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Old 16th July 2008, 02:53 PM   #1
Royston
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Default DHA ?

Does anyone have any ideas about this one ? I have always assumed it to be a Dha but have often wondered about the oval cross section of the hilt and the straight blade. Any info will be welcome.
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Old 16th July 2008, 07:02 PM   #2
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Dha with this style of blade are not uncommon. usually they are associated with the Kachin Look at sword 231 and 232 here
http://www.arscives.com/historysteel....swordlist.htm

Several others can be found on Marks index here
http://dharesearch.bowditch.us/SwordsFrame1Source1.htm

I have never seen one with an oval hilt but maybe others have or maybe it was originally round and was "flattened" a bit by something that happened to it
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Old 16th July 2008, 08:47 PM   #3
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This is a Burmese dha, likely from one of the Kachin (Jingpaw) tribes.

The three part handle is very typical of swords from this region/ethnic group, as is the blade profile. Similar blades do appear on swords from other areas but, in combination with the handle, I'm confident in the Kachin attribution. The oval handle cross-section isn't common, but isn't unknown--I have one in my collection that I got from Mark.

Parenthetically, the laquered cord center section isn't very common, either. I've only seen it on two other swords, both of which are believed to be Thai. Obviously, this is not necessarily a Thai feature.

The scabbard looks like a later addition, not original to the blade, nor this type of weapon. Having said that, if the scabbard is original this, in combination with the oval handle, it may indicate a NW Burmese origin to this sword as it has strong similarities to weapons that form a "nexus" between Naga sword dao and more conventional dha.

Cool sword.
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Old 16th July 2008, 09:09 PM   #4
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Except that I have never been convinced that a Naga dao is necessarily a Naga dao. While they seem to appear among the easternmost Nagas, the axe type of weapon/tool seems more common and indigenous. I have generally assumed that the form, if not also many examples, found among the Nagas were borrowed from neighboring peoples, such as the Khamti.
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Old 16th July 2008, 11:04 PM   #5
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Okay. So it may be an example of a "nexus" between a Khamti sword dao and a dha.
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Old 17th July 2008, 01:11 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dennee
Except that I have never been convinced that a Naga dao is necessarily a Naga dao. While they seem to appear among the easternmost Nagas, the axe type of weapon/tool seems more common and indigenous. I have generally assumed that the form, if not also many examples, found among the Nagas were borrowed from neighboring peoples, such as the Khamti.
I'd love to hear more on this. In fact this would be well worth a thread onto itself. To start that discussion here is a photo of a khampti dance from this site (http://lohit.nic.in/photogallery/fest_dances.htm)
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Old 17th July 2008, 01:26 AM   #7
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About the sword above. I know we usually think of it as Kachin but has anyone ever seen pictures of it also being used by the Singpho. I think I saw a picture of that somewhere but I cannot lay my hands on it right now
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Old 17th July 2008, 03:43 AM   #8
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Kachin is an outsiders' catch-all term for related groups including the Jingpaw/Singpho and others.

The others include the Lisu of Yunnan Province. A photo off the web taken at the Lisu Sword Pole Festival:
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Old 17th July 2008, 05:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhysMichael
About the sword above. I know we usually think of it as Kachin but has anyone ever seen pictures of it also being used by the Singpho. I think I saw a picture of that somewhere but I cannot lay my hands on it right now
Yes. I'll look for the reference.
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Old 17th July 2008, 10:40 AM   #10
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Default DHA ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RhysMichael
Dha with this style of blade are not uncommon. usually they are associated with the Kachin Look at sword 231 and 232 here
http://www.arscives.com/historysteel....swordlist.htm

Several others can be found on Marks index here
http://dharesearch.bowditch.us/SwordsFrame1Source1.htm

I have never seen one with an oval hilt but maybe others have or maybe it was originally round and was "flattened" a bit by something that happened to it
Gentlemen,

Thanks for the references, most useful.

The hilt was definitely made oval and has not been flattened. It is too uniform in construction to suggest some form of damage.


I agree with the comment about the scabbard being a later addition. It fits well enough to have been made for the sword but it does not look original.

Is there any evidence of trade between Eastern Naga's and Burma ? Is it possible that elements of weapons were copied from each other ?


regards
Royston
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Old 17th July 2008, 03:13 PM   #11
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It seems that the Nagas were somewhat challenged for sources of iron and steel; there is the oft-told story of them fashioning 'axe' blades from British tea plantation hoe blades. There is certainly an iron-working tradition, as I recall, also strongest in the east (Kalyo-Kengyu, etc.)

A "sword dao" blade contains a fair amount of steel, and Naga blades appear to generally grow larger over time, as steel becomes more available (one need only look at the large twentieth-century sword/axe types, whose blades are at lest the same length as the hafts).

It may well be that there are characteristic eastern Naga sword-daos, but I am hesitant to suggest that the origins of the form are among that people when what we know of archaic Naga "dao" forms is different.

I suspect that the daos with the ivory pommels are Khamti, as the Khamti are known for ivory work among other things, and I have seen photos of Khamtis with similar daos.

Surely, there was trade among the neighboring peoples, just as the Akha often acquired Bhutanese swords, and the "Dafla," Mishmi, and Apa Tani had Tibetan swords and blades.
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Old 18th July 2008, 05:31 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RhysMichael
About the sword above. I know we usually think of it as Kachin but has anyone ever seen pictures of it also being used by the Singpho. I think I saw a picture of that somewhere but I cannot lay my hands on it right now
Are we talking about the long one that started the thread, or the stumpy ones in the last photo? Here are "Kachin" with stumpy ones:
circa 1883 (Colquhoun, "Across Chryse"):

circa 1886 (photo by by Lt. Col. W.W. Hooper, Hulton-Deutsch Collection):

circa 1943:

And several long ones (Kachin Rangers, circa 1943-45):


Unfortunately, the sources do not specify to which "Kachin" group these dha-bearers belong. I believe (based on the clothing), that the men in the first photo are Singpho/Jingpaw, and actually their swords look rather long and could in fact be the long variety. But I am no expert on Burmese ethnic dress, however, so the attribution could be incorrect.

Egerton describes the short "Kachin" dha (the Jingpaw word for dha is "nhtu," by the way), quoting an earlier auther, Lewin: "It is a blade about 18" long, narrow at the haft, square and broad at the top, pointless and sharpened on one side only. The blade is set in a handle of wood, a bamboo root being considered the best." An Illustrated Handbook of Indian Arms, 1880, p. 88. This is a very good description of what is sometimes called a "Gaga" dao or dha. He also describes the long version: "The fighting "dao" is differently shaped. This is a long pointless sword, set in a wooden or ebony handle; it is very heavy, and a blow of almost incredible power can be given by one of these weapons." Both are distinguished from the Bama dha: "Besides the 'dao' or short sword, the common weapon is a cutlass, the blade of which is curved in continuation of the curve of the handle." p. 92.

Burton also describes the "Naga" dao in a way that clearly shows he is talking about the same weapon as the short version of the Kachin dha: "Another good specimen of the 'Turanian blade' is the formidable Dao of the Naga tribe, south-east of Assam. It is a thick, heavy backsword [i.e., single-edged], eighteen inches long, with a bevel where the point should be, worn at the waist in a half-scabbard of wood, and used for digging as well as killing." The Book of the Sword, 1884, p. 140. Burton draws the link directly between this blade and the Bama dha: "The Dah of Burma is originally the same weapon as the Naga Dao." p. 140, footnote 1. Burton could be wrong, of course - in an illustration he does show a kora instead of a Naga dao, but the illustration does not accord with his description so IMO the error is in the picture, not the text.

As for the Khamti, though they have moved far west, they are a Shan (Tai) race, not Tibeto-Burman like the "Kachin." The Shan/Kachin culture is very complex where the two overlap in territory, though, with an almost symbiotic relationship between the dry rice Kachin culture of the uplands, and the wet-rice Shan culture of the valleys, involving a lot of overlap and exchange between the two. See generally Leach, political Systems of Highland Burma, 1954. Egerton, in fact, notes that the Khamti Shan of the Naga Hills carry the short "Naga" dao, and not the curved Shan/Tai sword: "The [Khamti] men are seldom seen without the "dao" hanging in its sheath (plain or ornamented according to the condition of the wearer) by a sling made of split rattan. It is worn somewhat in frint so the that the hilt is readily grasped in the right hand." P. 85. The scabbard Egerton describes can only be that of a Kachin or "Naga" dao (which as seen in the pictures above, is worn exactly as Egerton describes it):

The Shan & Bama dha are worn differently, with a rope badric, under the left arm:


It seems that it was the Duleng Kachin who were the real swordsmiths, as blacksmithing was considered a low-status profession by the Shan (Leach, pp. 57, 233, 251). Though Egerton expressly says that the Khamti were excellent sword-smiths (p. 85), I think that this can be explained by there being Kachin blacksmiths living among the Khamti, as one of the fascinating phenomena described by Leach is that frequently Kachin and Shan will move between communities and "become" one of the other people - i.e., an upland Kachin living down in a Shan village will live as a Shan and even consider himself to be "Shan," and vice versa.
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Old 18th July 2008, 05:33 PM   #13
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Now, just to throw a big wrench in the works, here is a photo from National Geographic of a priest of the Nashi tribe of southern China (I need to check which province):

Maybe his is one of the renouned blades of the Duleng Kachin, which were traded all over the Kachin Hills of northern Burma (see Leach, p. 233) ?
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Old 18th July 2008, 09:31 PM   #14
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Great stuff Mark thanks
The few photos I have seen of Nashi ( Naxi) attributed them to Yunnan. Aren't the Nashi Tibeto-Burman or Tibeto-Chinese also ?

Similar blade forms are also seen among the Akha. They are found in Tibet, China, Laos, Burma and Thailand.

Here is a blade similar to the one at the top carried by an Akha man in Tibet. Notice he also carries a more traditional tibetan sword



The shorter wider dao sword attributed to the naga are seen among some of the Abor ( Adi) People. The abor are a collective tribe living in the Himalayan hills of Arunachal Pradesh (in northeastern India),

An Abor Padam with "naga dao"


An abor Minyong with a "naga dao"


I believe the Abor(adi) are Tibeto-Burman also ( but I could be wrong on this ) If so it may be more evidence that the "Naga Sword Dao" is really more a Tibeto-Burman weapon than a naga one.

Photos from the smithsonian collection

Quote:
Originally Posted by Royston
Gentlemen,

Is there any evidence of trade between Eastern Naga's and Burma ? Is it possible that elements of weapons were copied from each other ?


regards
Royston
Definitly there is a gread deal of trade and migration of peoples in this area. That is part of what makes it so confusing to say which sword comes from each ethnic group.

Last edited by RhysMichael; 18th July 2008 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 23rd July 2008, 10:08 PM   #15
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Some more reference material on Kachin dha/dao, from a lay observer in the early 20th C. I have some doubts on the accuracy of some of his information (in particular about the non-existance of Kachin bladesmiths), and his general tone is one of imperious condescension, but he seems to accurately report what he has seen first-hand.

"Although every hiill-man carries a sword (the Burman dah, and stands in need of a hoe and dibble, if not a plough-share, for his rice cultivation, a Kachin blacksmith is a novelty. All his hardware comes from the Chinese or Shans, except that some of the Hkahkus make, what may be called, the genuine Kachin blade. These are about eighteen inches long, broadening from the handle outward. They are never pointed as is the Shan dah. There are at least four varieties, of which one with clear, wavy streaks of steel running down the blade, is the most valuable and appreciated. This sword was carried especially by chiefs and persons of importance. They are now hardly ever seen south of Myitkyina and Mogaung, while only a few years ago they were not uncommon south of Bhamo. The Shan product is cheaper, if not so durable, and the Hkahkus do not come south, as they formerly did, to dispose of their wares." Hanson, The Kachins, Their Customs and Traditions (1913), p. 76 [underlining added]

The first photo below is from Hanson, and shows a number of Kachin with the short, broad dha, though a few might be carrying the Shan style. The second photo is of a Kachin dha from my collection, with the "wavy streaks" running down the blade, brought out more clearly by a light etch with ferric chloride.
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Old 14th August 2008, 04:14 PM   #16
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Default NEW EVIDENCE

This just turned up.
It also has an oval hilt, but this time an open scabbard which perhaps the first one should have had.
Although a lot plainer than the one with the silver hilt, to me it looks more Naga than Burmese.

I think you were all correct to suggest the Naga origin for the first one.

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