EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Outstanding discourse here!!! and on some of the most intriguing and perplexing edged weapons as far as development in the ethnographic spectrum. I really enjoy the detail and historical facts presented by Ariel and Ibrahiim which helps better understand the factors in play.
It is interesting that these items Wayne noted were 'essentially' both 'yataghans', at least in the often bizarre classifications with which terms have become attached to certain weapons.
At first it seemed odd to see a 'Khyber knife' and North African 'flyssa' (?) presented together.
Then we realize that the 'Khyber' (hardly a 'knife') and the North African sword which reveals the notable similarities between early Ottoman yataghans and Kabyle flyssa......may be almost in a somewhat Freudian pairing. Here are two sword forms which really are not what they are said to be, at least 'by the numbers' and limitations of classifying terms.
Why the Afghan 'siliwar' (sic) which became known as a Khyber 'knife' became termed 'siliwar yataghan' is anybodys guess. Not only is it NOT a knife, but most certainly NOT a yataghan, by definition. Could the term 'yataghan' have had earlier, or in some language loopholes, the broader used term for edged weapon where knives and swords shared the same word?
The Kabyle flyssa has long been debated as to its origins. While the claims to ancient recurved Meditteranean swords such as falcata are tempting through free association, the lack of linear chronologically supporting exemplars are lacking. The Ottoman yataghan ancestry is far more likely in accord with the historical and physical properties.
As far as the OP example here, it does have compelling similarity to flyssa in some ways, with the cleft hilt pommel of course denoting Ottoman yataghan character. In Kabyle regions in Algeria, while never entirely subjugated by the Ottomans, the admiration of their weaponry was well known, hence the likely ancestry of the flyssa to the yataghan. In research years ago, we did find that in fact, young Kabyle men as a right of passage, sought to acquire 'their sword' as they entered manhood. While the flyssa was the locally traditional form, the Ottoman yataghan was a much desired sword even over the locally made swords.
Over the years we have seen many hybridized swords bearing features of both forms as well as other forms apparently from North African Berber regions.
The Crimean connection presented here by Ariel is also most interesting, and I would add to this another dimension to these 'deep bellied' recurved yataghan type swords with cleft pommel. In the Balkans in the latter 18th into 19th c. there was what I would regard as 'the Pandour phenomenon'.
As Balkan (typically Croatian) forces were amalgamated with Eastern Europeans in auxiliary units to the Austrian army in mid 18th c. and became known as 'pandours', they later became models for such units in Continental European armies.
These 'Pandour' units wore often almost outlandish 'oriental' fashions and used equally 'exotic' weaponry, primarily of Ottoman style including yataghans. There were many European officers using unusual hybrid types of these. I have seen hirschfanger type swords with these kinds of deep bellied recurved blades, stag horn grips with cleft, and often European type inscriptions, cyphers and ligatures on the blades.
We can see the dramatically diffused recurved blades of these yataghans in Europe, the Balkans and North Africa in these seemingly disparate cases, but it would appear that the Ottoman denominator would be the key factor.
Perhaps the very reason that the history of the development of these sword forms has so long had generally held complacency is due to the complexity which makes it so daunting. It is great to see our intrepid group advancing into these challenges! We have done it many times before over the years, and we are well on the way again!