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Old 17th June 2022, 02:38 PM   #1
Sakalord364
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Default Mysterious Afghan Military Sabre

I recently obtained this Afghan Sabre at auction, the handle is quite similar to the “regulation Khyber knives” made in the late 19th century at Kabul, however this is full length Sabre, not a European style cutlass. Have any forum members seen this type of sword before?
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Old 17th June 2022, 03:43 PM   #2
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Hello Sakalord364.

This curious saber is made as an imitation of "regulation Khyber knives". There was no "standard" for them. Everyone ordered the sample that he wanted to have. For example, in my collection there is a similar version of the "arbitrary saber imitating regulation Khyber knives" with wootz blade
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Old 17th June 2022, 04:05 PM   #3
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Old 17th June 2022, 04:51 PM   #4
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Hello Sakalord364.

This curious saber is made as an imitation of "regulation Khyber knives". There was no "standard" for them. Everyone ordered the sample that he wanted to have. For example, in my collection there is a similar version of the "arbitrary saber imitating regulation Khyber knives" with wootz blade
Hi,

Do you think these were made in the official government factory in Kabul, or were these forged by private blacksmiths for their clients?
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Old 17th June 2022, 07:14 PM   #5
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Hi,

Do you think these were made in the official government factory in Kabul, or were these forged by private blacksmiths for their clients?
Judging by the wide variety of blade shapes of these sabers, they were made by private craftsmen. This, in my opinion, is also indicated by the fact that their blades were made both from ordinary steel and from wootz steel. I think that these were private orders from representatives of irregular units.
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Old 17th June 2022, 09:00 PM   #6
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Dima I recall the fantastic research you did on these while writing your book, and how much I learned about my own 'mysterious' Afghan sword during conversations with you then. I had obtained my example many years earlier, at a time when these were not much around, and there were wild speculations about what they were, the most bizarre calling them 'Greek cutlasses'! among others.

My example has the date 1896, though it seems these were produced from 1893-1903, I presume with state stamps (Mazar i Sharif) marking them they must have been produced or at least entered and assembled in the Kaar Khaana e Jangalak (Machin Khana) in Kabul.

It seems like most of the production of arms at the Machin Khana was rifles, I believe Enfields, and I always wondered about the very 'sword bayonet' styling of these hilts, thinking perhaps the rifle making context inspired the hilt form with wood and steel. The open pierced knuckleguard carries the theme, along with curled back terminal (swan neck) recalls some paluoars so an interesting hybrid.

The Machin Khana though seemingly begun with British support after the end of 2nd Afghan War in 1880, does not seem to have produced much or at all until end of 1880s, and the earliest known examples of these was 1893.
It does seem the basic hilt form existed by 1879, from the photo that year showing Daoud Shah wearing one with similar hilt.

The example (in previous linked thread) with spurious 'made in Enfield, 1857' marking is interesting but not helpful in date of origin of the hilt form.

I have been under the impression that examples of these with the brass hilt but same form were most notably of the 3rd Afghan War (1919) period. As has been mentioned, it would seem these and many of the variations suggest outfitting by private vendors and local artisans, which has always been prevalent in all Afghan tribal areas.

The numbers of examples of these hilts on traditional 'Khyber knife' (silliwar) blades suggest these were assembled for the numerous tribal levys (irregular forces in accord with British army), and the state stamp on the blades seems to support this.

I am recounting this from memory mostly, and from my understanding as recalled, so I hope you will pardon any errors and correct as required.
This was fascinating and important research and I want to establish correctly for my own awareness and others reading here.

In pics, the first is the 'tribal levy' type with native Khyber blade; next with scabbard is my 1896 example, then the state stamp.
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Old 17th June 2022, 09:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Dima I recall the fantastic research you did on these while writing your book, and how much I learned about my own 'mysterious' Afghan sword during conversations with you then. I had obtained my example many years earlier, at a time when these were not much around, and there were wild speculations about what they were, the most bizarre calling them 'Greek cutlasses'! among others.

My example has the date 1896, though it seems these were produced from 1893-1903, I presume with state stamps (Mazar i Sharif) marking them they must have been produced or at least entered and assembled in the Kaar Khaana e Jangalak (Machin Khana) in Kabul.

It seems like most of the production of arms at the Machin Khana was rifles, I believe Enfields, and I always wondered about the very 'sword bayonet' styling of these hilts, thinking perhaps the rifle making context inspired the hilt form with wood and steel. The open pierced knuckleguard carries the theme, along with curled back terminal (swan neck) recalls some paluoars so an interesting hybrid.

The Machin Khana though seemingly begun with British support after the end of 2nd Afghan War in 1880, does not seem to have produced much or at all until end of 1880s, and the earliest known examples of these was 1893.
It does seem the basic hilt form existed by 1879, from the photo that year showing Daoud Shah wearing one with similar hilt.

The example (in previous linked thread) with spurious 'made in Enfield, 1857' marking is interesting but not helpful in date of origin of the hilt form.

I have been under the impression that examples of these with the brass hilt but same form were most notably of the 3rd Afghan War (1919) period. As has been mentioned, it would seem these and many of the variations suggest outfitting by private vendors and local artisans, which has always been prevalent in all Afghan tribal areas.

The numbers of examples of these hilts on traditional 'Khyber knife' (silliwar) blades suggest these were assembled for the numerous tribal levys (irregular forces in accord with British army), and the state stamp on the blades seems to support this.

I am recounting this from memory mostly, and from my understanding as recalled, so I hope you will pardon any errors and correct as required.
This was fascinating and important research and I want to establish correctly for my own awareness and others reading here.

In pics, the first is the 'tribal levy' type with native Khyber blade; next with scabbard is my 1896 example, then the state stamp.
Hello Jim. Always a pleasure to read you!

Thanks for the nice words)

You are absolutely right in all the ideas expressed.
I would like to add just one. Of course, the basic hilt form for all similar items existed by 1879. You may remember that I managed to find an English-made saber (with English stamps) with a very similar hilt shape. It is likely that the hilt of such a saber inspired the one who came up with the design of the hilts of the regular Khyber knives. In the book, I gave drawings of this saber. But somewhere in the archive I have preserved photographs of this saber.
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Old 17th June 2022, 11:44 PM   #8
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I am curious what these brass strips are, contemporary (or modern?) repair work to support the leather scabbard, or Some kind of decoration? It seems rather crude compared to the rest of the fittings
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Old 17th June 2022, 11:56 PM   #9
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I think those could be later "purely practical" reinforcements for a scabbard that had split or had been cut through.
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Old 18th June 2022, 03:25 PM   #10
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I completely agree with Lee's opinion.
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Old 18th June 2022, 03:55 PM   #11
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I completely agree with Lee's opinion.
I had thought that some modern bazaar dealer who originally sold this sword installed those hasty brass repair strips on the scabbard, but it seems it was done at least a century ago correct?
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Old 18th June 2022, 05:14 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Sakalord364 View Post
I had thought that some modern bazaar dealer who originally sold this sword installed those hasty brass repair strips on the scabbard, but it seems it was done at least a century ago correct?
That would be a good assumption ideally, but in the volatile tribal regions in Afghanistan, local artisans busily refurbish and repurpose weaponry constantly as they have for centuries. It is true that items that end up in the bazaars (i.e. Chicken Street) up to modern times reflect a lot of such innovation, but many may have actually been in use by tribesmen prior to arriving there.

As noted, these swords are not 'old' in arms collecting parlance as we are used to, but they were still using swords in warfare well into 20th century. These scabbards had wood inserts and would be subject to cracking etc. (mine has lost most of the already replaced leather) so even with newer leather cover, these bands probably were to secure the wood if damaged.

This example seems likely to be from the period around 3rd Afghan war (1919+) and probably refurbished any number of times over the years. With ethnographic weaponry, especially from these regions, it is more about the 'exotica' and turbulent history of these regions, the warriors and their arms, than age.
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Old 18th June 2022, 10:50 PM   #13
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This is just a generic Afghani saber with a handle developed from the colonial British bayonet for Brunswick rifle 1837 and 1841 patterns. They were developed initially for the Nepalese military and the main difference between them was that the Brunswick bayonets had a hollow all-metal handle to attach to the rifle, while the Afghani variant of the same " colonial" pattern had a solid mixed metal/wooden or bone handle.
The defining word in the name is " colonial": Brits themselves did not use them, but the " natives" could use them both as rifle-attached bayonets or as short swords, even with a D-guard. The earliest photo example we are aware of was dated to 1879 and used a short straight blade of European style, likely made locally .
Later on, when Abdurrahman started restoring Afgani military post 2nd Anglo-Afghani War, and Mashin Khana in Kabul was rebuilt post 1897, different workshops in Afghanistan were producing short swords with "Khyber knife" blades and the above handles. Those can be legitimately call "military Khybers" ( not the "regulation" ones because there were no state regulation criteria and they all were of different sizes) , but the earliest examples ( see above) as well as the saber posted here, have nothing in common with the " Khybers" (Selavah), Real Khybers had totally different blade profile that cannot be confused with anything else and emphatically never had curved saber-like blade configuration.
Afghanistan was in a rearmament frenzy just before Abdurrahman and until Amanulla. That was the reason for the appearance of varied models of bladed weapons, some of rather bizarre form that were short-lived ( see above) to the final appearance of regulation sabers fully imitating Western examples.

Thus, around 1920-1930's Afghani military finally became armament-like almost equal to the European armies of the early 19 century, which at that time relegated sabers to the status of ceremonial baubles and were arming themselves with airplanes and tanks:-)))
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Old 20th June 2022, 09:57 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
That would be a good assumption ideally, but in the volatile tribal regions in Afghanistan, local artisans busily refurbish and repurpose weaponry constantly as they have for centuries. It is true that items that end up in the bazaars (i.e. Chicken Street) up to modern times reflect a lot of such innovation, but many may have actually been in use by tribesmen prior to arriving there.

As noted, these swords are not 'old' in arms collecting parlance as we are used to, but they were still using swords in warfare well into 20th century. These scabbards had wood inserts and would be subject to cracking etc. (mine has lost most of the already replaced leather) so even with newer leather cover, these bands probably were to secure the wood if damaged.

This example seems likely to be from the period around 3rd Afghan war (1919+) and probably refurbished any number of times over the years. With ethnographic weaponry, especially from these regions, it is more about the 'exotica' and turbulent history of these regions, the warriors and their arms, than age.
Though couldn’t the owner just commission a new scabbard instead of trying to repair it like this?
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Old 22nd June 2022, 01:26 AM   #15
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Though couldn’t the owner just commission a new scabbard instead of trying to repair it like this?
It's a good repair, perhaps even better than a new scabbard: wood and leather would be cut thru in a couple of years, but brass reinforcements will hold almost forever.

A significantly more interesting question is how was it carried? Where are its suspension rings?
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Old 22nd June 2022, 03:00 AM   #16
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It's a good repair, perhaps even better than a new scabbard: wood and leather would be cut thru in a couple of years, but brass reinforcements will hold almost forever.

A significantly more interesting question is how was it carried? Where are its suspension rings?
It does have a lone suspension ring, similar to other European sabres of the period.

Though I have noticed that some Afghans pulwars do not have any suspension rings at all, which is odd because securing your sword properly is very important for the cavalry based warfare that Afghans specialized in. So I’m assuming these are all from the late 1800s when cavalry slowly started to become obsolete. Here you can see this warrior suspends his pulwar from a series of leather straps
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Old 22nd June 2022, 07:58 AM   #17
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It does have a lone suspension ring, similar to other European sabres of the period.
Thank you very much for the photo. The photo once again confirms that your sabre is a certain imitation of “regulation Khyber knives”:
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