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Old 12th March 2020, 05:40 PM   #1
Yvain
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Default Morrocan sboula

Hi everyone !

For your consideration, here is a classic morrocan sboula that I finally took the time to properly clean.

As always, the hilt is made of two pieces (or scales) of horn, riveted to the tang. I noticed that the shape of the hilt is assymmetrical, the piece that sits in the palm of the hand is thicker and rounder, while the finger lay on a flater scale ; it can also be noted that the scale adorned with grooves, originally filled with twisted latten wires (there is a little bit left), is the one that sits in the palm of the hand. Whether this design is intentional or not is up to debate, but it is sure that it provides an excellent grip on the weapon, reinforced by the H shape of the hilt itself that locks the hand in place ; it would be interesting to determine if those design choices are also found on other sboulas

Moving on to the blade, I noted that it was stabilized with a small latten wedge under the guard to avoid any rattle ; interestingly, this is really similar to what I've seen done on original medieval sword for the same purpose, it also makes me think that this sboula was intented to be used, as the fix is rather crude and would have no use on a purely decorative weapon.

The blade itself is most likely a repurposed and reprofiled european saber blade, considering the regularity of its shape, and the fact that the point of the blade remains really thick, as if it had been shortened ; we can also see that the fullers continue under the guard (although the horn was shapped to fill them). However, even if I don't think the blade to be local, the reprofiling is, in my opinion, really neat and was done with a lot of care. I think that the original blade might have some age, as it shows traces of delamination on its edge (so maybe pre-1850). The edge itself is still somewhat sharp, and shows what looks like to be two old impact traces near the guard, again making me think that this sboula was probably used.

The blade also shows, on each side, the usual imitative illiterate markings (proof of quality, apotropaic phrase or something else ? I'm not really sure about this to be honest ). Here, it seems to be a repeat of two letters ( N and B ?), separated by groups of four dots, and flanked by two pair of eyelashes.

Full lengh is : 54,5cm
Hilt lenght is : 11,1cm
Point of balance is : ~8,8cm away from the guard
Weight is : 262g

From what I gathered (mostly on this forum, to be honest), this is a classic morrocan weapon. However, I've seen at least two other examples really similar to mine here (with a horn hilt), but also some with a latten covered hilt, slightly differently shaped, and usually a latten sheath reminiscent of genoui ones. Where do you think the difference lays between those two types ? Age or provenance ? I do know tunisian sboulas do exist, so it might be the later. Also, when, approximately, do you think mine was made ? I wasn't able to find informations about the period those were made and used.

Anyway, thanks for your attention and your answers, and sorry for my flimsy english !
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Old 12th March 2020, 08:17 PM   #2
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Nice sboula Yvain, and some pretty good observations. If you search the forum you will find blades with similar letters that do not make sense or symbols that resemble European letters. My guess is that those were placed locally, in order to imitate markings on earlier European blades. The gurda marks may be original to the blade or may have been placed later locally as well, hard for me to tell.

As for dating, based on the one photograph we have of a Moroccan wearing one and based on the fact that they were around when Buttin was in Morocco in the early 20th century, they were certainly in use in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A 19th century date for when yours was made is therefore a good guess.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 13th March 2020, 12:40 PM   #3
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Thank you for those informations Teodor ! I hoped it was an old one but I wasn't really sure.

Do we have any idea why those european markings were being copied ? Did it gave the blade more monetary value, or did it have some symbolic fuction ?
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Old 13th March 2020, 06:28 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvain
Thank you for those informations Teodor ! I hoped it was an old one but I wasn't really sure.

Do we have any idea why those european markings were being copied ? Did it gave the blade more monetary value, or did it have some symbolic fuction ?


Native copies of European markings is a big topic. The short answer is that European markings became popular in various places around the world where European blades were exported to, and were later copied locally in an effort to signify quality.
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Old 13th March 2020, 06:36 PM   #5
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Teodor is right it's an end of 19th c. sboula, what i call a "poor man" sboula, very simple.

But the blade is good, I wonder if it's an old sword cut and reused.

About the inscription I agree it's a pseudo European script, some people think that it could be some berber script, but I can't recognize any letters...

https://www.win.tue.nl/~aeb/natlang...h/tifinagh.html

Your sboula is Moroccan.
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Old 13th March 2020, 11:00 PM   #6
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Thanks !

Indeed, I think the blade is a cutdown european saber, and I'm pretty sure that the pseudo-european marking doesn't have any meaning and is just imitative.
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Old 15th March 2020, 07:05 PM   #7
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[Seems like my previous message didn't posted, sorry about that !]

Thanks,

I'm pretty sure it is indeed a reprofiled european saber blade. As for the inscription, I don't think it has any meaning either.
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