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Old 7th February 2024, 11:52 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Arab Cutlasses of the Pirate Coast

There were pirates in the Persian Gulf in ancient times, but the subject here is those who preyed from the Strait of Hormuz at Ras al Khaima along the coast, southward. These regions were known as the 'Pirate Coast', until 1820 when the British signed treaties with many of the sheikhs in coastal principalities with these regions termed 'The Trucial Coast'.

While the complexities of these ongoing circumstances in these areas, it is interesting to note this obscure area of 'piracy', which typically of course is centered mostly on the familiar pirates of the Caribbean.

In these areas of Arabia, the focus here is on the al Qawasim tribe (termed Joasmi by the British) many of whom formed the groups of pirates who raided and attacked along the coasts of Eastern Arabia, vessels of the East India Co., and even as far as the western (Malabar) coast of India.
It seems that these coastal regions in the Gulf were studded with islands, twisting creeks, treacherous sand banks and ideal for pirate activity.

The book, "The Pirate Coast" by Sir Charles Belgrave (1966) is a wonderful source detailing the history of piracy in these regions.

The top example strongly resembles the 17/18th c. example in "Arms & Armor of Arabia", Robert Elgood, 1994, 2.1,
note the mention of resemblance of blade widening resembling the 'Moplah' weapons of the Malabar coast of India, where it seems these pirate vessels had certain contact. Both of these swords have similar widening of distal third of blade. While the mountings of both of these seem of course far more recent, the blades seem much older.

Would appreciate thoughts, ideas, other examples. I am not specifying these are 'pirate' swords but that they might be of the forms used by either these tribes of Ras al Khalma or perhaps Muscat. It is known of course that there was notable Yemeni influence in Oman, and the lower example, has a hilt shape with the blockish shape seen in the Yemeni sa'if (often termed Zanzibari). in example posted with ring guard.


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Old 8th February 2024, 04:01 AM   #2
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Fascinating topic Jim. The swords you show, including the one in Elgood's book are all from Yemen. I have a similar one as well, but I am not sure we can link them to pirates from the opposite coast of the Southern Arabian Peninsula.
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Old 8th February 2024, 05:41 AM   #3
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Historic photos shows Qawasim leaders mainly carrying standard Omani swords and other full sized Arab swords that are likely imported from Sharqiya and some examples could very well be imported from Iraq.

I have not found any evidence of those short Yemeni swords being used there while I consistently find them solely coming out of Yemen.

Jim, you'd love this actually, a Yemeni sent me photos of about 30 of them. Some have much larger blades. Will email those images to you as sometimes I have trouble uploading images to the forum.
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Old 8th February 2024, 12:11 PM   #4
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Teo and Lofty thank you so much!!!
While my ideas were admittedly wild speculation as far as linking my examples to this rather esoteric sector of piracy (the raconteur in me could not resist).....it is wonderful to have definitive attribution to these.

Though the examples I have cannot be linked to these regions as I had hoped, I think the topic itself deserved further pursuit. As always in research, often one door closing simply means others to open.

It does seem Yemen carries the recognition as a primary source for the wider range of sword types in the collective of Arabian forms, with of course the Omani examples having their own distinction. The sa'if I pictured in the last photo is one of the types in the so called 'nimcha' genre, and with the ring guard typically has been classified as 'Zanzibar' type.

In Buttin (1933) these, along with the other similar types are collectively termed sa'if, without further specification. I have often wondered if these sword types have had colloquial terms used locally for them (beyond the 'collectors' terms widely used in references).

This example when I acquired it about 20 years ago was said to have been part of a number (about 40) swords found in an old arsenal in Yemen, and these examples (mostly with ring guards) were said to have come from Zanzibar (hence the term applied).

I think the thing with identifying swords in the context of piracy itself is pretty much futile in most cases,as naturally, these groups operated largely independently and would use whatever weapons available. With that being the case, of course any number of weapon forms might have been taken in their 'activities' thus there was likely quite a range of possibilities.

It seems likely that individual anomalies might have filtered in with those instances, but as you note Lofty, the forms through regular trade channels into the Qawasim sphere would seem be most familiarly present.

I look forward to those images!

Guys thank you again! I hope the topic itself can keep going here......my curiosity is totally piqued in looking further into the swords which indeed might have been used in these regions by pirates.
While the Qawasim leaders seem to have been established as wearing the standard Omani sa'if (commonly termed kattara in collectors parlance) with the open cylindrical type guard, the other forms noted would be interesting to see as well.
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Old 8th February 2024, 09:35 PM   #5
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When it comes to pirates, the North African corsairs seem to be the only group that developed a distinct weapon - the nimchas from the 17th and 18th century, which Eric Claude classifies as Algerian. We have multiple examples in European museums with pirate provenance that all share a common type unique to the Barbary coast. This was possible because piracy was a state sponsored activity there and these pirates had all kinds of infrastructure ashore, including the necessary workshops (even if the blades were predominantly imports).

Other pirates who did not enjoy land based support on a similar scale did not really have the resources or ability to focus on developing their own edged weapons, but rather equipped themselves as best as they could, often from a multitude of sources. In the case of the Qasimi pirates, proximity to Oman means Omani weapons would have been the easiest to obtain. It is interesting that in the photographs the Qasimi leaders wear the long, conical hilt swords as these seem like the least suitable for boarding fights from the Omani panoply, with both the older, shorter swords and the Omani/Zanzibari nicmhas looking like much better options, but the photographic evidence is what it is and if they used other weapons in earlier times, we do not have any pictures.

Finally, when it comes to the nimcha like hilt, the Yemeni version seems like a cruder, simplified interpretation of the Oman/Zanzibar one, which leads me to think that it was copied from Oman and adopted in Yemen in the late 19th, early 20th century at the earliest.
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Old 8th February 2024, 11:58 PM   #6
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Thanks very much Teo, so the Moroccan/Algerian sa'if which has long been established as the weapon of the Barbary corsairs is pretty much the single 'pirate' oriented sword of 'Arab' form. (illustration 1)

I see what you mean on the Yemeni/ Zanzibar (Oman) form sa'if (like #1 commonly termed nimcha), cruder and simpler. These hilts actually seem cast.

The conical Omani sa'ifs as noted (my example #3 is pretty rough) were it seems often highly embellished, silvered etc. as worn in a status oriented sense. In research a number of years ago, as per burton (1885) and Demmin (1877) these were entirely unlikely as combat weapons.

However the similar conical hilted examples with curved blades (usually German) were. These were the actual 'kitara' swords (illustr. #4).

I agree with your observations on these Omani forms being most likely in the Hormuz, Muscat areas, and if any of the Yemeni forms did find use there it was surely incidental. Thank you again, well explained insights!
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Old 9th February 2024, 12:19 AM   #7
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Default Movements of the Nimcha design across The Indian Oceanand beyond.

Jim this is an excellent topic. The wide blade in the Moplah style is fascinating.

I think this is an important design transfer dating before the rule of Saaid The Great. I think that the hilts are also similar to the Nimchas from both Zanzibar and Morrocco. In my view I suspect that the Omani Navy used the Zanzibari Nimcha format for weapons probably Naval Officers dress Swords long before the appearance of Saaid the Great in about 1806....It may be remembered that he influenced weapon designs on Omani Khanjars of the Al Saaidi style and reformatted the hilts of Sayf Yemaani ....Other designs such as the Cummerbund and Turban are also down to him and of course the Omaani Sayf ...a straight bladed conical Hilt with very flexible blade and perhaps 30 years later the sister to it The Omani Kittara with the curved blade and identical Hilt from Bunyoro-Kittara in The Great Lakes ....In pointing to the Moplah style of blade you indicate a valuable and entirely plausible case for the Moplah to have influenced Nimcha blade design right through the region ... Thanks Jim ... Excellent indeed!...
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Old 9th February 2024, 08:15 PM   #8
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Its great to have you come in on this Peter!
The 'moplah' type blade does have pretty old ancestry as per many of the references, Elgood notes it as 17-18th c. and it seems "Arts of the Muslim Knight" has these shown (need to find the photos).

It seems one of these (with the Maghrebi style guard system,as pictured below) was captured by Thomas Hopsonn in 1676 from an Algerian corsair. It seems this further supports the Yemeni associations noted by Lofty and Teo on these weapon types, and with these 'Moplah'(?) influenced blades.

In this, there is still a bit of potential for a 'piracy' connection with these two examples, tenuous though it may be. The hilts are clearly far more recent, however the blades resembling the earlier types noted may well have been circulating in these earlier times.

In that case, the regions of North Africa where the Sale' Rovers operated from that city/state in Morocco, as well as the notorious Barbary corsairs from the various Barbary states 17th into 18th c.

It is surprising to know that many of these 'pirates' were actually former European privateers, who moved into these regions in peace time to carry on with their 'trade'. Usually these men converted to Islam and took new names.

As with the often far ranging regions where these groups of 'pirates' operated, along with the complex trade networks which were present through all these areas, the diffusion of weapon forms must have been remarkable.

With that ratiocination, there are of course many possibilities.
Still, by the numbers, the suggestions for probable 'pirate coast' (eastern Arabia) connected to Oman and the 'Barbary Coast' (North Africa) and its connection to Yemen (S. Arabia) seem most plausible.
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Old 9th February 2024, 08:23 PM   #9
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On the 'kitara' sword, which is the saber bladed form of the conical Omani sa'if, it seems the rather thickly wrapped leather grip would be hard to hold unless with two hands, much in the way the larger conical grip broadsword of Oman is used.

It seems likely the Zanzibari versions of 'nimcha' coming into Oman from Zanzibar might well have found use to the northern Muscati regions. These would of course lent to the single hand use of the nimchas of North Africa/Yemen?
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Old 9th February 2024, 08:51 PM   #10
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Jim, the nimcha you have posted is the one from the collcetion of the Met in New York. It belongs to a type of which there are multiple examples, including one captured by the great Dutch admiral De Ruuyter in 1655, a couple in the Real Armeria reportedly from the battle of Oran in 1732, as well as other examples without provenance or dating in Malta, St. Petersburg and private collections.

Hopsonn's nimcha currently in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich is slightly different, as you can see on the attached photo of it, but generally from the same time period and just of a slightly different grip style. it is similar to another nimcha in the Rijksmuseum that belonged to Cornelis Tromp.

Personally, I do not quite see the connection to the moplah/adya katti. The Moplah cleavers have the cutting edge on the opposite side. On nimchas the blade seems much more likely to have derived from the Italian storta and the Ottoman and Mameluke blades (the yelman part).
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Old 9th February 2024, 09:05 PM   #11
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Here is a link to the storta in the Met Museum, dated to ca. 1490. It is often shown as a sort of a predecessor to nimchas, and one can certainly see some similarities.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/24904

I am not aware of any nicmhas that predate this storta. The earliest nimcha is potentially an example in the Hofburg Imperial Armory with a straight broadsword blade and gilded mounts in Ottoman style. At least Eric Claude dates it to the 16th century. The nimchas in Malta are almost certainly not from the Great Siege, but from later naval engagements (the knights were just as much into piracy as their Ottoman and North African adversaries).

All in all, Anthony North's theory all the way back from the 70s that the nimcha derives from the storta still seems the most plausible to me today, at least when it comes to the blade and guard, while also accounting for Ottoman influence. The grip is more mysterious and that may actually have South-East Asian influences, if not origin, but that is a different topic.
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Old 9th February 2024, 09:44 PM   #12
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Thank you Teo, I think you're right, the storta, with this interesting hilt form reveals the kind of guard system seen on the nimchas. I think this was discussed by the late Tony North in his article "A Late 15th Century Italian Sword" (Connoisseur, Dec. 1975).
The blade types as you say probably do derive from falchion types of these early times, and the 'moplah' thing is more comparative for the heavier flare distally. I have always wondered just how much of the flared blade came from falchions, as well as the widened blade yelman, then of course the Meditteranean kopis (which indeed had the inside cutting edge) all of these features having varied considerations.

It has always seemed that the Italian influences on the edged weapons of so many places have been profound because of the prolific trade contacts, so much so I was compelled to buy the huge "Armi Bianchi Italiene" volume (1975) . In studying the development of so many forms, the Italian ancestry being so consistent, it was essential.

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Old 10th February 2024, 10:31 AM   #13
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I remember emailing you images of an 'Algerian' nimcha that was found in Yemen with later Yemeni mounts. It was restored but I shall upload the before and after images upon receiving it. Perhaps the mariners had influence on Yemen which explains the high usage of short blades.



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Old 10th February 2024, 10:44 AM   #14
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Here are the images. Note that the nimcha will have further restorations to the hilt with MoP and coral. though my restorer will confirm if its a viable option or will negatively effects the handle.

This particular example has two lockets which is odd, the older having Ottoman style niello work over a later, 19th century Yemeni locket (matches the chape and carrying rings) so this likely had quite a journey. The blades on both examples are short cutlass type.
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Old 10th February 2024, 10:49 AM   #15
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Images of the nimcha hilt
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Old 10th February 2024, 03:18 PM   #16
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These are great examples Lofty! and its amazing to see them restored.
I think the hardest thing in describing these variations in the spectrum of Arabian sa'if is the terms used for them. Though often not linguistically or geographically correct , these typically serve well semantically in specifying which form or example is being referred to.

The term 'nimcha' is of course seems the most broadly used for most of these from Moroccan (and Algerian), to Zanzibari, but then these 'pistol gripped' types which are basically the same as the others with sort of a canted pommel, seem to fall into what was regarded as from Hadramaut. Naturally these are actually Yemeni, but for some time I thought that was more correct.

Of course I recognize the silver banded, and distinctive silvered throat and chape, and realized some time ago that Yemeni was more properly used.

Good point on the probable influence of mariners likely impacting the use of shorter and somewhat heavier blades in regions where their ports of call would be a source for weaponry as well as trade goods.

By analogy, the Spanish colonial espada ancha, the shorter, heavy bladed hanger used largely in utility use for brushing trails etc. actually evolved from hangers and cutlasses from vessels arriving in ports in New Spain. The cutlasses used on ships, while obviously used in combat if necessary, also served mostly in mundane services on board and notably ashore , where they became 'machetes' in cutting through thick vegetation .

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Old 10th February 2024, 04:23 PM   #17
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Very interesting Lotfy, thank you for posting these. Do you also have pictures of the blade of the Algerian nimcha?
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Old 12th February 2024, 04:02 AM   #18
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I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this thread! (especially Jim, for starting it!). As a 'follower' of all things pirate, I had been confused by the various patterns of swords from the Magreb and other regions referred to broadly as 'nimcha'. For someone such as myself who would like to add a Barbary corsair-type sword to their collection, this clarifies the issue very much! Thanks to everyone again!
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Old 12th February 2024, 04:46 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV View Post
Very interesting Lotfy, thank you for posting these. Do you also have pictures of the blade of the Algerian nimcha?
Yes sir. I am mostly using old photos of when this was being prepared for restoration. The blade is in much better shape now.

There appears to be both import and 'local' production of relatively good quality. I am mainly basing this on the varying finish quality but all seem to maintain the very wide spine and drastic distal taper.
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Old 12th February 2024, 04:51 AM   #20
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This example I sold a while ago. From what I remember the blade was phenomenal. Those short blades I came to handle all share the features I've mentioned before; very wide spines and drastic distal taper but not all look the same. Some have Arabic stamps too.
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Old 12th February 2024, 06:22 AM   #21
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I believe these two are for pirate use also.
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Old 12th February 2024, 04:38 PM   #22
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Beautiful and interesting examples Lotfi, thank you for sharing.

Eftihis, the sword and yataghan you show with nimcha grips could have certainly been used in a naval context, and in fact, it is even likely that they were.
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Old 12th February 2024, 06:04 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV View Post
Beautiful and interesting examples Lotfi, thank you for sharing.

Eftihis, the sword and yataghan you show with nimcha grips could have certainly been used in a naval context, and in fact, it is even likely that they were.
I very much agree, and it seems that Arab swords in these forms were likely used in maritime contexts as the Arabs were of course so prevalent in trade which of course was by sea.

I would like to correct my earlier posts where I showed a sword which I had assumed was one of the 'kitara' swords, which was in fact a Manding saber from Mali.

The first image is the one in question; the 2nd a proper Manding saber.
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Old 13th February 2024, 12:48 AM   #24
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Default Just a close look at Moplah blades...

Hello Jim, Your #8 Post shows the clear evidence of several design features probably made through cross regional movement in the Indian Ocean... Here I want to comment upon the broadened blade aspect of such a design movement also shown at #2 By TVV. . Clearly there has been a lot of sword design flow across the Indian Ocean

I have looked through some excellent entries on Forum in this regard and at the web in the case of the following reference https://www.mandarinmansion.com/glossary/moplah-sword centuries gone by.

Key artwork for inclusion here is on the distinctive broad blade of the Moplah...my suggestion being to illustrate how such a blade could well influence swords could have been influenced across the Indian Ocean from the home of the Moplah.. The Malibar Coast.
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Old 15th February 2024, 08:17 AM   #25
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With regards to the Barbary Coast, there is quite a diverse and interesting history as part of it was / concerned the present Moroccan city of Salé , where I have worked for a year in 1980.
It is opposite Rabat , separated by the Bouregreg river and used to be an independent for a while and a cente of the pirates.
Many of whom were Dutch renegades, like Jan Janszoon van Haarlem (AKA Moerad Raďs 1570- 1641).
Enclosed a sword captured by Michiel de Ruyter, most likely in the battle at Salé, approx. 1640-1664, Rijksmuseum NG-NM-10412. I can highly recommand a visit to the city of Salé !
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Old 15th February 2024, 06:41 PM   #26
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Fantastic entry gp!!!
Absolutely, the so called Sallee Rovers were the forerunners of the Barbary Pirates, though Im not sure if they melded into the Barbary category or not.
This is amazing artwork and adds so much to the context here.
These activities were prevalent along these coastal areas of North Africa and which seem often to have extended much further to other coasts.

It is interesting that European renegades often joined the ranks of these 'rovers' and that circumstance prevailed into the 'Barbary' period as well.
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Old 15th February 2024, 08:15 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Fantastic entry gp!!!
Absolutely, the so called Sallee Rovers were the forerunners of the Barbary Pirates, though Im not sure if they melded into the Barbary category or not.
This is amazing artwork and adds so much to the context here.
These activities were prevalent along these coastal areas of North Africa and which seem often to have extended much further to other coasts.

It is interesting that European renegades often joined the ranks of these 'rovers' and that circumstance prevailed into the 'Barbary' period as well.
formally the Sallee pirates reported to the Ottoman Empire, but had some independence. This was more or less centrally controlled from Tunis and Algiers.
Later the Sallee pirates took on a special status. But many Dutch renegades were found in both places.


It is interesting to see that the Dutch VOC was a prominent arms dealer at that time. Along the entire coast you will see cannons in the kasbahs with the VOC sign and city name; From Tangier, via Sallee, Safi and El Jadidah (Mazagan)..
pics :
CUTLASS BARBARY PIRATE SHORT SWORD 1650
and a Barbary Corsar AD 1500-1800 Torquay Museum

and most interesting:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=6749
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Old 17th February 2024, 12:58 AM   #28
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On the topic of Italian influences on Indian Ocean pirates, what do you make of this one? The hilt is a typical example of the "Turk's head" type of mid-eighteenth century Genoan dagger, but the curved blade resembles that of a Moplah knife (Albeit, quite a small and delicate one.). At the same time, the pommel cap design reminds me of Zanzibari nimchas.
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Old 17th February 2024, 01:33 AM   #29
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Default The Malibar Coast.

PIRACY IN INDIAN WATERS IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
RUBY MALONI*
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From https://www.jstor.org/stable/44142635?seq=2

During the seventeenth century piracy in Indian Ocean was common and in forms according to the social and political context. Within the compleat warp and weft of Asian maritime trade, this phenomenon has to be understood as a matter of shadings rather than clear distinctions. For a long time this has been de-emphasised or passed over lightly by most historians as tales of freebooters and buccaneers. But recently interest has been focussed on both separately and as part of the debate on the relations between the east Asian trade and European penetration in Asia in the pre-colonial phase.

The aim of this paper is to underline and examine some of the facets in the Western Indian Ocean, especially as it emerges from the evidence Surat Factory Records. Among the usual staid reports and placid narrative a refrain of piracy is discernible. Two significant aspects are to do with Malabar 'pirates', and Indian shipping at the port of Surat. Both were woven into the system of protection and coercion introduced into the waters by European maritime powers. Effort has been made in this paper to keep away from an Eurocentric paradigm as well as a drastic reaction to it.

Piracy has been called "an occupational disease of commerce." In this period and area, piratical operations manifested themselves variedly and widely. It was rife in the China seas, especially in the period of the Ming dynasty. The dreaded Wako pirates, based in Japan, operated freely along the Gulf of Siam and China's southern and eastern coastline. In the Arabian Sea, the Yarubi (Omani) Navy emerged as a powerful force. By 1650 Muscat held by Portugal fell to them and in the next fifteen years they swept the Portuguese out of all east African settlements except Mozambique. Bombay, Diu and Bassein were plundered by them.

Matters were further complicated by the incursion of European buccaneers who made Madagascar and the Comoro Islands their base and preyed on Indian shipping, their main intent was the plunder of specie and spices. While riverine Bengal faced the depredations of Portuguese freebooters along with the Maghs of Arakan, west coast shipping was harassed by the pirates of north-west Kathiawar. Many merchants were on the pirate fringe. European private merchants and 'Interlopers' were among those who indulged in piracy if the opportunity presented itself. This period witnessed the rise of new nuclei of naval power in western Indian waters, such as the respective navies of the Zamorin of Calicut, Angre and the Sidi of Janjira.]

The sixteenth century was a watershed between peaceful trading and armed trading in the Indian Ocean. The . Portuguese had the dubious distinction of introducing politics into the Ocean. From the very beginning the Portuguese discovery of the Cape route to India was accompanied by a determination to place coercive methods before those of normal peaceful commerce. Pedro Alvarez Cabral's instructions in 1500 were that if ships trading with Calicutwere encountered he would take possession of them, " of their merchandise and property and also of the Moors who are in the ships."

Every Indian ship had to buy a cartaz (Traders licence) if it was to avoid seizure and confiscation of its cargo. The revenue earned through this redistributive enterprise was substantial, and made the Estado da India a piratical state or in Braudels terms, simply customs officials'.

The violent overture of the Portuguese was taken up by the English and the Dutch, continuing the undisguised use of sea power and payment for
protection en route. In the seventeenth century, indigenous shipping in the Indian Ocean would be equipped in many instances with passes from several European nations. The Surat Factory Records contain clear references to the capture of Indian vessels without English passes, and the organisation of kafilas or convoys with an aim at control. By 1630 the English fleet at Surat was trying to protect Indian ships plying the Red Sea trade, such as the Shahi, after richly laden ships like the Musahi had been seized by the Portuguese. Forty years later, the English continued to escort Indian vessels in this area, particularly Aurangzeb's Mocha 'junks'.

Convoys were organised with a dual purpose: to protect against pirates, but more to ensure that the protected ships traded according to their conditions. Thus the cost of the pass was sheer unreciprocal extortion, first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and the English. Protection and coercion were contradictory, yet two sides of the same coin. Both were exercised in ample measure, and the play of free trade and open competition vs domination and
operation of monopolies makes for a significant study.

Important implications lie in the forms of resistance offered against the passes, i.e. a monopolistic system. A challenge on a combative level emanated from the 'Malabaris', who were skilled and determined enough to avoid this control. This is the traditional maritime group mentioned most often in the Factory Records. Throughout the sixteenth century the Portuguese had treated ships from Calicut, which they called 'Malavares', as pirates and attacked them on sight. The Kunjalis were the 'corsairs' or corsario of the Portuguese records. The Malabaris ,were described by Careri as the most ferocious of pirates, consisting of men from 'nationalities' like "the Moors, Gentiles, Jews and Christians". Mostly they were undefined to their contemporary European observers and projected as a monolithic group. In functional terms some were pirates, some guerrilla warriors and many inoffensive traders.

Most of the Malabaris belonged to the seafaring merchant community of Moplahs. Heads of powerful Moplah families armed their own fleets; among them was Muhammad Marakkar who received the title of Kunjali from Zamorin. Becoming his naval auxiliaries, the Moplah Kunjalis clearly did take part in politics at sea. But documentation about them is insufficient. Their area of operations was centered at the northernmost part of Malabar, ruled by the Kolattiri Raja with his power base at Cannanore. From the kottakal river to Cranganore stretched the lands of Zamorin with his port at Calicut. The coastal creeks, lagoons and estuaries of these two domains harboured the Malabar 'pirates'. Porakkad, Ponnani, Kappatt, Pantalayini, Kollam and Chaliyam offered sites for clandestine activities. Malabar's main export was pepper, which the Portuguese wished to monopolise. The Moplahs had no choice but resistance, at which they were remarkably successful. Huge amounts of pepper were transported outside the Portuguese system by local traders. In Malabar and Cańara, in the first decade of the seventeenth century only about 1/10 of the total production went to Lisbon. Armed ships carried cargoes of pepper, cardamom and cinnamon to Gujarat, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, the Maldive Islands and Sri Lanka and to the Coromandel - with or without cartazes. Rice was traded by sea, up and down the west coast of India. Surat had old ties with Mangalore, Calicut, Cannanore and other Malabar ports. In the mid-seventeenth century, it was the major exporting point for Malabar pepper to Mocha, Muscat and Basra.

The Malabar's naval strength showed an increased vigour in direct challenges to European naval power in the seventeenth century. In fact, some historians hold that the Portuguese were exhausted by the naval war waged against them. Sambuks and almadias sailed the length of the west coast, escorted by Malabar paraos. These were fast small galleys of approx. 60 tuns, manned on each side by 20-10 oarsmen; they could carry 3 or 4 pieces of artillery and more than 100 archers or arquebusiers. They were open decked and lateen rigged, with one or two masts. The Malabar sailors who were intrepid seaman could outmanoeuvre bigger vessels, their common mode of attack to throw 'fire pots' on the deck of the enemy ship.

To the English factors the Malabris continued to be a tangible threat and obstructive presence. This was seized as an excuse for condoning or even initiating seizure of Indian merchant vessels and freebooting on the high seas.

As an incentive to the freighted English ships for this kind of activity, the Company servants offered 1/6 of the loot to the commander and crew. President Matthew Andrewes implicitly instructed the commander of the American Frigate , "The Mallabars that you may encounter, we desire you if possible not to let escape, but to seize on the vessels, empty the goods, and then fire them, setting the men on shore the next land you can conveniently come at. For your so doing, 1/6th part is yours, and the ship's Company's share." Increasing European piracy in the Arabian Sea became a source of recurring conflict with the Mughal authorities, the most prominent example of which was the capture of Aurangzeb's ship Ganj-i Sawai by the English pirate Henry Every. It was commonly believed in Surat that the servants of the English factory had dealings with English pirates. The Emperor's retaliative measures against the English factors highlight a system of balance of threats.

In about 1650 the merchant navy of Surat contained 50 ships, large and well built. By 1701 the number of sea-going ships in Surat was at least 112. Much of the Indian shipping at Surat belonged to the aristocracy, the large princely ship declining in importance only in the later seventeenth century. In respect of freight traffic, the Mughals realizing the potential of the westward trade financed the building of ships. This reduced Indian dependence on foreign vessels but also made them vulnerable at sea and more reliant on European naval escorts. The number of vessels captured commensurately pushed up the coast of protection. However, this protection was not really adequate. Exasperated at the breakdown of protection on the pilgrimage route, Aurangzeb ordered Sir John Gayer, the 'old' Governor and his fellow servants to be thrown into prison, an episode taken advantage of by the 'new' Company's Governor Sir Nicholas Waite (1700-08).

At Masulipatam also, Aurangzeb's demand to Sir William Norris was to give Protection to Mughal shipping. Whenever a dispute broke out between one of the trading companies
and the Mughal authorities, the first step taken by the latter was to cut-off the supplies. The reply of the factors was to make prizes of Indian vessels. There were many instances of such a policy of brinkmanship. In so far as the European factories until they developed into fortified settlements- were at the mercy of the Mughal, there was a balance of threats.
In a discussion on piracy the driving forces behind certain questions have to be examined. European efforts at monopoly, increased piracy in Indian waters, as traders whom they dispossessed were forced to use this alternative. But only certain gProups like the Malabaris put forward resistance, and that too, in particular form, while others structured a modus vivendi of indirect partnerships with Europeans officials or merchants. Piracy was also a natural outgrowth of European rivalries. Ships of one nation waylaid another, even if they were not in a state of war, or had an official commission.

Piracy itself was an outcome of a vast improvement in naval and military techniques in the ships operating in the Indian Ocean.

Satish Chandra has argued that the corsairs could only succeed where their ships could outmanoeuvre or outgun an ordinary ship. In this context K.N. Chaudhuri's reference to " a clear naval Portuguese superio"ity over Asian ships" has to be re-examined. The Vasco da Gama period in Asian history, as Steensgaard names it, was not a uniform period of European naval superiority. Asian naval techniques and strategies were neither backward nor passive. Portuguese ships were not necessarily bigger than Asian; but they did carry cannon as a matter of course, while at first Asian ships did not. Also, big was not always better.
Peter Hudson.

Last edited by Ian; 21st February 2024 at 08:40 AM. Reason: Formatting
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Old 17th February 2024, 04:42 AM   #30
Peter Hudson
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Default Ottoman Influence in The Indian Ocean from 16th C

Ottoman expansion and wars with the Portuguese now encouraged other Muslim Indian Ocean states to seek alliances with the Ottomans. The ruler of Ahmednagar in 1561 communicated a proposal for a joint campaign against the Portuguese stronghold of Chaul in India, and while the sultan of Aceh in Sumatra, Alauddin Riayat Syah (r. c. 1537–1571), also sent an embassy requesting Ottoman aid against the Portuguese in 1562, marking a break in the previous Acehnese policy of friendly relations with the Portuguese. This is the first Southeast Asian embassy that is recorded in the Ottoman sources, and would initiate a longstanding relationship between the Ottomans and the Acehnese—although one in which, as on this occasion, Acehnese hopes were usually to some degree disappointed. At this juncture, the Ottomans were trying again to negotiate a trade agreement with the Portuguese, which they did not wish to jeopardize; despite a more pacific Ottoman policy toward the Portuguese, ultimately the latter rejected the overtures. In the end the Acehnese were sent not the munitions they requested but ten cannon experts to assist the Acehnese in casting cannons. Ottoman cannons and cannonry enjoyed a great reputation throughout the Indian Ocean region. In addition, an Ottoman official, Lutfi, was dispatched to Aceh. Casale attributes a newly active interventionist policy in the Indian Ocean to Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, who was Grand Vizier between 1564 and 1579, but in fact, the dispatch of Lutfi suggests this probably preceded Sokolllu’s appointment, and may reflect Ottoman frustration that attempts to negotiate a trade deal with the Portuguese had yet again failed.

Lutfi returned to Istanbul in 1566, accompanied by an Acehnese ambassador, and bearing a document that is one of the most important and problematic Ottoman sources on the Indian Ocean in the 16th century. Written in Ottoman Turkish and addressed to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566), this letter appears to be both a request for aid from the sultan of Aceh and a description of Lutfi’s own wanderings, as well as offering an outline of the current political situation in the Indian Ocean. It thus appears likely that Lutfi or another Ottoman official had a hand in composing it, while at the same time it almost certainly does to some degree represent the position of the Acehnese sultan, whom we know from other sources was seeking Ottoman aid at this time. The letter also claims that in the Maldives, Ceylon, and Calicut, the Ottoman sultan’s name was acknowledged in the khutba or sermon at prayers, a traditional symbol of the recognition of suzerainty, and asserts the willingness of the Acehnese sultan to do the same. The implications of this were both commercial and political. In the medieval Indian Ocean world, khutba networks bound together disparate mercantile communities, while the mentioning of the Ottoman sultan’s name could also signify recognition of Ottoman claims to be universal Caliphs. However, the letter goes further, and the Alauddin Riayat Syah purportedly asks to be considered not “an independent ruler . . . but in no way different from the governors of Egypt and Yemen, or the beys of Jiddah and Aden,” in return for the supply of munitions. The genuineness of this offer for the voluntary incorporation of Aceh into the Ottoman Empire has been met with some skepticism by scholars, who have suggested it may represent an elaboration by Lutfi, but in 19th-century Aceh, a memory of the sultanate as an Ottoman province or dependency still remained alive, suggesting it may have some basis.

The letter brought by Lutfi met an enthusiastic response in Istanbul, and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha authorized the equipping of a major naval expedition to Aceh; however, a major rebellion in Yemen in 1567 forced the expedition to be aborted to deal with the threat there. A much smaller Ottoman expeditionary force reached Aceh the following year, and continuing Ottoman interest in the Indian Ocean is suggested by the plan to build a Suez canal in 1568 to link the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, aimed in particular at facilitating the passage of the navy, although the canal was never actually built. A further expedition against Hormuz in 1570 was planned but never executed; similarly, in the 1570s, campaigns against Bahrain were considered but never undertaken. Meanwhile, the Portuguese attempted to disrupt Acehnese shipping heading for the Red Sea, but in the wake of the defeat at Lepanto in 1571 and the commencement of war with Iran in 1578, Ottoman activities in the Indian Ocean started to tail off. The last major expeditions were launched by the corsair Mir Ali Beg, who attacked Portuguese Muscat in 1581, and East Africa in 1586 and 1589, which seems to have aimed to remove the Portuguese from their strongholds there. Local Muslim rulers in Mogadishu and other East African towns pledged their allegiance to the Ottomans, but the final expedition ended in disaster at Mombasa, with Mir Ali’s capture by the Portuguese.

By this point, however, Ottoman–Portuguese rivalry was becoming irrelevant. Portugal itself was subsumed into the Hapsburg monarchy, and the Estado da Índia abandoned its attempts to enforce a monopoly, probably in response to the fact it was simply ineffective: it has been argued that the volume of Acehnese pepper reaching Jeddah by the end of the 16th century was greater than that taken by the Portuguese to Lisbon via the Cape. Furthermore, the age of Ottoman expansion was now at an end, with the Ottomans preoccupied with war with the Safavids (1578–1590), Austria (1593–1606), and widespread popular revolt in Anatolia. Much of the province of Habeş beyond the Red Sea littoral was lost to the Ethiopians in 1579, while Ottoman control of Yemen, always contested and fragile, was challenged by further revolts from 1597, resulting in the abandonment of the province in 1634. Thus by the end of the 16th century, the Ottomans were on the retreat in their two main Indian Ocean littoral provinces, and they abandoned Lahsa in eastern Arabia in the mid-17th century. Similarly, the Portuguese were kicked out of their foothold in the Middle East, the island of Hormuz, by the Safavids in 1622, and lost Muscat in 1650.

17th- and 18th-Century Connections
Ottoman involvement with the Indian Ocean world in the 17th and 18th centuries therefore has a very different character to that of the 16th century. Although occasional embassies with Mughal India were exchanged, there was very little diplomatic or military engagement with the broader region. Elsewhere, it was more the memory of earlier Ottoman involvement that proved enduringly influential. On the small sultanate of Faza in the Lamu archipelago off East Africa, a family named “al-Stambuli” (of Istanbul), claiming Turkish descent, seem to have seized power in the 16th century and remained in power until 1893. On the other side of the Indian Ocean, the Malay chronicle of the Acehnese ruler Iskandar Muda (r. 1607–1636) commemorates the visit of Ottoman ambassadors to Aceh, this seems to be a recollection of the 16th-century relationship rather than a reality. Nonetheless, Malay literature of the 17th century frequently recalls the Ottoman presence in the region, and various Malay rulers claimed descent from the Raja Rum, or Ottoman sultan.The prestige of Ottoman cannon and their associated cannon founders also played a great role in the Malay admiration for things Ottoman. This cultural influence continued to be one way in which the Ottomans continued to exert influence, as were commercial and religious links, which if anything seem to have grown stronger during this period, as far as our admittedly scanty evidence can tell us.

There is also evidence for a diaspora of Ottoman subjects across the Indian Ocean world, comprising military experts (especially cannon founders), merchants, and religious scholars. Some of this can be traced to earlier times: by the early 16th century, as noted above, Ottoman subjects played a major role in the Gujarati military, as well as elsewhere in India. In the 16th century, Ottoman military experts are attested in Aceh as well as Siam and Burma, where they were employed as mercenaries. This process of hiring Ottoman mercenaries continued irrespective of the lack of official Ottoman engagement at a state level, and in the late 17th century, we have an Ottoman subject, from Bursa, who is attested as governor of Bangkok, as well as a governor in Java who is described as “Turkish.” Ottoman merchants continued to play an important role in trade with Southeast Asia and India, and merchants from Constantinople are mentioned as far away as Banten in Java at the beginning of the 17th century, as well as in major emporia such as Aceh and Arakan. Dutch records from the early 17th century reveal a continuing import of a wide range of spices and luxuries via the Red Sea into the Ottoman lands. The Ottomans exported carpets, horses, and of course military equipment. One merchant at the end of the 17th century who is unusually well attested gives us a sense of the wide reach of commercial interests individuals could command: an Ottoman subject of Armenian descent from Aleppo, he made his fortune importing goods from the Red Sea into Ethiopia and sought to branch out into trade with Java, in which context there are copious records of him in the Dutch East India Company (VOC) archives.

Scholars from the Ottoman lands play a part in spreading Islam in the region. In Aceh, a certain Dawud al-Rumi, probably a descendant of one of the Ottoman soldiers, was an important figure in the development of Sufism. This religious connection was to prove particularly important, as from the 17th century onward increasing numbers of Southeast Asian scholars studied in Mecca and Medina; although there doubtless were earlier ones, they are poorly attested, whereas the 17th-century scholars who studied in Ottoman Hijaz and occasionally even traveled to Istanbul comprise some of the most important names in Southeast Asian ulama, such as Yusuf al-Makassari and ‘Abd al-Ra’uf al-Singkili. Particularly important was their relationship with the Medina-based Kurdish scholar and Sufi Ibrahim al-Kurani (1616–1690), who wrote an Arabic tract at the behest of his “Jawi” students to explain his interpretation of the influential ideas of the 13th-century Sufi Ibn ‘Arabi. In the 19th century, scholars from Patani on the Malay peninsula and Banten comprised particularly important elements of the “Jawi” diaspora in the Hijaz. While scholars from other parts of the Indian Ocean world of course also traveled to the holy cities and studied there, they do not seem to have had such a transformative influence as the Jawi migrants did on Southeast Asian Islam.

The Ottomans are largely absent from the 18th-century Indian Ocean, at least according to our current state of research. Yet they still featured on the political landscape, both as leaders of the umma and through the activities of the diaspora. As late as the 1750s, a sultan in the Philippines attempted to contact Istanbul seeking aid against the Spanish, while Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore in South India, dispatched an embassy to Constantinople in 1785. An Ottoman subject, Seh Ibrahim, purporting to be acting on the authority of the Ottoman sultan, played an important role in negotiations between the VOC and the Javanese sultan Mangkubumi in the 1750s, while the Javanese prince Dipanagara (1785–1855) adopted an Ottoman-style title and reorganized his army along Ottoman lines.

The Ottoman Sword most likely to have similar aspects as the Zanzibari Nimcha is as below The Pallash. The Hilt is very similar and has quillons almost the same etc etc... The Ottomans were there in the Indian Ocean from the 16th C and the design flow could easily have followed that situation. The paragraphs above clearly show Ottoman equipment including Cannons being supplied to neighbouring countries by sea routes well established in that period. Copying what was a shipbourne sword style would be a very plausible step. See the picture on my next post please.
....
Peter Hudson

Last edited by Peter Hudson; 17th February 2024 at 12:32 PM. Reason: adding artwork
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