This is a fine example of an 18th or early 19th century piha-kaetta knife. The hilt is of horn finely carved and detailed with a liya-pata pattern. The end is encased in a broad rounding of silver that has been chased with typically Ceylonese scrolling foliage and fruit motifs, and surmounted by a spherical tang finial. The hilt is further embellished with fine diamond-shaped leaf motif plaques in silver.
The blade is straight with a single edge. The top of the blade is encased in silver that has been extravagantly chased with repeated leaf motifs. That part of the blade nearest the handle is thickly encased with silver and a substrate of copper, formed as extravagantly leaf motifs.
The scabbard is of thin, light wood that has been entirely encased in hammered sheet silver that is ribbed and decorated towards the hilt with a sleeve of applied silver filigree and granulation work.
Both the scabbard and and the silver of the underside of the hilt have been lightly etched with the same letter in Sinhalese script – possibly an ownership mark. It is a consonant and has the sounds ‘bha’.
The piha-kaetta is in fine condition. There are no significant losses and no repairs. There is some minor loss to the silver filigree on the upper section of the scabbard. Overall, it has an excellent patina.
Caravana, J. et al, Rites of Power: Oriental Weapons: Collection of Jorge Caravana, Caleidoscopio, 2010.
De Silva, P.H.D.H & S. Wickramasinghe, Ancient Swords, Daggers & Knives in Sri Lankan Museums, Sri Lanka National Museums, 2006.
Weereratne, N., Visions of an Island: Rare works from Sri Lanka in the Christopher Ondaatje Collection, Harper Collins, 1999.