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Thread: Pesh Kabz

  1. #26
    When does a knife become a sword or, more aptly, sword knife? According to Fox's list, some of the weapons in his collection must have qualified as sword knives. The peshqabz, for example, is of various lengths. And incidentally, Bellew's dictionary of Pashto equates the charah ("a long knife") with the Indian chhura (choora). But what's in a word? It can mean different things to different people! That's why I'm glad that you pre-empted me in providing the Fox quotation re name changes and differences.

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by L. Braden View Post
    When does a knife become a sword or, more aptly, sword knife? According to Fox's list, some of the weapons in his collection must have qualified as sword knives. The peshqabz, for example, is of various lengths. And incidentally, Bellew's dictionary of Pashto equates the charah ("a long knife") with the Indian chhura (choora). But what's in a word? It can mean different things to different people! That's why I'm glad that you pre-empted me in providing the Fox quotation re name changes and differences.
    If anything resembles a sword it is the khyber knife, here is a great description from 1906.

    Baily's Magazine of Sports & Pastimes, Volume 85, Baily bros., 1906.


    Last edited by eric t; 12-25-2015 at 09:34 PM.

  3. #28
    Indeed! I first read this, as well as other accounts, in "Swordsmen of the British Empire", which contains the most comprehensive info on these and other sword knives.

  4. #29
    Some great research there gentlemen.
    On the Khyber Knife, the quotes are often right on the mark. These are usually not exactly a 'knightly' weapon. They are often crudely made and even when they are relatively well finished, the blades are to say the least a bit of a mixed bag.
    The steel in even second half 19thc ones is often a very basic crucible (wootz) steel, but the steel is often inconsistently heat treated with areas showing (after an etch) a crystalline structure while areas show the structure heated to the point where the structure has been 'burned' out.
    The 'T' spine on the Khyber knife, I think can be a bit misleading, as it can seem to suggest a stabbing weapon.
    These are more a hack and slay type affair, as is suggested by the excellent information provided above. The T-spine is simply (IMHO) to add strength and to try and prevent an often poorly tempered blade from buckling.
    They do (in my limited experience) have a rather crude differential tempering with a hard edge on the blade. Damage can sometimes be seen in the form of cracks in the cutting edge.
    They also sometimes show in both mono and crucible steel examples, crude lamination and clear lamination flaws.

    I would however add that their users were also occasionally mounted and these would be rather suited for a good hack from horseback. Certainly as much as many other weapons used by mounted combatants in that area of the world.
    As to their being called a 'knife' even 'large knife'? Yes they are really a sword IMHO.
    But again we get too hung up on definitions. It's a big butchers knife.
    Also, don't forget that there are examples with a guard.

  5. #30
    Getting back to the Choora (as we know it today).
    Some more indications of the 20thc date.
    The hilt scales are often made of composite/celluloids/early plastics etc. Also they are often etched to emulate wootz.
    To show an example of this with a good indication of age, here is one with a faux wootz blade of etched mono steel. It also has hilt scales made from a kind of artificial 'ivorine' that was popular around the mid 20thc and eventually turned a characteristic orange with age.
    Attached Images Attached Images   

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    Getting back to the Choora (as we know it today).
    Some more indications of the 20thc date.
    The hilt scales are often made of composite/celluloids/early plastics etc. Also they are often etched to emulate wootz.
    To show an example of this with a good indication of age, here is one with a faux wootz blade of etched mono steel. It also has hilt scales made from a kind of artificial 'ivorine' that was popular around the mid 20thc and eventually turned a characteristic orange with age.
    Gene, there are examples of choora with wootz blades and ivory grips, I think you can find many types of swords/knifes/daggers that have lower quality blades/grips and were made rather recently. I am not sure if this is a good indication as to the age of a particular type of weapon, I think you have to look at the better examples and see if they look to be recently made. As far as authentic wootz steel goes I do not think that was a recently made item.


    Here is an example.

    This Choora knife is a typical example from the second half of the 19th century and it is coming from the Khayber pass area between India and Afghanistan. It was carried by the Mahsud people residing in this area. The blade is 8 inches long with the usual “T” back and reinforced edge forged from fine Indian wootz (Damascus) steel. The grips are made of sectors of elephant ivory riveted to the tang with four rivets. Four small metal bells are attached to the pommel top. The bolster and the hilt strap are engraved white metal painted red orange and black. The scabbard is wood, covered with tooled leather and mounted with finely chased big locket and scabbard band. Total length in scabbard 12 1/2 inches. Very good condition. All parts are old and original. Choora daggers with Wootz blade are quite scarce.

  7. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by eric t View Post
    Gene, there are examples of choora with wootz blades and ivory grips, I think you can find many types of swords/knifes/daggers that have lower quality blades/grips and were made rather recently. I am not sure if this is a good indication as to the age of a particular type of weapon, I think you have to look at the better examples and see if they look to be recently made. As far as authentic wootz steel goes I do not think that was a recently made item.


    Here is an example.
    Hi Eric,
    'Second half 19th century'? So would that be closer to 1851 or 1899?
    And there are also relatively late 'Khyber Knives' with crucible steel blades, probably from around the turn of the last century, perhaps even into it.
    There are as you say rather good quality Choora, as shown in the earlier part of the thread and your last example.
    You can't help but look at the hilts with their garish painted decoration and it's hard to imagine that the paint has withstood 165 years...... Now say that these do date from around 1900 ish. Perhaps re-dressed? Perhaps re-purposed blades... All things are possible.
    But they do seem, as a form, to be a later rather than earlier creation. Which would explain why so few are 'better' and so many are good quality but imitation.
    And of course we don't have any hard proof of mid 19th century examples beyond a shared word that means 'large knife'?

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    Hi Eric,
    'Second half 19th century'? So would that be closer to 1851 or 1899?
    And there are also relatively late 'Khyber Knives' with crucible steel blades, probably from around the turn of the last century, perhaps even into it.
    There are as you say rather good quality Choora, as shown in the earlier part of the thread and your last example.
    You can't help but look at the hilts with their garish painted decoration and it's hard to imagine that the paint has withstood 165 years...... Now say that these do date from around 1900 ish. Perhaps re-dressed? Perhaps re-purposed blades... All things are possible.
    But they do seem, as a form, to be a later rather than earlier creation. Which would explain why so few are 'better' and so many are good quality but imitation.
    And of course we don't have any hard proof of mid 19th century examples beyond a shared word that means 'large knife'?
    Gene, choora are sort of a mystery, they seem to have just popped up, most do look to be fairly modern and not exceptional. I would not be surprised to find out that they were originally a womans knife (whats with the bells and paint on some examples?).

  9. #34
    Holy smoke! I didn't think I'd get quite so comprehensive a tutorial on this style of knife! Knowledgeable chaps all!! I now know all there is to know (so far) about Chooras, Pesh Kabz etc..... Many thanks!!

  10. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by eric t View Post
    Gene, choora are sort of a mystery, they seem to have just popped up, most do look to be fairly modern and not exceptional. I would not be surprised to find out that they were originally a womans knife (whats with the bells and paint on some examples?).
    That's a really interesting idea. i have no knowledge of women's role in afghan society at that time.

  11. #36
    There are a lot of photographs from the end of the 19thc/early 20thc Afghan conflicts.
    Well... allegedly.

    Some seem to show Karud. This first one is tantalizing as it just 'might' show a choora on the floor in front of the lad on the right side. Apart from that I can see one obvious karud, one likely karud and one possible pesh-kabz.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  12. #37
    Here are a bunch of war spoils:
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  13. #38
    Now here is something interesting. An early photo that does seem to show a Choora.
    Anyone want to guess that date based on the guns?
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  14. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wally View Post
    Holy smoke! I didn't think I'd get quite so comprehensive a tutorial on this style of knife! Knowledgeable chaps all!! I now know all there is to know (so far) about Chooras, Pesh Kabz etc..... Many thanks!!
    Hi Dave,
    these are a really interesting field of discussion. I hope you like your Choora!

  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    Now here is something interesting. An early photo that does seem to show a Choora.
    Anyone want to guess that date based on the guns?
    Mahsuds in Waziristan, 1920 (c).

    Photograph, India, North West Frontier, 1920 (c).

    The Mahsuds were Pathan tribesmen who inhabited Waziristan. They were probably the most formidable fighters on the frontier. Highly mobile, able to live off the most meagre rations, and fine shots, they were perfectly adapted to their mountainous homeland. Fiercely independent, they had honed their fighting skills by years of raiding the settled areas to the east, along the Indus, and by attacking the trading caravans that travelled to and from Afghanistan. In 1919 their fighting strength was estimated at over 11,000 warriors. Only the most experienced and well-trained British and Indian units could match the Mahsud in frontier fighting.

    From an album of 65 photographs compiled by Major General W M Kirke, Waziristan, North West Frontier (1920-1937). National Army Museum, Study collection


  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    There are a lot of photographs from the end of the 19thc/early 20thc Afghan conflicts.
    Well... allegedly.

    Some seem to show Karud. This first one is tantalizing as it just 'might' show a choora on the floor in front of the lad on the right side. Apart from that I can see one obvious karud, one likely karud and one possible pesh-kabz.
    Portrait of Afghan chiefs probably taken at Kabul, Afghanistan, by John Burke in 1879-80. Burke was the most intrepid of all the photographers active in Victorian India. He travelled widely in the sub-continent but is best known for his work pertaining to the Second Afghan War (1878-80). In this two-year campaign, he worked steadily in the hostile environment of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan), recording the military events, the topography and the people of the region in which the strategies of the Great Game (concerning the Anglo-Russian territorial rivalry) were played out. Burke also photographed a number of the darbars or meetings that took place between the British leaders and Afghan chiefs which led to the uneasy peace treaties characteristic of the campaign. This album is full of images taken during the occupation of Kabul in the later phase of the war, October 1879. British Library.


  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    Here are a bunch of war spoils:
    (Those khyber knives look huge!!)


    Afghan Trophies, Peiwar Kotal

    This photograph of a pile of military "trophies" after the Battle of Peiwar Kotal in November 1878 is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Peiwar Kotal was the site of a battle in late 1878, between British forces under Sir Frederick Roberts (1832–1914), who outmaneuvered Afghan forces under an unknown commander. The result was a British victory and seizure of the Peiwar Kotal Pass. A young boy is perched atop the pile; he leans against a huge bass drum and sits on a fur-lined sheepskin coat, called a poostin in Dari. He is surrounded by an assortment of military items that were abandoned during the battle or removed from the bodies of slain soldiers. They include swords and scimitars of both British and Afghan design, scabbards, rifles, and a helmet in the center.

    The Second Anglo-Afghan War began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the war ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879, after an anti-British uprising in Kabul, and finally concluded in September 1880 with the decisive Battle of Kandahar.

    The album includes portraits of British and Afghan leaders and military personnel, portraits of ordinary Afghan people, and depictions of British military camps and activities, structures, landscapes, and cities and towns. The sites shown are all located within the borders of present-day Afghanistan or Pakistan (a part of British India at the time). About a third of the photographs were taken by John Burke (circa 1843–1900), another third by Sir Benjamin Simpson (1831–1923), and the remainder by several other photographers. Some of the photographs are unattributed. The album possibly was compiled by a member of the British Indian government, but this has not been confirmed. How it came to the Library of Congress is not known.

    http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage...han1879page.db

    Last edited by eric t; 01-09-2016 at 10:54 AM.

  18. #43
    Hi Eric,
    Good job on the big versions of the pictures and the descriptions, excellent research
    Strangely, those very same fur lined Afghan coats were still in fashion when I was a kid! Often with a little more visible fur/wool at the cuffs and edges! Bit of a throw-over from the 60s hippy era.
    Interesting to see just how little they'd changed from the versions worn by fighters in the late 19thc!!!
    In fact a tatty old 60s/70s one would possibly make a good base for a mannequin display of 19thc Afghan militaria!!

    I notice that these photos seem to all pre-date the time when photographers would say 'SMILE' before clicking the shutter

    The pile of spoils is interesting not only for the coats and as you point out the large Khybers but also the belts with tools.
    I'm sure many of us have one of those, but it's interesting to see a few in that context.
    Also I notice the similarity in the decoration of all the belts/pouches and the rifles.
    Also do you notice that there are no small knives in the selection. Medium and large Khybers and many small items, even down to small powder flasks and bamboo powder measures but no daggers?

    Now we know that these men did carry lots of small items, so where are the knifes?
    Were they not carrying them due to the nature of their expectations for this battle? Was it a tribal/regional tradition?

    Now, when we look at the 1920's photo where we can see a Choora, the emphasis is clearly on the firearms rather than the edged weapons.
    In your picture we seem to be able to see a dagger being held by the chap in the foreground. Perhaps a second Choora?
    Did the Choora develop after the Anglo-Afghan wars once cartridge loaders were replacing muzzle loaders and the large Khyber knives and swords in general were less important equipment as a sort of replacement?
    I know that as we previously discussed, the accepted view is that these are ring-splitters, but as I said on page 1, I always just think of them as general light armour piercing. Within that description I'd include heavy clothing and uniforms! If you were going to choose a knife to pierce several layers of cotton/felt/leather/sheepskin, can you think of a better knife to choose?

  19. #44
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    A couple of images showing the large type of karud dagger being worn and a very similar example from the recent Auctions Imperial auction.







    Afghan karud dagger, massive example with characteristic bone grips. The well-wrought blade with T-back and raised, chamfered edge, forged of fine Persian Kara Taban black wootz damascus steel. In its wooden scabbard with leather covering and iron chape with bead finial. Late 18th century. Overall length 54.6cm / 21 in.

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    Now here is something interesting. An early photo that does seem to show a Choora.
    Anyone want to guess that date based on the guns?

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