GOLD MECCA JAMBIYA
Place of Origin: MEDINA, ARABIA
Date: Late 19th - Early 20th Century
Overall: 345mm (13.5 inches)
This jambiya, likely made for a pilgrim journeying to Mecca, is generously covered with various forms of decoration. The ‘I’-shaped hilt is typical for these weapons, stylised flowerheads formed of twisted silver wire with central spheres set within the flared ends of the hilt amidst silver roundels. The collar of the blade is adorned with beaded lines that enclose two wider bands of decorative patterns – the first comprising a tightly oscillating wave of silver, the second band filled with wire that has been tightly twisted as if to resemble knotted thread.
The scabbard is decorated mostly en suite with the hilt, featuring careful lines of filigree, stylised flowerheads, and further roundels, although unlike the hilt it also shows an Arabic inscription at its centre in fine silver wire which reads ‘amal muhammad’ (“work of Muhammad”) – a feature which must then refer to the original maker of the dagger. Brackets attached to the reverse face of the scabbard confirm that the dagger was worn with a horizontal belt at the waist in the traditional way, and the curved steel blade is of typical form, with a pronounced medial ridge along its full length.
Most jambiyas of this type (classified as ‘Mecca jambiyas’) lack the exact style of filigree found on this piece, with large roundels laid profusely upon twisted silver wire – a type of work typically found in the Taiz area, southwestern Yemen. For comparison, we can look at work published in Stephen Gracie, Daggers from the Ancient Souqs of Yemen, 2010, pp. 125-127, Nos. 1.4-1.7. However, an example preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Accession Number: 31.35.1a-c) commemorates a Turk’s pilgrimage to Mecca, its inscriptions including not only the owner’s name but the city of manufacture – Medina. Given the similarity of this dagger to our own, it is likely that our example was made in the same city.