instead of postulating chancy occurence of parallel development or something similar we can explain the appearance of same or very similar features of “Brazilian” and “NW African” knives by business decisions of the manufacturers. Similarly, some minor differences in the construction might be easily compatible with different manufacturers having preferred export targets.

Globalization did not start yesterday.
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Old 28th July 2022, 12:42 AM   #36
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Default Not the Only Possible Conclusion

ariel,

I certainly believe that Ian's proposal is plausible but I ask you to consider these two arguments.
One, there is not one shred of concrete evidence to prove conclusively that the three blades in African sheaths are of Spanish origin. There are no blade stamps. All we do have is a suite of characteristics that are shared by North African and Spanish knives alike.
Two, the most visible elements on knives and swords are the sheath and the hilt. As such, the styling of these elements invariably reflects the culture of the wearer. For example, many koummya blades were made in Europe but the hilts and the sheaths were made in Africa. Takouba and Tulwar are just two more in a large array of examples of sometimes European blades with always native hilts and sheaths.
With argument two in mind, I find it strange that North Africans would accept a hilt not precisely of their culture. I also find it strange that any European cutlers would bother to supply hilts or sheaths when they could just export the blades alone (a la koummya, etc). This is especially true when one considers that non-culturally correct hilts and sheaths might be a negative selling point.

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RobT
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Old 28th July 2022, 06:12 AM   #37
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ariel,

I certainly believe that Ian's proposal is plausible but I ask you to consider these two arguments.
One, there is not one shred of concrete evidence to prove conclusively that the three blades in African sheaths are of Spanish origin. There are no blade stamps. All we do have is a suite of characteristics that are shared by North African and Spanish knives alike.
Two, the most visible elements on knives and swords are the sheath and the hilt. As such, the styling of these elements invariably reflects the culture of the wearer. For example, many koummya blades were made in Europe but the hilts and the sheaths were made in Africa. Takouba and Tulwar are just two more in a large array of examples of sometimes European blades with always native hilts and sheaths.
With argument two in mind, I find it strange that North Africans would accept a hilt not precisely of their culture. I also find it strange that any European cutlers would bother to supply hilts or sheaths when they could just export the blades alone (a la koummya, etc). This is especially true when one considers that non-culturally correct hilts and sheaths might be a negative selling point.

Sincerely,
RobT
All true. And, certainly, their scabbard are not Spanish. But the African "locals" could have made " local" scabbards just like in the Moroccan koummya story. And even Spanish scabbards ( if those were provided with the dagger), when they were damaged or just worn out, replacement with "local" scabbard was an inevitability.

Under no circumstance do I insist on the veracity of that "export story". But I think it is so simple and so reminiscent of other African stories ( takouba, gurade, shotel, kaskara, koummya, nimcha) that it may just be plausible. I, for one, think that it might be true, but other scenarios also may be possible. Occam was not 100% correct in each and every case:-)
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Old 28th July 2022, 08:16 PM   #38
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ariel,

The examples you list (takouba, gurade, shotel, kaskara, koummya, nimcha [tulwar and firangi can be added to the list]) to support the "export theory" are all representative of the point I am trying to make. In all these cases, we define the items by their hilts and sheaths not the blades. A tulwar blade may be from an English model 1840 cavalry saber but we still call it a tulwar because of the native made hilt. The same can be said of the firangi which may have a Italian rapier blade but will have a Hindu basket hilt. A good number of koummya blades were especially made in Europe for export to Africa but I defy anyone to find any koummya with a European made hilt and sheath. Regardless of who made the blade, if the hilt and sheath are a visible part of the wearer's costume, virtually without exception those elements will be native made (and it's a good thing too, because were that not the case, we would have a heck of a time figuring out where a lot of our stuff comes from). Why then should it be any different for the three knives under discussion? Why would the Spanish go to the effort to supply hilts (and possibly sheaths originally) for export to cultures that didn't want them?

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RobT
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Old 29th July 2022, 02:16 AM   #39
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Hi Rob,

Exchanges of goods and crafts (including craftsmen) between regions along the Mediterranean coast and inland has been ongoing for millennia. Diffusion of styles has been inevitable, as goods and those who made them have moved around the various trading bodies. What works well or looks prestigious in one culture may also be desirable in another, perhaps with some local flair added. Human beings are an imaginative species and we like to tinker with other people's ideas and make our own, culturally appealing items.

We see a similar thing with automobiles. GM takes a Japanese vehicle, brands it with the GM label, and we have an "American" car. Same car, different label, but maybe some different tax implications. The only physical difference is the label. The "true" provenance of the vehicle (design, technical specs, etc.) is Japanese, and if we stripped away the labels we would say it is a Japanese vehicle. But culturally is it not also an American car (US materials, labor, construction).

What if we imported all the pieces and assembled them in the US, would this be an American car culturally? After all, the labor and construction occurred in the US. The Internal Revenue Service might be persuaded that there is sufficient US content to qualify as a locally made vehicle, and thereby provide some tax benefits. But is it truly a US vehicle?

I think we need to look at fundamental design. Edged weapons are defined by their edge, i.e., the blade. Hilt, scabbard, and decorative elements are secondary features, often adjusted to local preferences.

Getting back to knives in question, it seems to me that we have slender, double-edged blades with a centered point, often with a small ricasso or bolster, and circular hilts of diverse materials including various metals and wood. One style we might call Spanish (faca da ponta) and the other West African, according to the cultural decorative elements. The question of which came first is hard to answer. Given the exchange of trade, ideas and craftsmen within that geographic region, it seems likely to me that some diffusion of style occurred. I hesitate to say in which direction that diffusion occurred. However, given that the stiletto form has been around a long time among Mediterranean and Western European countries (and elsewhere) it's hard to know where its origin may have been.
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Old 2nd August 2022, 02:31 AM   #40
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Hi Ian,

One can perhaps say that, for a brief time (1950-1965), American cars (the famous Yank Tanks) were characterized by a large size and flamboyance which set them apart from other cars worldwide. It could be argued that these cars were the final (and most extreme) example of American Streamline but, that being said, it should be noted that American Streamline was just an American manifestation of the Art Deco and there was really nothing particularly or distinctly "American" about it. With the advent of international mass market auto sales, any and all cultural design queues vanished. Today, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. Regardless of where they are designed or made, automotive vehicles are styled to appeal to a global market and their technical specs (emission standards, safety, etc) are modified as needed to be legal for all countries. Given the above, I don't think provenance matters at all.
This isn't the case with the three knives in question. Here we are trying to establish provenance based on stylistic queues that are culturally distinct and are present because of their appeal to a niche market. I agree wholly with your point about stylistic diffusion in the Mediterranean. Which is precisely why I contend that, in the absence of any absolute proof, it can't be concluded with any certainty that the three knives in question are either of Spanish or of North African origin.
Regarding the faca de ponta, I have to say that I am convinced that the antecedents of the form came from North Africa because I am unaware of any Spanish or Portuguese knife that looks like a faca de ponta but, as Wodimi's site amply shows, there are a lot of Northern African ones that do. As a personal aside, I bought my first faca de ponta early in my collecting "career". At that time, I was certain that it was some sort of African dagger and spent a long time searching for an African origin until I stumbled upon the correct information.

Sincerely,
RobT
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