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Old 7th January 2024, 01:42 PM   #1
Ian
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Default Canary Islands Dagger or Spanish Philippines Naval Dirk?

This is a tale of two nearly identical daggers that went to auction within a few weeks of each other. They are the only two examples of this knife that I have seen. The first went to auction on November 23, 2023 and was passed in. The second was sold by a different auction house on January 7, 2024.

1. Described as "19th C Canary Islands Dagger"
The brass guard and pommel clearly have some oxidation suggesting a certain amount of age, as does the presumably brass scabbard. The blade shows some signs of lamination, although it is hard to identify due to some oxidation and grime. The stacked hilt seems to include rings of horn and shell interspersed with iron and brass. The pommel has a depression that would fit the thumb when using an ice-pick grip.

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2. Described as "18th–19th C Spanish or Philippines Naval Dirk"
This one has been thoroughly cleaned and looks much newer, but I think they are the same age judging from the stacked hilts. The stacked hilt has the same composition as the first example, and there is a very similar scabbard. There are subtle differences in the toe and throat of the scabbard, the curvature of the brass guards, and in the details of the stacked hilts.

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Both knives are said to measure 11.5 inches in their sheaths.

So, what are they? The stacked hilts don't look like those on the traditional Canary Islands naif. The hilts have some resemblance to those seen on Chilean corvo, but the rings seem looser and less varied in composition. I've not seen many stacked hilts from the Philippines, and none that looked like these. The close fitting scabbards might suggest a French origin and the thumb groove on the pommel would also fit.

Where do they come from? If there are two, there should be more. Has anyone else seen these daggers before? I tried a Google image search and got nowhere. I have not searched through Artzi's or Gavin's copious archives, but prior inspection for other items did not turn up anything like this as far as I recall.

Mystery .... ????
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Old 7th January 2024, 02:00 PM   #2
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Hi Ian,

It's for sure not a Canary Island knife/dagger and I also strongly doubt that it's Spanish/Philippines. French?

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 7th January 2024, 02:07 PM   #3
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Hi Detlef,

You are too quick for me. I was still writing the description and getting the formatting sorted out and you already responded. French might be a good idea. I'm not familiar with any French or French Colonial stacked hilts.

Regards,

Ian.
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Old 7th January 2024, 02:15 PM   #4
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Could Chilean origin be a possibility?
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Old 7th January 2024, 02:27 PM   #5
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We seldom do this, but given the possibility that this is a European (or European colonial) knife, I'm going to cross-list it in the Euro Forum just in case someone there has more ideas.
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Old 7th January 2024, 02:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Interested Party View Post
Could Chilean origin be a possibility?
Thanks for the suggestion IP. Yes, Chile is a possibility given the well known stacked hilts on some of the traditional Chilean corvo. As I noted above, the stacks don't look as tight as on a corvo, and corvo generally have more varied materials in their stacks. Nevertheless, Chile is much more likely than the Canary Islands! A Chilean origin would probably not account for the thumb groove on the pommel.
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Old 9th January 2024, 01:11 AM   #7
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Hello Guys - here are 2 photos of my corvo. Looks similar to knives posted previously. This is a pretty well made knife overall. I often wondered if it is a tool or a weapon...
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Old 9th January 2024, 01:23 AM   #8
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Hi SL79,

Both a tool and a weapon. As a weapon, the corvo is a very nasty one used against soft body parts such as the abdomen and neck. It was much feared by opponents. A peasant knife, it was converted to military use and infamously used in the War of the Pacific between Chile and Peru in the mid-19th C. Two modified versions are still in military use by Chile. There is quite a lot of information about the corvo in the Ethno Forum pages.

Your example shows the typical, tightly stacked hilt on these knives. The OP of this thread shows that the various disks on the hilt are loose and mobile, unlike the tight finish on a corvo. Thanks for showing your example for comparison.
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Old 9th January 2024, 12:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Your example shows the typical, tightly stacked hilt on these knives. The OP of this thread shows that the various disks on the hilt are loose and mobile, unlike the tight finish on a corvo. Thanks for showing your example for comparison.
Thanks for the information on the stacking. The quality of the stack was something I hadn't considered.
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Old 9th January 2024, 08:23 PM   #10
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Interesting knives!
I had never realized that the Canary Islands were so instrumental in populating the Americas and Caribbean in Spains colonial pursuits from the early 17th c on.
Also I have had one Corvo knife for some time and knew a little of the history of the War of the Pacific (1879-1884) in which these were used with Chile against Bolivia and Peru.
Regarding the 'stacked' type grips, which seems an affectation from the Canary Islands which apparently had become a favored style on the Chilean knives, it seems the Canaria knives had blade shapes that were unique as the Chilean.

The Corvo seems to have evolved from the 'grape hook' knives used of course in the wine industry which prevails there. These deadly knives as described were often used by bandits etc. and were colloquially known as 'cutthroat knives' in a pejorative sense. The dramatic effectiveness of them in this conflict was well noted and they became produced for military use in larger size.


The images are my example, which has the gold metal inlaid dots in sequence, in which the symbolism or significance is unclear. I have been told this is an older (pre 1870s) example.
The other is of several corvo variations.
also added the canat island knife
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 10th January 2024 at 06:59 AM.
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Old 11th January 2024, 12:50 PM   #11
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Thanks Jim. The Canary Islands and Chile are prime sources for well stacked hilts. That is one major reason why I don't think my knife came from there—the hilt is not made tight enough. It does have some European features, however, and I was hoping that someone here might have further suggestions about the knife itself or the sheath.
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Old 11th January 2024, 01:43 PM   #12
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I only wish I could add more. These areas are way out of my usual fields of study, but in the little investigating I have done, so fascinating that I cannot resist traveling further into the subject.

I see what you mean on the character of your knife, which is of course an entirely different form than the knives of Chile and the Canary Islands.
In looking at the interesting blades of the Canarian knives, the curious profile of them reminds me of what seems to have been a rather ubiquitous form used by sailors on vessels traveling the trade routes. If I recall these became known as 'Meditteranean' knives, and one distinguishing feature noted was a 'notch' at the back of the blade near the hilt, a sort of choil in effect.

Not wishing to deviate further, I hope someone out there might come in with more here. The blade,size etc. does seem to have a European gestalt and imitation of hilt affinities from well traveled regions would seem expected.
Your point on the character of the execution of the 'stacking' in your example does support your suggestion of other than these regional locations known for this feature as an origin of the knife.

Whatever it is, very attractive and intriguing!
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Old 21st January 2024, 10:57 AM   #13
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Hi Jim,

Thanks for the further thoughts. The notch at the end of the Canary Islands naif is sometimes called a "Spanish notch." It is seen also on a few Spanish cuchillo knives from South America, but it's not common outside the Canary Islands.
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Old 25th March 2024, 06:22 AM   #14
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Hello,

I remember seeing somewhere that people from the Canary Islands were prohibited from owning/making weapons such as swords and daggers. Therefore I don't believe these daggers you have came from the Canary Islands.
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Old 25th March 2024, 04:56 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legendary_Jarl View Post
Hello,

I remember seeing somewhere that people from the Canary Islands were prohibited from owning/making weapons such as swords and daggers. Therefore I don't believe these daggers you have came from the Canary Islands.
Prohibited? there are NO knives from Canary Islands?


In going through discussions involving the Canary Islands 'naife', the collective term for edged weapons from this archipelago which is part of Spain, though autonomous.....it seems there were variations of these weapons....the form pictured is the most well known.

These have certain resemblances to Chilean corvo in the hilt, but the blade has a unique curved inset at the end of the edge to the hilt stem...which is often referred to as the "Spanish notch' or Meditteranean notch. This feature became well known on many knife forms in the trade traffic from Spain into the western regions and the Canary Islands were of course an established point of contact.

It would, as I have noted, be interesting to know where the notion of prohibiting edged weapons on any of these islands is derived, especially as there seems to be a notable division of geopolitical control over them. In using the valuable 'SEARCH' feature here, I was able to pull up discussions on these pages back to 2008, all discussing the distinctive CANARY ISLANDS naife form with interesting discourse from the local authorities on these types of weapons.
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Old 26th March 2024, 07:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Prohibited? there are NO knives from Canary Islands?


In going through discussions involving the Canary Islands 'naife', the collective term for edged weapons from this archipelago which is part of Spain, though autonomous.....it seems there were variations of these weapons....the form pictured is the most well known.
.
You see the problem here is that you are calling these 'weapons' when they were always primarily tools, even if on occasion they were used as weapons.

I know in the Americas under the Spanish weapons were prohibited for the natives as well with the exception of the Tlaxcala. Can't uprise effectively without proper weapons :P

If you speak Spanish this video has a lot of information: https://youtu.be/uLHnlMzPMKk?si=FZrjbYC_1pD5AR1K



-

Last edited by fernando; 26th March 2024 at 09:59 AM. Reason: Please reduce the size of your quotations to what you wish to emphasize
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Old 26th March 2024, 11:05 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legendary_Jarl View Post
Hello,

I remember seeing somewhere that people from the Canary Islands were prohibited from owning/making weapons such as swords and daggers. Therefore I don't believe these daggers you have came from the Canary Islands.
You can still buy newly made Canary Island knives, just use google!
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Old 26th March 2024, 02:33 PM   #18
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Legendary, thank you so much for the further rationale here!
So if I understand correctly these bladed 'tools' which myself and the collectors/dealers etc and authors of numbers of references have, for most of the decades I have studied the history and development of arms........are NOT knives?

I think I can see a pattern here, and if I may offer some analogies.......and I am sure this topic could bring volumes.

In the 18th century, after the major uprisings in the Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745, the British occupying Scotland PROSCRIBED all weapons , primarily of course the beloved Highland basket hilts. The EXCEPTION was the large dagger known as the dirk. It was held that as a utility item, these large daggers were acceptably permitted, while of course, many thousands of basket hilts were hidden away.

I just published a paper on the Spanish colonial short hangers known popularly in modern references as the 'espada ancha'. These were with the hilts resembling hunting swords, however with heavy blacksmith made blades....which were used primarily in utility functions, including brushing trails etc.
The thing is that in truth, these hangers, always deemed 'swords/thus a weapon' were always classified as weapons.....(I have studied these for over 40 years).........yet in their period of use.......they were known only as
MACHETES!
What is a machete? a TOOL.
The term espada ancha was a modern mistranslation used by writers and collectors because the term machete presented the wrong connotation.


I could of course go on, if we were to look into the many cases of the proscription of edged weapons in British India.......the Khyber areas; the Coorgs in Malabar etc etc.

Uprisings? it seems there were some in most of the cases where edged 'WEAPONS' were proscribed/

In history, the masses in the assembled armies were typically peasantry carrying all manner of TOOLS and IMPLEMENTS such as billhooks, scythes etc.......only well resourced fighters could afford swords and 'weapons'.

While I very much appreciate the ratiocination .......I just wanted to add some of the perspective I have understood over the years in the study of edged weapons and their history. What I am saying is that in wording or classification......there is a gossamer fine line between tool and weapon.

I suppose Shakespeare's line, a rose by any other name is still a rose might be seen differently here.........a tool might be a weapon if used as one...regardless of what it is called.


PHOTO: a very formidable looking TOOL, known as the Canary tool.
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Old 26th March 2024, 04:45 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legendary_Jarl View Post
Hello,

I remember seeing somewhere that people from the Canary Islands were prohibited from owning/making weapons such as swords and daggers. Therefore I don't believe these daggers you have came from the Canary Islands.
I remember seeing somewhere that fully automatic weapons were prohibited to commoners in the EU, yet I'm told of their discharge at wedding ceremonies in Crete in the recent past.

Hard to cook and eat without knives, I've found. Meat is particularly challenging to deal with in the absence of tools.
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Old 27th March 2024, 09:09 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A View Post
I remember seeing somewhere that fully automatic weapons were prohibited to commoners in the EU, yet I'm told of their discharge at wedding ceremonies in Crete in the recent past.
Hello Bob,

There is no uniform weapon law in the EU, every country has its own weapon law.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 27th March 2024, 10:56 AM   #21
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Not wishing to embark aboard the recurrent tool/weapon saga, i suspect this time the Canary knife was undoubtedly conceived to be an agriculture utensil, eventually having undergone design adjustments for banana harvesting, for one. Its connotation with the term Nife, from the English Knife to the Spanish, even Portuguese slang Naifa, ought not transform this tool into a weapon.
If you guys care to translate this article to your own language, you have a good chance for such subject perusal.
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuchillo_canario
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Old 27th March 2024, 05:57 PM   #22
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"Described as "18th–19th C Spanish or Philippines Naval Dirk""


Jumping back to Post 1.
And obviously ignoring the intricate handle, but it does have a slight resemblance to the 1833 French government issue of the Naval dagger (Poignard de Marine), although this had a triangular section blade.

This may explain the above description connecting it to a 'Naval Dirk'. I have never seen reference to a Spanish or Philippine version.

It was part of the Systeme 1833 suite of weapons and came with a leather or metal triangular sheath.
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Old 27th March 2024, 08:18 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A View Post
I remember seeing somewhere that fully automatic weapons were prohibited to commoners in the EU, yet I'm told of their discharge at wedding ceremonies in Crete in the recent past.

Hard to cook and eat without knives, I've found. Meat is particularly challenging to deal with in the absence of tools.
Not every knife is a weapon even if they can be used as such. In fact, most knives have been used as cutting tools throughout time. Canario knives were not considered weapons even if at times they could have been used as such. That is why I said "weapons such as swords and daggers" which are clearly primarily intended to be used as weapon even if at times they could potentially be used as tools. See the difference?

It is kinda concerning that when I wrote "weapons were banned" people assumed "every blade was banned". Are you from the UK? lol

What is pictured above in the OP, in my opinion, is clearly intended as a weapon and has nothing to do with the Canary Islands. I mean compare the craftmanship with that of actual Canario Knives. The craftmanship of this dagger is quite poor. And actually now that I think about it what is pictured above is not even called "dagger"(daga) in Spanish. Small stabbing implements like that are PUÑAL.
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Old 1st April 2024, 01:58 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legendary_Jarl View Post
What is pictured above in the OP, in my opinion, is clearly intended as a weapon and has nothing to do with the Canary Islands. I mean compare the craftmanship with that of actual Canario Knives. The craftmanship of this dagger is quite poor. And actually now that I think about it what is pictured above is not even called "dagger"(daga) in Spanish. Small stabbing implements like that are PUÑAL.
Thank you for the clarification and I agree with you, the dagger which started the thread has nothing to do with Canary Island knives!

Regards,
Detlef
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