Scottish Dirk

Scottish Dirk

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19th Century REGIMENTAL SCOTTISH OFFICER DIRK SET affixed with cairngorm stones.

The Scottish dirk also “Highland dirk” is the traditional and ceremonial sidearm of the officers of Scottish Highland regiments. The development of the Scottish dirk as a weapon is unrelated to that of the naval dirk; it is a modern continuation of the 16th-century ballock or rondel dagger.

The traditional Scottish dirk is a development of the second half of the 18th century, when it became a popular item of military equipment in the Jacobite Risings. The 78th Fraser Highlanders, raised in 1757, wore full highland dress uniform; their equipment was described by Major-General James Stewart in 1780 as including a “musket and broadsword, to which many soldiers added the dirk at their own expense.

The modern development of the Scottish dirk into a ceremonial weapon occurred during the 19th century. The shape of the grip developed from the historical more cylindrical form to a shape intended to represent the thistle. Fancier fittings, often of silver, became popular shortly after 1800. The hilts of modern Scottish dirks are often carved from dark colored wood such as bog oak or ebony. Hilts and scabbards are often lavishly decorated with silver mounts and have pommels set with cairngorm stones. The blades measure 12″ in length and are single edged with decorative file work known as “jimping” on the unsharpened back edge of the blade. When worn, the dirk normally hangs by a leather strap known as a “frog” from a dirk belt, which is a wide leather belt having a large, usually ornate buckle that is worn around the waist with a kilt.  Many Scottish dirks carry a smaller knife and fork which fit into compartments on the front of the sheath, and a smaller knife known as a sgian dubh is also worn tucked into the top of the hose when wearing a kilt.


Syrian Khanjar Dagger

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 19th Century Syrian Khanjar Dagger with sash loops. The hilt is beautifully made from a mosaic of black horn, white bone or ivory, mother of pearl shell, silver and brass metals.

A khanjar is a traditional dagger originating from Yemen. Worn by men for ceremonial occasions, it is a short curved sword shaped like the letter “J” and resembles a hook.


Bosnian Bichaq Sarajevo Dagger

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19th Century Bosnian Bichaq Sarajevo Dagger

The bichaq is a single-edged dagger of Turkish origin. It is widespread in areas controlled by the Ottoman Empire and its close neighbors. The blade of this knife is either straight, holds a slight forward curve, like a short yataghan, or very rarely a backwards curve, like a jambiya. This knife and others were made at the end of 19th century.  They were often sold as souvenirs to officers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who invaded Bosnia at the time. The principal centers of production were Sarajevo and Foca.


Moroccan Jambiya Islamic Dagger

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Antique Moroccan Jambiya Islamic Dagger Koummya 19th Century

The Koummya, (also Khoumija or Koumaya) is a North African dagger . It was principally used in the Sous-region and the Atlas mountains in the south of Morocco.


Janbiya from Yemen in Leather Sheath

BLADES REVIEW 030BLADES REVIEW 031Janbiya, also spelled janbia, jambiya, and jambia is a traditional Arabian dagger that is still worn in Yemen. The Yemeni jambiya is typically a curved, thick, double-edged blade. The sheath is normally tucked into a thick embroidered belt. In Yemen, the styles of jambiyas differ remarkably from region to region.

The jambiya is worn by men as a token of their manhood and as a symbol of their wealth and social status. It is often gifted by fathers to their sons at the end of Ramadan to symbolize the transition from childhood to adulthood.


Gurkha Kukri & Scabbard, with two smaller knives

BLADES REVIEW 025BLADES REVIEW 026The Gurkha Kukri is possibly the most recognizable and famous fighting knife ever developed. Indigenous to the mountain Kingdom of Nepal, home of the Gurkhas, who were “absorbed” into the British sphere of influence with the Treaty of Seguli in 1816. These ferocious fighters were infamous for their valor and for using the kukri, an amazing “Tool of Death.” It is a forward leaning leaf shaped blade, which provides the user with leveraged striking power. Introduced long before the British arrived in the early 19th century, the Kukri became standard equipment for Gurkha Regiments serving in the British Army. Many English-speakers refer to the weapon as a “Gurkha blade” or “Gurkha knife”. The kukri is still used as an everyday tool and in many traditional rituals, such as wedding ceremonies. Kukri blades usually have a notch (kauda, kaudi, kaura, or cho) at the base of the blade. Traditionally, the scabbard also holds two smaller blades used for sharpening and maintaining the kukri


Scottish Dirk

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19th Century REGIMENTAL SCOTTISH OFFICER DIRK SET with stag horn handle, knife and fork and affixed with cairngorm stones. Blade engraved “Righ Gu Brath” roughly translated to say “Scotland Forever”

The Scottish dirk also “Highland dirk” is the traditional and ceremonial sidearm of the officers of Scottish Highland regiments. The development of the Scottish dirk as a weapon is unrelated to that of the naval dirk; it is a modern continuation of the 16th-century ballock or rondel dagger.

The traditional Scottish dirk is a development of the second half of the 18th century, when it became a popular item of military equipment in the Jacobite Risings. The 78th Fraser Highlanders, raised in 1757, wore full highland dress uniform; their equipment was described by Major-General James Stewart in 1780 as including a “musket and broadsword, to which many soldiers added the dirk at their own expense.

The modern development of the Scottish dirk into a ceremonial weapon occurred during the 19th century. The shape of the grip developed from the historical more cylindrical form to a shape intended to represent the thistle. Fancier fittings, often of silver, became popular shortly after 1800. The hilts of modern Scottish dirks are often carved from dark colored wood such as bog oak or ebony. Hilts and scabbards are often lavishly decorated with silver mounts and have pommels set with cairngorm stones. The blades measure 12″ in length and are single edged with decorative file work known as “jimping” on the unsharpened back edge of the blade. When worn, the dirk normally hangs by a leather strap known as a “frog” from a dirk belt, which is a wide leather belt having a large, usually ornate buckle that is worn around the waist with a kilt.  Many Scottish dirks carry a smaller knife and fork which fit into compartments on the front of the sheath, and a smaller knife known as a sgian dubh is also worn tucked into the top of the hose when wearing a kilt.

 


Arabic Ivory-Hilted Janbiya Dagger

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The double edged blade of the janbiya is constructed of steel which in some cases is damascus or wootz steel. The blade is stored in a sheath, usually made of wood covered with metal or cloth. The sheath can be decorated with various ornaments that signify status. These include silver work, semi-precious stones, and leather. The sheath can be fixed to a leather belt, which is normally 2–3 inches wide. The belt is usually worn around the lower abdomen. There are often other items attached to this belt, such as a silver purse for containing money and change.


Ottoman Blunderbuss

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A fine example of the type, the walnut stock with elaborate carving and silver wire inlay at the butt. With French-style flintlock mechanism and massive barrel, heavily chiseled in relief at the breach and retained by a large, embossed and engraved silver barrel band. Late 18th century.

The blunderbuss is a muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large caliber barrel, which is flared at the muzzle and frequently throughout the entire bore, and used with shot and other projectiles of relevant quantity and/or caliber. The blunderbuss could be considered to be an early form of shotgun, which was often adapted to military and defensive use. It was effective at short ranges, but lacked accuracy for targets at long range. The term dragon was used to describe a blunderbuss in handgun form, and it is from this that the term dragoon evolved.


Afgan Jezail Rifle

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The jezail was a simple, cost-efficient and often handmade muzzle-loading long arm commonly used in British India, Central Asia and parts of the Middle East in the past.

Jezails were generally handmade weapons, and consequently they widely varied in their construction. Jezails were seen as very personal weapons, and unlike the typical military weapons of the time which were very plain and utilitarian, jezails tended to be well crafted and were usually intricately decorated.

Jezails tended to have very long barrels. Weapons of such length were never common in Europe (with the exception of the Spanish “espingarda” circa 15th century), but was more common in American rifles like the Kentucky Rifle. The American rifles were used for hunting, and tended to be of a smaller caliber (.35 to .45 or so being typical). Jezails were usually designed for warfare, and therefore tended to be of larger calibers than the American rifles, with .50 to .75 caliber and larger being common. Larger calibers were possible because the long length of the typical jezail meant that it was heavier than typical muskets of the time. Jezails typically weighed around 12 to 14 pounds, compared to 9 to 10 pounds for a typical musket. The heavy weight of the jezail allowed the rifle itself to absorb more energy from the round, imparting less recoil to the weapon’s user.

Many jezails were smooth bore weapons, but some had their barrels rifled. The rifling, combined with the barrel’s long length, made these weapons very accurate for their time.

The firing mechanism was typically either a matchlock or a flintlock. Since flintlock mechanisms were complex and difficult to manufacture, many jezails used the lock mechanism from captured or broken Brown Bess muskets.

The stocks were handmade and ornately decorated, featuring a distinctive curve which is not seen in the stocks of other muskets. The function of this curve is debated; it may be purely decorative, or it may have allowed the jezail to be tucked under the arm and cradled tightly against the body, as opposed to being held to the shoulder like a typical musket or rifle. The argument against this method of firing is that the flash pan would be dangerously close to the face and the weapon would be harder to aim. It is more likely that the rifle was only tucked under the arm whilst riding a horse or a camel. The curve may also have saved weight; by shaving away some of the heavy wood used for the stock through employment of the new curved shape, whilst maintaining the same structural integrity of the stock it could still be fired from the shoulder safely whilst also being lighter. The weapon was fired by grasping the stock near the trigger, like a pistol, while the curved portion is tucked under the shooter’s forearm, allowing the rifle to be fired with one hand while mounted.

Jezails were often fired from a forked rest, or a horn or metal bi-pod.


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About The Curator

Carol Seelig Eastman is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Knohl Collection. In this role, she passionately explores the artist’s personal, social, and political world and places their art in a meaningful historical context. Her thematic exhibitions provide visual and educational stimulation that attract and engage a diverse museum audience.