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Old 15th December 2020, 06:07 AM   #1
Battara
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Default Is this saif from Yemen or Hyderabad India for the Yemeni market?

Greetings folks!

Well I got this saif (on my wish list) and I am wondering if it is from Yemen or Hyderabad India for the Yemeni market.

My suspicions come from 3 things:

1. the type of flower motif on one side of the silver scabbard

2. the type of flower motif on the other side of the scabbard

3. the type of pattern weld that is indicated on the blade

What are your thoughts?
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Old 15th December 2020, 07:12 AM   #2
TVV
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First of all, congratulations on this extremely nice saif. Your observations on the flower motives are accurate and supported by both Elgood and Hales. Both authors state that while these swords were used in Southern Yemen, many of them and especially the nicer ones were made in Hyderabad. Have you tried bringing out the pattern on the blade?
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Old 15th December 2020, 03:27 PM   #3
ariel
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Personally, I thing it is not from Yemen or Hyderabad: it was made by Santa’s elves.
Jose, something wonderful fell down your chimney : obviously you were a VERY good boy!

Merry X-Mas to you!
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Old 15th December 2020, 06:11 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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As far as I have understood from Robert Elgood, this type of sa'if was well known in Hadhramaut, which is technically the eastern part of Yemen to the Oman border. Apparently these regions often furnished mercenary forces to Hyderabad, thus the significant connections which may account for the popularity of this silver work from artisans there.

These sa'if had the canted triilobate pommel as seen on this wonderful example posted, as well as the 'karabela' type, which I have attached.

While these seem typically regarded as latter 18th century, their use seems to extend into early 20th c. and whether the hilt forms were contemporary to each other is unclear, perhaps simply matter of personal preference.

In any case, a form not often seen available to collectors, so outstanding score Jose !!! Merry Christmas!!!!!
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 15th December 2020 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 16th December 2020, 02:39 AM   #5
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Thank you folks!

Yes this was on my wish list and I finally got it for an affordable price (and all in silver ).

TVV - I did etch it and the patterns came out even more starkly reminiscent of some types of Indian pattern welding. (see picture).
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Old 16th December 2020, 06:39 AM   #6
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Hello,

This is a very good example and it is in excellent condition. Congratulations for this quality piece!

From the photos you posted I am not sure the blade is pattern welded. Most blades of this kind of saifs are not pattern welded.
The apparent pattern may be because of lamination, heat treatment but in this case more likely because of former contact with oxidizing agents. However, it is difficult to say from the photos.

The blade is already well cleaned but with rather coarse scratches. So I think the blade may benefit from some finer polishing 1000-2000 grit. I wouldn't attempt to completely remove the scratches but only to give it a finer and more uniform appearance. By doing this, the structure of the blade may become more apparent.

PS: I consider pattern welded, a laminated structure composed of two different steels that etch in different tones so as to display a specific pattern.
So if a blade is made of multiple layers of the same steel (like the Japanese blades for example, or like many Indian blades) it is laminated, but not pattern welded.

Last edited by mariusgmioc; 16th December 2020 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 16th December 2020, 12:42 PM   #7
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Marius,

Japanese blades were forged from two kinds of steel and were true pattern-welded.
First, by a tatara process they got a bloom, crushed it and the smith separated high-carbon from low- carbon fragments and forged them separately into 2 different bars, one of “ hagane “ steel with ~1.4% carbon, another from “ zuku” steel with 3-4% carbon. After that, they forged them together, bent them, twisted them etc, and got a pattern welded blade.
The same process was used by Northern Europeans to produce “ Viking swords”. Even La Tene swords upon polishing and etching reveal pattern-welded structure.

All that I have learned from Manfred Sachse’s book.
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Old 16th December 2020, 01:22 PM   #8
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Jim,

The origin of the trilobate “ Karabela” pommel was attributed to Shah Abbas (1571-1629) who patterned it from the configuration of windows of the mosque in a holy city of Karbala. That was proposed by Khorasani in his book and regretfully Elgood repeated it.
However, there are Turkish miniatures showing same configuration well before Abbas’ times. I had them, but they were lost with the entire computer:-(((

Luckily , the same pommel is seen in the pictures by Durer( 1471- 1529) and by Pietro Befulco( 1471-1503), both well before Shah Abbas was even born. Whether the European development of that pommel was an independent one, or a copy of the Turkish one is uncertain, but the existence of Turkish images and the close contacts of Europeans with Turkish weapons strongly suggests the latter.

Also, karabela pommel was widespread on the Ottoman territories( Turkey proper, Balkans, Hungary, Arabia) or in Poland that fought with the Ottomans or their satellites. but was only seen on some late ( 18-19 century) solitary examples of the “Persian” areal ( Iran proper, India).

Thus, the Turkish claim that Karabela got its name from the town of Karabel, and has nothing to do with Karbala or some fanciful phonetic inventions ( Italian Cara Bella, dear beauty or such) seems to be true.
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Old 16th December 2020, 04:53 PM   #9
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I have seen a few saifs of this type and a common feature seems to be that the blades are highly polished, but not well polished. Scratches are usually present.
The answer may be that this saif was made in Hyderabad for the Yemeni market in Hyderabad. I have no idea whether or not such swords were exported to Yemen or were brought back to the Yemen by returning Hadhramis.
Best wishes
Richard
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Old 16th December 2020, 06:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Jim,

The origin of the trilobate “ Karabela” pommel was attributed to Shah Abbas (1571-1629) who patterned it from the configuration of windows of the mosque in a holy city of Karbala. That was proposed by Khorasani in his book and regretfully Elgood repeated it.
However, there are Turkish miniatures showing same configuration well before Abbas’ times. I had them, but they were lost with the entire computer:-(((

Luckily , the same pommel is seen in the pictures by Durer( 1471- 1529) and by Pietro Befulco( 1471-1503), both well before Shah Abbas was even born. Whether the European development of that pommel was an independent one, or a copy of the Turkish one is uncertain, but the existence of Turkish images and the close contacts of Europeans with Turkish weapons strongly suggests the latter.

Also, karabela pommel was widespread on the Ottoman territories( Turkey proper, Balkans, Hungary, Arabia) or in Poland that fought with the Ottomans or their satellites. but was only seen on some late ( 18-19 century) solitary examples of the “Persian” areal ( Iran proper, India).

Thus, the Turkish claim that Karabela got its name from the town of Karabel, and has nothing to do with Karbala or some fanciful phonetic inventions ( Italian Cara Bella, dear beauty or such) seems to be true.
Ariel, thank you for adding these details on the term 'karabela' and the possible origins of this distinctive hilt form. It was interesting looking back at our discussions on these which go back to 2014 and some time before. Your knowledge on this topic is, as then, remarkable, and I always am grateful for your insights.

I had not heard Manoucher's claim concerning the inspiration for these coming from mosque windows etc, but honestly do not find that notion presented by him surprising. I am also surprised that (as you have noted) Robert Elgood would carry that forward without qualification, as his study on the karabela hilt form ("Arms and Armour of Arabia" 1994) well noted that the origins of the hilt as well as etymology of the term were unclear, and the character of the suggestions cited were without sufficient evidence.

As you have noted, the works by Durer and Befulco long predated Shah Abbas so clearly the hilt form existed long before the 17th century and likely entered European use from Persian or Ottoman context .

With the term, Jan Ostrowski noted in "Polish Sabers: Their Origins and Evolution" (1979), "...the etymology of this strange name remains unexplained", and " perhaps the village of Karabel in Turkey comes closer to probability though there is no evidence other than phonetic similarity".

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 17th December 2020 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 16th December 2020, 11:24 PM   #11
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After etching it to see the laminations I re-polished it but not finely. I will put the final polish soon.
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Old 17th December 2020, 04:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard G
I have no idea whether or not such swords were exported to Yemen or were brought back to the Yemen by returning Hadhramis.
They were most certainly used in Yemen. There is a picture in Hales of the Sultan of Lahej with such a sword.
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Old 17th December 2020, 01:25 PM   #13
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Sorry, my statement was open to misinterpretation. These swords were most certainly found in the Hadhramaut.
I just wondered how swords of this quality got there -
Were they made there?, and of course, by whom?
Were they exported there from Hyderabad as 'export' goods?
Were they brought back from Hyderabad as possessions or gifts by returning Hadhramis?
Regards
Richard
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Old 17th December 2020, 10:12 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard G
Sorry, my statement was open to misinterpretation. These swords were most certainly found in the Hadhramaut.
I just wondered how swords of this quality got there -
Were they made there?, and of course, by whom?
Were they exported there from Hyderabad as 'export' goods?
Were they brought back from Hyderabad as possessions or gifts by returning Hadhramis?
Regards
Richard
Hi Richard,
Trying to delineate what region a sword is actually from is somewhat futile in cases where there is so much intertribal, colonial and political flux. Hadhramaut was actually part of South Yemen during the Aden Protectorate in the 19th c.
I found some excerpts from "Arms and Armor of Arabia" Robert Elgood, 1994:
Regarding the Aden Protectorate:
"...the peoples of this area frequently served as mercenaries in Hyderabad and the swords are certainly made there and locally. The better Hyderabadi ones -like the daggers made for the Hadhramaut-show red foil inder the pierced silver scabbards. The chased silver flowers and wheel pattern on the sword scabbards are Indian in style". p.15

Also, p.83,
"..west from Oman is the Hadhramaut, which like Muscat, had close trading links with India. The Yafa'i were a tribe with long history of mercenary service to the Indian rulers though other tribes were also included".

p.84-
"...only the Mukalla sultans wore jewelled daggers- FROM Hyderabad.

p.86,
"...the very best janabi and nimsha blades were imported into the Hadhramaut from Hyderabad where they were made, and simply referred to as 'Haiderabad'."

This was of course the Hyderabad in the Deccan, not the place by same name now in Pakistan.

Naturally, there were silver workers in Hadhramaut, and clearly the blades for weapons were imported from India, however as noted in this text, there seems a strong suggestion that the higher quality swords were mounted in Hyderabad.

The diffusion of these swords would of course be most likely throughout the Yemen, though much of the attribution and connection to Hyderabad seems to be related to the mercenary activity and traffic with Hadhramaut.

The attached page from Elgood shows the 'Hadhramauti' examples. The note on red foil under piercework and the silver designs gave me the idea that my example was from Hyderabad for Hadhramaut because of those elements, but in mine the silver is backed by red velveteen rather than red foil.
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Old 19th December 2020, 05:38 PM   #15
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Well it might be more complicated than India (Hyderabad) or Yemen (Hadramawt) as it is described in the previous posts.

Indian communauties were living in Yemen, including craftmen in Mocha, Taizz, Zabid...

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Old 19th December 2020, 06:27 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
Well it might be more complicated than India (Hyderabad) or Yemen (Hadramawt) as it is described in the previous posts.

Indian communauties were living in Yemen, including craftmen in Mocha, Taizz, Zabid...


Well noted, it is well known there were many established communities from India living in various places in Arabia, just as they were throughout many other places. I think the key for the Hadhramaut attribution as described by Elgood and others derives from the mercenary and trade activities between there and Hyderabad, as well as the propensity of these forms known in these areas.
I wonder if these other areas produced these types of mountings for swords and daggers in the other areas noted outside the Yemeni sphere. As artisans moved into various regions their regional styles of course likely were continued in degree.
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Old 19th December 2020, 08:27 PM   #17
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Please Jim, look at the pommel of this zaibidi jambiya extremely similar to the quillon of the sword discussed.

For Ariel, of course I agree, the Yemeni karabela is from Ottoman origin, here I post my Yemeni karabela and my Persian Zand karabela for comparison.
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Old 20th December 2020, 01:33 AM   #18
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Thank you folks. Some very good points. Not my area of expertise, so I bow in your presence.
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Old 20th December 2020, 01:33 AM   #19
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Thank you Kubur for showing these examples. With the swords, it is interesting to see the recess to hold the langet in the same manner as the Hadhramati examples we are discussing. The Persian influence was of course prevalent in Arabia, so not surprising to see this feature in common on a Zand period weapon. Great example!

Good comparison on those diamond like fixtures on the hilt of the Zabidi janbiyya. I'm really not too familiar with Arabian daggers, but believe 'Zabidi' refers to SE Yemen whose area included the Hadhramaut.
Mocha was the Red Sea port for San'aa (in proximity of Taizz) where there was considerable sword production as well, and the forms known there seem to have had their own peculiarities. These were western locations in the Aden Protectorate or South Yemen.

I think it is safe to say many hilt elements were favored in common, but the larger structure or configuration of hilts held to somewhat local preferences.

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