Algerian nimcha
This item has been sold.
Overall length

81.6 cm

Blade length

65.9 cm

Blade thickness

Base 8.9 mm

Middle 5.5 mm

Tip 2 mm

Blade width

Base 24 mm

Middle 24 mm

Widest 40.5 mm


719 grams

Point of balance

13 cm from hilt


Iron, steel, silver, brass, tortoise shell, mother of pearl, red coral, black buffalo horn




Mid 17th century


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17th-century Europe was plagued by Corsair pirates from the Barbary coast. Many weren't even pirates in the strict sense of the word. The Ottoman empire benefited from their actions and Ottoman governors offered them protection in their coastal towns in exchange of part of the profit. 

They not only attacked trade vessels in the Mediterranean but were also involved in raids into Europe, looking to enslave people. In one famous raid, they kidnapped the entire Irish village of Baltimore in 1631 and shipped them off to the Algiers slave market. Europeans fetched a premium on such markets, which were frequented by traders from the Middle East.

Such pirates were the origin of the Dutch stories later known as "zwarte Piet" or "black Pete". Parents would joke; If you don't behave, the African pirates will come and get you. The image of these pirates later turned into an all black demon-like boogeyman but was once again "normalized" in the 19th century into the Moorish figures known today.

In reality, they weren't all African; various European adventurers became notable corsair pirates, such as the Dutch Murad Reis the Younger (formerly Jan Janszoon van Haarlem), who was initially enslaved but joined the slavers. Another notable Corsair pirate was the English Jack Ward, who formed the inspiration for Jack Sparrow.


This example

A very good example from the 17th century. The blade is a thick and narrow at the base, flaring out to a wide but thin tip section that is ideal for slashing unarmored opponents in close quarters like ships. The blade has three precisely cut grooves on either side, with the base sections being engraved.  The upper grooves stop to make way for a long backedge. The lower grooves meet in a point in the tip. The spine is stepped in profile, being a little higher at the base. A very tasteful addition I find the grooves on the spine itself, three at the base section, then two after the step.

Many of these blades were imported, some bearing Genoa marks, but this one appears to be locally made and bears a maker's mark at the base of the blade:

اثر الحاج محمد
Work of Al Haji Mohammed

Al Haji means he completed the pilgrimage to Mecca, which at the time wasn't as easy as it is today. It lent considerable prestige to the person who completed it.



The hilt is of the classic style of the period, being a boxy, saif-like shape with a wide pommel with a circular recess for the little finger. The hilt is covered with horn, mother of pearl, and tortoise shell over gold foil and is further embellished with small pieces of red coral and engraved silver mounts. The guard is made of the stronger brass, betraying the practical intent of the weapon, with three quillons pointing forward and one long one bending backward, forming a knuckle guard.


Comparable examples

A very similar nimcha, down to the engravings on the silver, is held in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, accession number NG-NM-10412.

It was captured by Dutch naval commander Michiel de Ruyter from an Algerian pirate in Salé in October of 1655. Salé was a Corsair pirate Republic at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river in Morocco.


Dutch fleet near the coast of Salé by Reinier Nooms. 1660s.
Painting believed to have been commissioned for de Ruyter after he achieved peace in the region.
Rijksmuseum accession number SK-A-1399.



Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword
Early nimcha sword

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