View Full Version : 250 Year Old Moroccan Shepard's Knife

Buddy Thomason
07-01-2003, 03:17 AM
I realize this may not be the appropriate location for this thread but it seems the best option within CKD..........Thanks for looking.

A woman was brought to the psychiatric clinic for evaluation of anxiety symptoms related to what her husband described as an unusual ability to diagnose (and sometimes heal) ill or injured animals. In the midst of the evaluation she stood up, lifted her shirt to reveal this knife (in a tattered leather pistol holster) concealed in the waistband of her pants. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. This is for you." I explained doctors can't accept gifts from patients. "It's not a gift--you're supposed to have it. It's a 250 year old Moroccan Shepard's knife." She uas unable to give any further information about it. Her husband was unable to provide any detail either and said, "You might as well take it Doc. She's not going to leave here unless you do." So I did. I can't believe her story--but, on the other hand, what is the likely origin of this blade? The handle looks to be more recently re-worked. I can provide more description and/or photographs if it's warranted. Would appreciate any ideas, speculations or suggestions.

Jerry Oksman
07-01-2003, 11:34 AM
Buddy, I would post this over in General as well. You also might try Bernard Levine

07-01-2003, 06:12 PM
Buddy, That is historical and inspirational. (and a little more than spooky) I was thinking of how to use some wood slabs on a "blacksmiths knife" like that. It looks almost modern with that mosaic pin. I did not realize those were period. The makers mark seems to be an unusual vanity for a useing knife from back then. I would definatly get Mr. Levines opinion. Hope you don't mind if this one gets copied a bit. Minimalist with just a little pazazz!

Levines online forum at knifeforums might be a good place to ask about it. Then we can all follow along.

Buddy Thomason
07-09-2003, 12:55 AM
For additional images, comments by a variety of folks and "weighing in" by Bernard Levine go to:

07-09-2003, 05:18 AM
Now you done it Buddy, Once you start seeing the beauty in these ugly old knives you are done for my friend. Next thing you know you will be stopping in at the outpost (just for a peek mind you). Then you start thinkin, "heck, one of them charcoal forges don't look THAT hard to build, maybe I could hammer me one out , can't do no worse than that guy did."

Buddy Thomason
07-10-2003, 10:27 PM
Whoa! Hammerdownnow, I finally got around to the link you mentioned above. Very cool and great info as well. I confess the spirit of the forge bug bit me a while back and here's the result:

07-20-2003, 10:25 PM
It looks like a sword thrust into an armourers anvil, if you ask me. That was a holy symbol to the Sarmatian people of the Eastern European steppes about two thousand years ago. Interesting possible connection there...

Contact me if you have or want any more information. My email address is

07-21-2003, 06:43 PM
Buddy, Beautiful work! very artistic. I love the aboriginal figures. I would like to get a clearer look at the handle. I like your photo style also. Dark and mysterious. You could be a contender in the photo contest here.

Tuck, Good eye! It looked like a tree to me till you mentioned it. Please post info. We are very interested.

07-23-2003, 04:54 PM
I don't know much about Sarmatians, what I do know comes from research I did for an article I wrote for Renaissance Magazine. The Sarmatians were a part of the Iazyges tribe, which were an Asiatic people migrating West in the time of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (approximately 175 AD). Their mode of warfare was primarily cavalry based, and as such, when peace was made with them, the had to agree to supply 8 000 horsemen for the Empire, 5 500 of which were sent to Britain and the rest elsewhere. One of the holy symbols of the Sarmatian religion was a sword thrust into an anvil, thought to be the inspiration for the Sword-in-the-Stone of Arthurian legend (not their only connection to Arthur, as described in my upcoming article).

Whether the symbol on this 'Morrocan' knife is in fact representative of a sword-in-anvil, I cannot say, but it certainly seems to be. Particularly since the 'anvil' portion looks like the double-horned type used by armourers of ancient, and present, times. One might ask how this Asiatic/Eastern European symbol would end up in Morroco. Well, it is not inconceivable that some of the horsemen given to the Empire were sent to North Africa and there imparted some of their culture to the locals, as they did most notably in Britain. As further support for this idea, when Marcus Aurelius did make a treaty with the Iazyges/Sarmatians, it was a hurried one, as he had to quickly depart and deal with trouble that had arisen in Syria. Syria is, at least in modern terms, not all that far from North Africa, where trouble was always springing up. If Aurelius took along some of his 'spoils of war' to help deal with the trouble, they might have stuck around or spent more time in the southern Empire, going from place. Although that may seem a bit of a weak link, that is often the case in history.

Hope you guys found that interesting and informative, let me know if you have any questions.

- Christopher

Buddy Thomason
08-05-2003, 12:10 AM
Christopher, Thanks for sharing the above information. I agree the symbol is pretty clearly a "sword-in-anvil" and, while there is no real evidence that the rough knife in question is Moroccan, the symbol itself has been brought forward through history somehow. By way of corroborating you vis a vis the Sarmatians, check the following quote:

[Explorations in Arthurian History:
The idea of Arthur's drawing the Sword from the Stone and becoming king of Britain is not to be found in the historical texts.
And yet, one possible explanation is this:
In Roman times, the empire conquered the Sarmatians, people who lived on the steppes of Russia. Many of the defeated Sarmatian warriors were sent to protect Roman forts in Britain. Part of the Sarmatians' religious beliefs centered on the image of a sword thrust into a platform of stone.
The commander of the Sarmatian troops in Britain was named Artorius, the Latin form of Arthur.
The idea of Arthur's drawing the sword from the stone could have had its origins in the religious beliefs of the Sarmatians, some of whom would have been left behind when the Romans suddenly left in 410.]

Another source discusses the history of the sword in Central Asia and indicates that short swords dominated until the second century BC until the long single-edged iron sword of the Sarmatians became prevalent.

All in all it's fascinating stuff and fun to speculate about.

Point of clarification: hammerdownnow's post above suggests I may have confused the issue by including a picture of a railroad spike I forged. I was just agreeing with the notion that spending so much time with knives as a collector often leads to the desire to try one's own hand at knife-making. The figures I acid-etched on the blade of that spike knife are taken from a photograph of some actual ancient 'cave art' (pictograph I believe) and made into a commercially availble stencil which I borrowed from RD Nolen of Nolen Knives here in Colorado. Very cool, I thought! Sorry for any confusion.

08-05-2003, 03:55 AM
Buddy, I wasn't confused. Maybe my short hand writing was the culprit. I got it that it was a knife you made. I could'nt see the handle at first but looked again and saw it was a railroad spike. I have never seen that etching on a blade before or knew "clip art" type stensils were available. The primative scene on the primative knife compliment each other.

Pretty funny that I was funnin ya about getting hooked, when you had already been there and done that:D
I wanted to ask you If you were goin to go to MI in August for the Scagel-in. I'm not gonna miss it this year come hell or high water.