vikingsword.com forums
  Ethnographic Edged Weapons
  Black Sea Yataghans

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

UBBFriend: Email This Page to Someone! next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Black Sea Yataghans
ariel
Senior Member
posted 01-14-2004 22:07     Click Here to See the Profile for ariel   Click Here to Email ariel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All of us are familiar with these bizarre Khopesh-like swords, but their origins are a mystery.

In his book, Tirri dismisses (I think rightfully) the theory that they are Caucasian weapons. Indeed, in all books by Russian authorities on Caucasian weapons there is not a mention of them as being Caucasian. Tirri attributes them to Egypt. So far so good.
However, he shows (Fig. 133) a group of Yataghans with silver nielloed handles and scabbards and says that they were made by the Caucasian masters. I have a problem with it. First, the engraving on one blade is very "Balkan" in character and the scabbard finials look like a head of a sea monster, another Balkan feature.
When we go to the Astvatsaturyan's book "Turkish weapons", the fog clears. The same silvered Yataghans are attributed to Eastern Anatolia by no less authority than Yu. Miller from the Hermitage Museum , based on the typical decoration pattern.Astvatsaturyan considers a possibility that they could also have been manufactured at the Balkans (see above). Thus, whether they were made in Turkey under the influence of Caucasian masters or not, becomes very murky. Daghestani masters did make Yataghans on request but those were typically Ottoman and just the locality of manufacture did not make their Yataghans specifically Caucasian in character .
However, there is a variety of Yataghan-like long daggers that is very specific to Northern Turkey,i.e Trabzon which is a Black Sea port. These weapons were not manufactured anywhere else and their blades are characterized by very specific appearance and multiple and very intricate fullers. They are almost Qaddara-type in appearance but are recurved and the pommels may be bifurcated (midway between Shashka and Yataghan).



Perhaps, they should be called real "Black Sea Yataghans"?

[This message has been edited by Lee Jones (edited 01-21-2004).]

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-19-2004 17:20     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ariel,
These horned pommel yataghans truly are a mystery, and they have been apparantly since about the middle of the 19th century, when the first recorded examples were found in regions in Anatolia and Kakhetia. While they do carry a marked resemblance to one of the many forms of Egyptian khopesh in profile, they are distinctively different functionally as the khopesh is a hafted sickle type weapon with cutting edge on the inside or concave side of the blade.
The curious elliptical scabbards do have a resemblance to the 'gile' of the Danakils from Ethiopian regions, however this may be convergent as well.
There is clearly much more research to be done on these mysterious horned pommel yataghans as there is compelling plausibility to several possibilities.

With regard to the other swords described as Black Sea yataghans, it is important to remember the diffusion of weapons through these regions within and congruent to those in Ottoman domain. In addition to the geopolitical complexities throughout these regions, as well as the networks of trade, it seems that the presence of Armenian artisans that were skilled in reproducing weapon forms also adds confusion to weapon provenance.

As I have noted before, the book "Islamic Weapons: From Mahreb to Moghul" by Mr.Tirri is outstanding, presenting fantastic and comprehensive examples of these fascinating and important weapons.While my observations concerning the 'horned pommel yataghan' may appear to conflict with Mr. Tirri's identification, I am convinced that there may be more profound connections concerning the development and diffusion of these swords that may better explain the apparant diversity.
Best regards,
Jim

IP: Logged

ariel
Senior Member
posted 01-19-2004 17:38     Click Here to See the Profile for ariel   Click Here to Email ariel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In all the sword books coming from Russia (they SHOULD know!), this type of Yataghan was mentioned only once: in the Asvatsaturyan's book "Turkish weapons" she shows a pic and the legend says "Yataghan of unusual form".
There is no evidence that Armenians or Kachetians (Georgians, in fact) ever had this type of sword. In fact, I have shown this sword to my Armenian and Azeri friends; they have never seen nor heard of these swords ever used in the Caucasus.
Their presence in Turkish museums is not a proof: Turks controlled so much land that inevitably they had museum examples of any weapon type in the Ottoman Empire.
It is not only the form of the blade; it is the blade decoration pattern that is very much Flyssa-like and the eerily N. African use of soft braided and brightly-colored leather for the handle and the scabbard.
Never met Mr. Tirri, but I am in complete agreement with him: these swords are North African.

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-19-2004 21:03     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ariel,
Actually I am not suggesting that the example that Mr. Tirri shows is not North African, and I wish I could have examined the markings more closely as it would be interesting to compare them to those found on the flyssa. As you note, the identification of a particular type of weapon in a museum does not necessarily place the final word on that weapon. Thus the examples shown in the museum in Istanbul are not necessarily correctly identified as 'Black Sea knives'.
There are examples found in Erzerum and Kakhetia in the 1850's and 1870's which were identified by the Danish arms scholars Triikman and Jacobsen in 1941 as Kurdish-Armenian yataghans. They are among a group of weapons illustrated and described by the Hungarian Count Zichy in his work published in Budapest in 1897, referring to the entire group as Transcaucasian swords. The others in the group were confirmed as Caucasian short swords in c.1903 by Charles Buttin, the well known French scholar whose collection was published in 1933.,
In 1962 Gerhard Seifert published his book "Schwert Degen Sabel" illustrating the familiar horned yataghan as Kurdish-Armenian and interestingly paralleled it with the flyssa. In my communications with him he indicated that indeed Mr. Jacobsen had been his mentor, so likely his article was the source for his attribution.
In letters to Mr. Torben Flindt, who is the author of the essay on Bukharen edged weapons in the Elgood book, he notes that these swords are Kurdish-Armenian and were widely diffused.
While you have noted that these swords do not appear in the well known book on Caucasian weapons by Iaroslav Lebedynsky, I do know personally that he has at least one if not more of these, and states that these are most certainly Transcaucasian weapons in discussions we have had over the years.
I have a very good friend in Tblisi whom I have discussed these with, and he does confirm they are not 'Caucasian' but have been seen in museum collections as trophies he believes, and believes they were either Armenian or Kurdish from conflicts in the 19th c.It is extremely interesting that these appear unidentified in the Turkish weapons book, but does recall the example found in Erzerum from the Triikman & Jacobsen article.

I am aware that Michael German did term these North African, but that is the single reference I am aware of that uses that identification (aside from the 1970's Museum of Historical Arms reference) which was a catalog from the well known Florida dealer.

As you note, the Russians certainly must have the ultimate information on these, and I do understand there are examples in the Hermitage, which I would love to see photos of. I have already confirmed the examples cited in the 1941 article, which were all collected in regions noted and still among the museum holdings in Copenhagen.
Clearly omission from any work on weapons does not establish that no other weapon can exist in that sphere. We know that is the case in the references which include North African weapons and do not include the horned yataghans (aside from German and the Florida catalog, no supporting references noted).

These are the references I have encountered over the past nine years in researching these swords, and I would very much welcome any supported information that places these in North Africa. It would be interesting to find resolution to a mystery that appears to have been in place for over 150 years, and involving some very prominent weapons historians.

Thank you very much for your input, this has been a topic that has entered discussion many times over the years, but has always been unresolved.

All the best,
Jim


[This message has been edited by Jim McDougall (edited 01-19-2004).]

[This message has been edited by Jim McDougall (edited 01-19-2004).]

[This message has been edited by Jim McDougall (edited 01-20-2004).]

[This message has been edited by Jim McDougall (edited 01-21-2004).]

IP: Logged

Ian
Senior Member
posted 01-19-2004 22:50     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian   Click Here to Email Ian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ariel:

In a previous thread here -- http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000763.html -- there were pictures posted of two possible variants of these swords, one of which seemed to have more decorative Ottoman features (multiple narrow fullers, inlaid dots, and struck marks). Despite our best efforts, we still do not seem to have identified the origin of these unusual swords. Thanks for raising the issue again.

Ian.

IP: Logged

Lee Jones
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-21-2004 07:27     Click Here to See the Profile for Lee Jones   Click Here to Email Lee Jones     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Photos have been added; just bringing this to the top.

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-21-2004 12:45     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Ian for bringing up that earlier thread on this curious sword form. It really is interesting that despite the inclusion of these in numerous and credible references that attribute these to Transcaucasian and Anatolian regions and the Armenians, there is marked resistance to accepting that identification. Actually the Zichy reference does show transitional examples with even more radically recurved blades and varying degree of horned pommel (the reference terms these 'kardok' which I believe is a general Hungarian term for sword.
These photos of heavy knives from Trebizond which is on the Black Sea littoral of Anatolia are really beauties! They reflect some distinct influence of the yataghan on the lower example, and the quaddara on the upper, the fullering and mark between them is similar to many of these that were from Azerbijian and Armenia in 19th c.
The interceding cartouche is interestingly also seen between parallel fullers on many of these horned yataghans, the characters in the cartouche resembling Armenian or Georgian.
It seems the bifurcated pommel so well known on the shashka is clearly not confined to Caucasian edged weapons, but clearly Balkan and contiguous regions as well. The yataghan is of course radically exaggerated typically, but the 'earred' form in whatever degree compellingly suggests influence of the early earred daggers and weapons of Luristan.
There have of course been occasional efforts to secure a more practical application for these horned and bifircated pommels, suggesting these as a sort of bipod rest for musket barrels, which has a degree of plausibilty but as far as I know remains unproven.It seems to me that the horned effect recalls earlier Central Asian 'heraldry' and totem as seen on certain helmets, standards and markings such as tamgas.

These weapons at this point remain only speculatively identified, despite mounting evidence counterbalanced by vague references. Hopefully we can all continue the research until irrefutable proof is discovered.

Best regards,
Jim

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 02-01-2004 23:02     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems the discussion of the horned 'yataghans' always ends in an impasse as to the region or regions where these were used. I have continued trying to discover what evidence supports the presence of these in North Africa without success. Unfortunately I have no access to Russian references that are said to identify these as an Egyptian khopsh, although I once saw a photo of one in fact so identified, and the illustration is stated from a Russian book.
Tony Tirri does subscribe to this attribution as well as the Algerian diffusion owing to the similarity to the flyssa I presume. It seems he has studied the markings and other factors on the example he illustrates, but I have not seen detail on that data.

In reviewing material on the ancient swords in Burton's "Book of the Sword", he notes ,"...the falchion called khopsh is represented as early as the 6th dynasty (after 3000BC) ". He further notes that this sword is still used in Abyssinia and throughout Africa (the most obvious examples the sickle shape shotel, some Congo sabres and hafted weapons).It is also suggested that the Egyptian sword generically gave rise to the Mesopotamian sapara c.1350BC (p.155-56) which is a key reference in much of the research data I cited earlier for Armenian-Kurdish origins of these sabres.

It seems the more research on the diffusion of weapons of these regions, the more profound the connections between them become. When considering the extreme chronology involved, it is clear that these Kurdish-Armenian sabres of the 19th century certainly do appear to have ancient ancestry to the khopsh, via the sapara, later via the recurved blades of Central Asia and so on.

I am hoping that this perspective might close the gap between suggested spheres for these interesting recurved sabres and that more constructive discussion might continue.
Hopefully we might see photos of the examples that have what are described as flyssa type markings, unfortunately not seen on the examples I have viewed. These geometric and talismanic symbols are fascinating in themselves, and as far as I know the actual meanings have not been accurately determined, other than the triangular 'fibula'. These are believed to apply in amuletic sense in Berber folk religion with reference to the evil eye, but thats another whole flyssa thread!

Best regards,
Jim

IP: Logged

Smilodon Fatalis
Senior Member
posted 07-25-2004 13:53     Click Here to See the Profile for Smilodon Fatalis   Click Here to Email Smilodon Fatalis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see people bringing more and more ,,the Black Sea yathagans,, on the Forum. While nothing comparable to this I recall on any museum [from Ukraine to Bulgaria was how far I reached). That including the Constanta Museums ( http://www.minac.ro/index.html ) that being the largest museum in relation to Black Sea I visited, that has endless military or civilian pieces from alll crosstrades over Black Sea, it would`ve likely caugh my attention but still this western European shore is only a very small part of what the actual Black Sea region and in analogy to the ,,Black Sea yataghans,, I was thinking:
The hilt wich is so peculiary shaped as pointed semicircle might have a corelation with a symbol rather than functionality (which seems unpractical sizewise):
The Crescent Moon , symbol of Ottoman Empire so widely painted on banners or carved on top of ,,tugs,, (banner staff of Turkoman-Tartaric origins a long pole adorned with dyed horse hair) and until today the crescent remains a very powerfull symbol in Turkey as it stays the central element of the national flag. The crescent is also a Pan-Muslim symbol (the list of countries harbouring a crescent is large from Algeria to Malaysia) . I wish we had images of the hilt from the front too, not just profile shots so we can examine the hilt more properly.




Could this very old symbol have influenced in some way these so far odd hilts ?

[This message has been edited by Smilodon Fatalis (edited 07-26-2004).]

IP: Logged

Smilodon Fatalis
Senior Member
posted 07-25-2004 17:33     Click Here to See the Profile for Smilodon Fatalis   Click Here to Email Smilodon Fatalis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I cannot find a picture to post but I remember somewhere a posting of a T shaped hilt Yataghan ( instead of crescent it had a straight crossing bar as pommel ) , eventually Syrian, somehow that too can have a connection. Again these are solely ,,Smilodonic,, speculations ...

IP: Logged

ariel
Senior Member
posted 07-25-2004 20:43     Click Here to See the Profile for ariel   Click Here to Email ariel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a Yataghan with a T-shaped handle and bizarre inscription on the blade that nobody seemed to be able to read. Some people even told me that it was Orkhon Runes, an ancient (9-14th cen) Turkic Central Asian alphabet (Uyghurs, Buryats, Altaic tribes etc).
Then another person claimed that he was able to read a small part of the inscription as Persian "Ghulam", ie "slave" (equivalent to the Arabic Abd,-, like in Abdallah, Slave of God).
I kind of lost all hope to ever know what on Earth is written there. It's a pity, because if the "Ghulam" is correct, that would be a Persian Yataghan and I've never heard of any (sossun pattahs do not count).
As to the Black Sea yataghans, I just got another one, that is inscribed on the blade "1890". NOT Islamic calendar, but a Gregorian date! Seems that one originated from some Christian community. I am at a loss; always shall be interesed to get any opinion. BSY is a kind of pet peeve of mine; we all need one to keep us from getting bored.

IP: Logged

Smilodon Fatalis
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 03:02     Click Here to See the Profile for Smilodon Fatalis   Click Here to Email Smilodon Fatalis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ariel, what`s the problem ? , PLEASE, I WANNA SEE IT, sounds so intriguing, so ready to be speculate ... I can`t wait to see it, ,,horinca,, is chilled .

[This message has been edited by Smilodon Fatalis (edited 07-26-2004).]

IP: Logged

Yannis
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 05:12     Click Here to See the Profile for Yannis   Click Here to Email Yannis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I also like to see Ariel's yataghans.

But T hilt is not unusual. Maybe theese yataghans are not known enough because they are so plain that no one put them in museums or/and books.

My theory on this says that T hilt yataghans are made by/for poor people of Anatolia. I have seen some but not any fancy.

IP: Logged

tom hyle
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 09:03     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw these on a national website; Azeri, I think, but can't remember for sure. Interestingly, I saw a bayonet version, too (though the blade was only around 12"); that may be something someone can track down or look up.
The kopsh is not sharp on the inner curve(except at the tip or in double edged incarnations and evolutions, such as, perhaps, shotel, where it seems to have been crossed with the also Afro-Asiatic jambiya type). Kopsh and these mystery swords have the same overall curvature, in other words. Perhaps the confusion arises from its common reference as a "sickle sword". I believe such reference has no legitimacy at all; the kopsh is not shaped like a sickle, but opposite; it is not descended from a sickle, but from the Afro-Asiatic/Aegypto-Palestinian broad-axe. I made a similar mistake about mambele, which is sickle shaped (and I think the word means sickle) before I handled one, having been misled by the incorrect foreign term "Azande sabre".
The narrow multiple round-bottomed, outlined fullering and blade markings look more Tartaric/Central Asian than Berber to me.

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 07-26-2004 09:25     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Smilodon,
Very well placed observation on the crescent shaped (horned) pommels on these! I'm glad you brought up the topic of this incredibly elusive sword form, which has been discussed periodically on a number of forums for many years now.

Actually, while the crescent or horned pommel does predominate the majority of examples of these swords, this general grouping of swords also has a number of hilt variations. There are examples with less 'crescent' shaped horns and those which range to very similar to the transverse pommel (T). There are even examples that have very shashka like hilts.

With these considerations, as has been noted within the many posts, it seems that this general form is most likely from Transcaucasian and Anatolian regions. While there have been suggestions that insist these are a North African form, there has been little evidence to support this. It is known that examples exist with elements consistant with such provenance, but these may be singularly manufactured interpretations. I have not heard of large numbers of these with North African features, yet since I began researching these in 1995, virtually all examples researched have provenanced from regions from Anatolia to Transcaucusus.

While these swords are not of course 'yataghans' in the true definition, the T-pommel examples are, and as noted seem to be Anatolian, providing interesting developmental association.

Hopefully as this mystery continues and these threads are reread, some new evidence may come forward that may give us more answers. These swords developed during a time when the camera was coming into use, and I have long hoped for photographic evidence of such swords being worn and in use. I have heard of such photographs, but they have been lost for many years and hopefully there will be others.

Thanks again for bringing up this topic, as always a great adventure in research!!

Best regards,
Jim

[This message has been edited by Jim McDougall (edited 07-26-2004).]

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 07-26-2004 09:28     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hey Tom,
Just noticed your post...where've ya been?
Glad to see you back!

Jim

IP: Logged

tom hyle
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 09:35     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks. My internet was down.

IP: Logged

Smilodon Fatalis
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 10:20     Click Here to See the Profile for Smilodon Fatalis   Click Here to Email Smilodon Fatalis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes indeed the T-bar yathagans are common but these crescent hilts are just so unusual to me ... Without your warning I would`ve place this so called Yataghan in Eastern Africa (Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sudan) as sister to the shotel and that ,,wish I knew their name,, really curved sickle shaped ,,reach around the shield,, sword dingy-thingy ... (pardon the unacademic phrase but please do name it if you know what I am talking about).

[This message has been edited by Smilodon Fatalis (edited 07-26-2004).]

IP: Logged

Antiques
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 11:03     Click Here to See the Profile for Antiques   Click Here to Email Antiques     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Smilodon Fatalis:
I cannot find a picture to post but I remember somewhere a posting of a T shaped hilt Yataghan ( instead of crescent it had a straight crossing bar as pommel ) , eventually Syrian, somehow that too can have a connection. Again these are solely ,,Smilodonic,, speculations ...


There is a picture of the 'T' shaped hilt in the Tirri book page 131.

IP: Logged

ariel
Senior Member
posted 07-26-2004 11:58     Click Here to See the Profile for ariel   Click Here to Email ariel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK, once again a strange inscription on the Yataghan blade. The guy who supposedly was able to read Persian "ghulam" said that the inscription was upside down, so mentally turn it 180 degreess http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/001952.html
Again, shall be grateful for any help.


[This message has been edited by ariel (edited 07-26-2004).]

[This message has been edited by ariel (edited 07-26-2004).]

[This message has been edited by ariel (edited 07-26-2004).]

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 07-26-2004 13:42     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Smilodon,
You wouldn't have been alone in presuming these to be of Eastern African ancestry...over the years there have been suggestions for those regions and even as distant as Malaysia as possible provenance for these! Several years ago I received an item from a French magazine which deals often in edged weapons and had one of these captioned as Ethiopian. One resource that has been cited in some references is apparantly Russian, and one of these is captioned as an Egyptian 'khopsh'. I think Tom has very well explained that this is patently incorrect, at least by the term. Again, the Egyptian attribution for an example of one of these remains possible simply by being within the Ottoman sphere, but not likely as an existing weapon form from the region.

BTW, the 'shotel' is the 'around the shield thing' that is deeply curved, as least that is the established term for them used by collectors...the others are termed 'gurade'.

Probably the strongest argument comparing these to North African swords would be the elemental similarities to the Algerian 'flyssa' of the Kabyles. The focus on this is of course the blade, which has a similar root, deep belly and needle point.
I think this may be explained by parallel development of these blades from similar ancestry, earlier Ottoman yataghans, and the needle type point evolves from malle perce features seen on Tatar sabres and other edged weapons for this purpose.

Another seldom discussed factor in the mystery of these swords is not only who used them, but how would they have been used?
I think it is generally agreed that these must have been for use from horseback with the drawcut, but then why the needle point for armor piercing? While sabres are known to have been used by cavalry to 'give point', the recurve on these blades would seem counterproductive to such use. These hilts, especially the horned ones, are extremely fragile and would seem susceptible to damage in any combat use.

Any thoughts or observations on these?

Antiques,
Thank you for the reference in the Tirri book for the photo of the T hilt. I hadn't looked at this book in a while and it was truly a pleasure thumbing through it again.
I think Mr. Tirri did a magnificent job on this book and it is truly a great comprehensive book for collectors.

All the best,
Jim


IP: Logged

All times are ET (US)

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | Ethnographic Edged Weapons Resource Site | Privacy Statement

Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of a nonexclusive license for display here.

Powered by Infopop www.infopop.com © 2000
Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47d