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Old 9th October 2005, 05:37 PM   #1
Miyamoto
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Default black sea yataghan

Hi to everyone!

I've found that forum just today and I'm impressed.
I'm from Slovenia (central Europe) and I'm a collector of mostly japanese blades, but I like also all other quality blades... Unfortuantelly I'm not (yet) an expert on the other that field of collecting.

Personally I think that the Black sea style blade is the most sugestible and why not, the most beautiful shape of blade ever created (well exept nihonto blades, naturally)
Do you agree?
Have any in your collection?
If so, I'd really appreciate to see the fotos!

I have just that one. What do you think about it?
I'd like to buy another of thoose, so I like to have a pair to cross them over the wall. What are approximately the value for such pieces nowadays?
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Old 9th October 2005, 08:04 PM   #2
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Hello and welcome to this Forum . We all are impressed of knowledge you can find here.

I can't say anything about yataghans, Ariel is one of the members with great knowledge about these weapons, but here you can find some old threads with discussions about them


http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002118.html
http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/001960.html
http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002445.html
http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002445.html

Link 5

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Old 10th October 2005, 08:52 AM   #3
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Hi Wolviex,

Thanks a lot!

WOW! Tha was some interensting reading... Great discussion!
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Old 10th October 2005, 02:32 PM   #4
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Hi Miyamoto,

Welcome! I'm surprised that the moderators haven't said anything, but we don't give appraisals here.

Otherwise, the black sea yataghans have been a topic of much discussion, as you've found out. It will be interesting to see what Ariel has to say.

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Old 12th October 2005, 02:58 AM   #5
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Well, it's nice to enjoy the status of the "authority in the field", even though my only contribution to it was a short visit to the Askeri Muze in Istanbul and posting here what the local people knew for a long, long time.....
This is a strange weapon. It is so decorative that it is almost useless as a fighting implement. It reminds me of African swords: too artistic to be of real use. Not for nothing did Lazes use large kindjals as well.
Lazes are descendants of the Byzanthinians who established the Trabzon Empire in 1241 under the leadership of the grandsons of Andronicus I and were (and still are!) called Romei. They were conquered by the Ottomans in 1461 and were converted to Islam (likely, voluntarily, since the Ottoman Turks were remarkably liberal about religious beliefs of their subjects). Nevertheless, Lazes did not enjoy great reputation.
I'd like to cite some info from the book of G.E. Vvedensky "The Janissaries" (St. Petersburg, 2003). In it he cites a book "The history of the Janissaries corps" published in Moscow in 1987 (it was translated, but he never mentioned the original). To be fully politically correct, I would like to say that I do not want to insult anybody. Please, do not kill the messenger.

" It was against the law to recruit Trabzonians into the Janissari units.This is why: not only the depravity of Trabzonians exceeds anything imaginable, not a single Zaim or Sipakhi among them ever exhibited any bravery or gallantry. They committed only deception and evil".
Sultan Selim I ruled in Trabzon between 1512 to 1520 and, according to his own experience, ordered to recruit them into the Janissari units as informers to prevent rebellions.
" The Trabzonians are evil people,deceivers by nature. As soon as one of them enters, it becomes impossible for 4-5 janissaries to get together. With time, their lying nature became obvious and well known and the very name Laz caused just laughter"
As a matter of fact, people who could swindle the entire Ottoman Empire must have been a fine breed: kind of Good Soldier Svejk with luxurious moustaches and a fez. Next time I go to Turkey, I shall do my best to go to Trabzon and have a glass of Yeni Raki with a local smuggler!
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Old 12th October 2005, 03:52 AM   #6
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Gentlemen,

I take strong exception to the preceding response. Due perhaps to a lack of actual knowledge, it completely diverges from the discussion of a little-known type of weapon, and instead revels in the banalities of ethnic slurs-- despite disclaimers to the contrary, it is not in the slightest germane to the question, nor is it appropriate to this forum, particularly in response to the earnest query of a new member. I think Ariel owes the Forum, and its multiethnic membership, an apology.
The Black Sea yatagan is a fine piece of design work which is entirely effective for its purpose-- i.e., a close-range cutting weapon. It's popularity shows a distinctly high correlation among warlike peoples who, for a variety of reasons, tended to do battle on foot rather than horseback.
It is eminently suited to the drawcut, for which the saber was used extensively in the Iranian and Ottoman empires by mounted troops; here we have the next degree of development: a simpler weapon to produce than a saber, the compactness and curvature of which required a far shorter arc to swing. This was capable of delivering blows with devastating effect-- even on foot. This should be apparent to anyone who has had the opportunity to swing one of these swords (rather than attempting to thrust with it.) Further, its thickness allowed it to cut through even the heavy goathair cloaks worn throughout Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus.
Regarding raki: a forum member once said, de gustibus non est disputandum... a phrase which in this case is best translated as "there is no accounting for taste"-- IMHO if one hasn't tried Tekir Dag, one hasn't truly had raki.

Sincerely,

Ham

Last edited by ham : 12th October 2005 at 04:29 AM.
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Old 12th October 2005, 05:39 PM   #7
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Default who is correct?

I am surprised this has not been brought to attention earlier. This picture is from. "Islamic Weapons, Maghrib to Moghul" by Anthony C Tirri, in this book the weapon is attributed to Algeria/Egypt. I think he is correct as the leatherwork is so clearly North African. Some way from the Black Sea I think? Tim
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Old 12th October 2005, 06:19 PM   #8
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Tim:
This peculiar sword had been variously attributed to N. Africa and even Indonesia (By Hermann Historica, no less!).
However, the Askeri Muze in Istanbul has several of them and the curator there told me that it was a well known Ottoman sword called Laz Bicagi.
Second, look at the picture:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=black
No doubt what it is!
I agree that the forte looks just like Algerian Flyssa and the leatherwork like a Sudanese Gile, but.... This is a classic example of a mistaken identity; it teaches us that superficial similarities do not establish provenance.
Ahriman:
I handled quite a lot of them. The point is very, very thin, almost needle-like and I saw several with bent points.
The forked pommels break easily (see the original picture in this thread). Also, the horns protrude so much that wrist bending is almost impossible: worse than tulwars with oversized dish pommels. As a former fencer (foil and saber), I could not wield it with ease no matter what kind of grip I used. On the other hand, since these swords were primarily "pirate" type weapons (that's what Lazes did on top of smuggling) they were sure scary! As a psychological warfare these swords were great but technologically they were less than adequate.
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Old 12th October 2005, 06:27 PM   #9
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How right you are. What a shame Mr Tirri should get something like this so wrong. Those pictures show wonderfull plain working weapons, thanks Tim.
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Old 12th October 2005, 08:01 PM   #10
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The first time I saw this guy I thought "what a weird manding/sudanese sabre"
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Old 12th October 2005, 08:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
How right you are. What a shame Mr Tirri should get something like this so wrong. Those pictures show wonderfull plain working weapons, thanks Tim.


Tony supports his N. African provenance theory with a number of features from a number of pieces, so its not really unsupported in terms or argument (he gave a very interesting talk on it at the EEWRS dinner a couple years back). His position is, as Ariel points out, the subject of debate, and certainly based on empirical observation and deduction rather than historical or local information.

There are some ways to reconcile the two, for example taking into account that Ottoman troops may have brought it with them to places like Egypt during the Ottoman Empire period, or influence going the other way via trade or population movement. I think one unanswered question is how far back the style goes, which is always an interesting question to me, as it can open up possiblities of cross-cultural influence, or exclude others that would have post-dated the earliest appearance of the style (for example in this case, if it predates Ottoman presence in N. Africa).
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Old 12th October 2005, 08:14 PM   #12
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I was told that this weapon is specifically associated with Laz pirates.
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Old 12th October 2005, 08:19 PM   #13
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Exclamation By the way

Please remember that this thread is about the sword, not the history of ethnic groups in Asia Minor.

I am following the thread closely, and be advised that if the Laz "issue" gets out of hand (as it has once before) I am going to drop a hammer on all involved. The editorializing has really reached the limits of permissible discussion here, and bans will be issued if necessary.

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Old 13th October 2005, 07:47 PM   #14
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Gentlemen,

A colleague at the EEWRS meeting kindly lent me the printed material which Mr. Tirri passed out in support of his proposed North African attribution to this type of sword shortly after it took place. It has been a while but as I recall, Tirri's arguments were based upon 2 points: a formal relationship between the Black Sea yatagan and the flyssa (he argued that one was derived from the other, I think it was that the yatagan came from the flyssa), failing to note that both are just provincial developments off the yataghan which likely occurred coevally, one in North Africa and the other in the Transcaucasus. Secondly, he compared the decorative characteristics which generally appear on flyssas with those on a particular Black Sea yatagan in his possession-- the only one I've ever seen with such designs-- it almost certainly was decorated in North Africa. This was a more defensible point that his first, however his conclusion was marred by the fact that he could produce but a single example in support of it. As Mark says however, the range of the Ottoman military was considerable; this type of sword could easily have found its way from Eastern Anatolia to the African Provinces. In any case, Tirri deserves credit for his research as well as for putting forth an original thesis.

Ariel, regarding your observations above:

"I handled quite a lot of them. The point is very, very thin, almost needle-like and I saw several with bent points.
The forked pommels break easily (see the original picture in this thread). Also, the horns protrude so much that wrist bending is almost impossible: worse than tulwars with oversized dish pommels. As a former fencer (foil and saber), I could not wield it with ease no matter what kind of grip I used. On the other hand, since these swords were primarily "pirate" type weapons (that's what Lazes did on top of smuggling) they were sure scary! As a psychological warfare these swords were great but technologically they were less than adequate."

In the simplest terms, you are comparing apples and oranges. If, as you say, your practical experience with edged weapons is limited to fencing-- a sport so highly conventionalized that any beginner knows it is remote even from the use of rapier and smallsword whence it derives, and one designed for use with very specific equipment NOT intended for cutting-- then any pronouncement you make on the use of weapons other than the foil or saber, i.e. the Black Sea yatagan, the tulwar, or for that matter anything designed for use with the drawcut is, regretably, invalid.
Relative rigidity in the wrist was key to the effective use of these weapons, which is why their pommels were prominent in one way or another. The stroke was accomplished primarily with the shoulder and elbow in a quick drawing motion across the body-- Stone mentions this under his entry on shamshirs, pg. 550. Having done much of his research in situ over a century ago, Stone was fortunate enough to witness many of these weapons in actual use-- and while those days have passed, we can benefit from his observations as well as those of others who were able to do so. I often wonder why students and collectors so rarely do.
As far as broken ears and bent tips, who can say whether these come from use or misuse over time? Concrete, little boys, adults after one too many beers, and power tools are the recognized nemeses of old swords, you know.

Rivkin-- Yes, I was referring to the burka, a singularly impermeable and exceptionally warm, if generally odiferous, garment.

Sincerely,

Ham

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Old 13th October 2005, 08:07 PM   #15
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I was just about to write about that "sport" thing Ham mentioned... so now, I won't.
Just one thing. We, hungarians, used mostly sabers, especially after 1500. One of our warrior-poets, Balint Balassi, who died from a leg-removing nice little cannonball, had a gothic gauntlet recordedly. Gothic gauntlets don't really allow much wrist movement, just up and down and rotation. And of course, a bit sideway movement, but very little, especially if worn with vambraces. Later gauntlets allowed even less sideway movement.
And yet, Balassi was a sabre-user, and a good one, if the records are true.

Ham, is there anything worth considering in my crazy theory, or is it just another piece of my idiotism?
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Old 13th October 2005, 10:51 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Bowditch
Tony supports his N. African provenance theory with a number of features from a number of pieces, so its not really unsupported in terms or argument (he gave a very interesting talk on it at the EEWRS dinner a couple years back). His position is, as Ariel points out, the subject of debate, and certainly based on empirical observation and deduction rather than historical or local information.

There are some ways to reconcile the two, for example taking into account that Ottoman troops may have brought it with them to places like Egypt during the Ottoman Empire period, or influence going the other way via trade or population movement. I think one unanswered question is how far back the style goes, which is always an interesting question to me, as it can open up possiblities of cross-cultural influence, or exclude others that would have post-dated the earliest appearance of the style (for example in this case, if it predates Ottoman presence in N. Africa).


This makes sense to me. Many of the best Ottoman troops in the 18th and early 19th century were "irregular" units who used their own traditional weapons and clothing. I wouldn't be surbrised if Laz units were stationed in Egypt or North Africa. After all Muhammad Ali Pasha who was Ottoman Governer of Egypt in the early 19th century and went on to become virtual dictator of Egypt, started his career as an officer in an Albanian "irregular" Unit, and he relied heavily on his fellow "Arna'ut" during his rise to power. On a another completetly unrelated (and slightly daft) side issue, that sword does bear a striking resemblence to the Ancient Egyptian khopesh...
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Old 14th October 2005, 12:05 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aqtai
On a another completetly unrelated (and slightly daft) side issue, that sword does bear a striking resemblence to the Ancient Egyptian khopesh...


Actually, I think that very point was raised in an early discussion of black sea yataghans on the old UBB forum. I don't think anyone ran with it, but I do see the similarity (except for the pommel).
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Old 14th October 2005, 01:05 AM   #18
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Ham,
The only thing I can advise you is to get a full-size Laz Bicagi and try to wield it in any way you wish (sa long as it is far from your nose...). After that do the same with kinjal and shashka.
Then you will understand.
BTW, was gauntlet sword (see above) reminescent of Pata?
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Old 7th July 2007, 03:33 PM   #19
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I am adding another thread on Black Sea yataghans ( Laz Bicagi, Karadeniz Yataghan.
Andrew wanted to pool them for a "Classic" some time ago.
Andrew, here they are, ready to be pooled.
http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002625.html
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Old 8th July 2007, 10:07 PM   #20
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Here is the picture from eftihis.


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Old 8th July 2007, 10:39 PM   #21
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Interesting picture. Is it something like a theatrical composition or a real warrior group ? I wonder ,because the guy on right has a Caucassian style flintlock pistol and a flintlock rifle(the guy on left as well),but the sitting guy holds a later model rifle and is equipped with its ammunitions. If it is a 1880s, 1890s or 1900s picture, I wonder if flintlocks of such an old technology, even older than percussions really continued to be functional so late in some parts of Turkey.

The long Trabzon kindjal the sitting guy wears is very nice. Meanwhile the guy on his right holds a b.s.y. hilt, but I think the scabbard form shows that its blade is not a classical b.s.y but a different form?

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Old 9th July 2007, 11:09 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I am adding another thread on Black Sea yataghans ( Laz Bicagi, Karadeniz Yataghan.
Andrew wanted to pool them for a "Classic" some time ago.
Andrew, here they are, ready to be pooled.
http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002625.html


Thanks, Ariel. Got your PM, also.

I'll link this to the "Classics".
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Old 10th July 2007, 02:57 PM   #23
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Talking

Speaking of classic threads, I nominate "Shaver Kool" I & II, and "Ultimate Kampilan (aka 'Look out, Charlie!')."
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Old 10th July 2007, 08:16 PM   #24
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This thread, or for that matter the research and discussion, on these most esoteric edged weapon examples, is indeed classic! I know that I have researched them intermittantly since I acquired my first example in 1996. I had seen them illustrated many years before in the 1962 reference "Schwert Degen Sabel" by Gerhard Seifert, captioned as Kurdish-Armenian yataghans. Later, I found another reference to these in a 1941 article published in Denmark which listed these as Kurdish-Armenian and illustrated examples in a Danish museum provenanced c.1857 to Trebizond.

Years later Mr.Seifert told me he once had one of these with strange markings but no longer had it. I wish I could have seen those markings!!

The Danish article had noted that these were no longer used and seem to have become obsolete for many years, many being found in out buildings etc.
It seems they had a working life from around mid 19th c. to the early 20th at the latest. With what has been discovered since the important examples Ariel reported in Istanbul is most revealing. I must admit that the complexities involving in understanding the ethnic groups and minorities in these regions are perplexing, but extremely fascinating. The history involved in these regions representing so much cultural diffusion is extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, for anyone not deeply involved in ethnic study. It is not hard to understand how specific attribution to a particular group would be difficult at best, however it does seem these weapons were indeed from the Black Sea region.It is rewarding to see that the Trebizond attribution is well placed, and corroborates the provenance found in the early research (the data for the 1941 article seems to derive from that of a Hungarian narrative c.1896).

In research I also discovered that examples of these swords were among holdings in museums in Tblisi, Georgia and it would seem that the Laz associations with Georgia and the Minghrelians would well substantiate such presence. The evidence of these weapons being used by the Pontic Greeks substantiates the Trebizond provenance since this is the region, on the Black Sea coast of Turkey occupied by these people. Since the Laz also occupy these regions the use of the form by both groups seems clear.

It would be interesting since we have discovered the proper provenance of these swords/yataghans/knives (whichever) that we return to studying the curious 'horned' pommel, its meaning? purpose? It has been suggested that of course the Turkish crescent was symbolized; that it was a fertility symbol deriving from early tribal symbolism; even that it was to serve as a gunrest in firing for accuracy. Not all of these interesting examples have the 'horned hilt' and some vary in degree....with this, the study of variants would be interesting, but as we know, speculative.

As for the blades, the distinctive needle point remains in question, and its similarity to that of the flyssa draws significant attention ( as seen in the North African associations). Seifert in his book does show the flyssa parallel to one of these, and the parallel is seen elsewhere as well. While the similarity in the bellied blades and needle point is clear, the association is not. These weapons are both latecomers in their forms, and neither provenance much before the 19th century (the flyssa well established by 1827, the BSY uncertain but likely c.1840's).

It is worthy of note that Erlikan has described these Black Sea swords as associated with the Tatars of the Crimea...this feature on Crimean sabres has been well established...the Greek colonies in Crimea are also well established...and the connection between those colonies and the Pontic Greeks in Trebizon seems given. Perhaps the point of the Tatar sabres influenced the point of these recurved sabres of Trebizond.

It would be interesting to discover more on the association between the BSY, flyssa and Tatar sabres and these distinct points.

Also the symbolism or purpose of the horned hilt.

We have discovered a lot on these! Lets learn more !!

All the best,
Jim


P.S. Shaver Kool, you're goin' down

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 10th July 2007 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 10th July 2007, 08:39 PM   #25
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Erlikhan,
Interesting observation! I do not know the names of these people and the exact date of the photo. The photo is from a book regarding the Pontic Greek guerilla war and uprooting from Pontos during 1920s. It could be a photo from a group that was using whatever they had, or it could be an older studio photo. The description states "Greek guerillas from Trabzon area" However, it could be possible that the photo is older than the 20s, and the wealthiest and more respectfull person which sits in the middle had the means or the authority for the more modern weapon (he also has nicer knifes) and the other were standing withwhatever they had there. MAybe they were all guerillas latter and this is an earlier photo.
Recently, they were on sale on ebay other photos of Pontic Greeks which i attach below.
The first has a date 1898, and the weapons reflect the mix of that era of change! A Martini rifle together with a flintlock pistol.
The second photo shows for sure guerillas on the countryside (their names on the back of the photo) and the weapons are more modern. Nice trabzon kamas always thought!
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Old 10th July 2007, 10:57 PM   #26
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Wonderful photos, Eftihis. Since some of these photos are studio photos I wonder if some of the archaic flintlock weapons were included there for the purpose of additional decoration? 1898 really is late for flintlock pistols, and the man pictured obviously has access to modern firearms as evidenced by the Martini rifle. Maybe he thought that a pistol with silver decorated butt will enhance his picture more than an unadorned revolver?
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Old 10th July 2007, 11:04 PM   #27
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Eftihis, in 1920s, fllintlock weapons should be too out of age, just antique pieces even then. They are unpractical and risky to depend on against armed enemies. 1898 sounds more logical,..perhaps.. But studio or countryside, if these are original pictures of period warriors, I don't think these though guys would like to look funny and ridiculous at all. If they preferred to get pictured with flintlocks, it means it was not very odd for their environment. So we can accept flintlocks continued in use upto the last of 19th c. in some far parts of Turkey. I had watched some documentary films from 1921, showing workers in Turkish armory workshops, repairing,sharpening and preparing yataghans to equip soldiers, collected from civilians and brought there in big bunches, any kind of,from ordinary horn hilts to ivory ones at least 40-50 years old in 1921, as well as modern bayonets and swords in Turko-Greek war. Perhaps some examples of a very high limit of shortage,poverty and "whatever they had" as you say.

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Old 21st January 2008, 03:22 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eftihis
Erlikhan,
Interesting observation! I do not know the names of these people and the exact date of the photo. The photo is from a book regarding the Pontic Greek guerilla war and uprooting from Pontos during 1920s. It could be a photo from a group that was using whatever they had, or it could be an older studio photo. The description states "Greek guerillas from Trabzon area" However, it could be possible that the photo is older than the 20s, and the wealthiest and more respectfull person which sits in the middle had the means or the authority for the more modern weapon (he also has nicer knifes) and the other were standing withwhatever they had there. MAybe they were all guerillas latter and this is an earlier photo.
Recently, they were on sale on ebay other photos of Pontic Greeks which i attach below.
The first has a date 1898, and the weapons reflect the mix of that era of change! A Martini rifle together with a flintlock pistol.
The second photo shows for sure guerillas on the countryside (their names on the back of the photo) and the weapons are more modern. Nice trabzon kamas always thought!


Artzi has a new Kindjal on his site and has graciously gave me permission to reference it here. He even put a " Not for sale" sign for the duration of our discussions.
Many thanks!
OK, here it is :
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=2883
This is a typical South Caucasian/North Turkish kindjal, usually attributed to Minghrelians,Gurians etc. As Eftihis shows , these kindjals were also worn by Pontian Greeks, and earlier posts ( Erlikhan?) had a picture of a Laz family displaying similar weapons.
What is so specific about them? Square pommel and relatively blunt tip.
But the interesting part for our discussion is the scabbard, ie leatherwork.
Tirri in his book noticed similarities between the leatherwork on Laz Bicagi's scabbards and Danagil knives. This was one of his main arguments in attributing the BSY not to the Black Sea area, but to North Africa.
But here we have a typical Caucasian weapon, kindjal, from a very defined area, North Turkey, with the same leatherwork. That is yet another argument in favor of ( already well established) Caucasian provenance of Laz Bicagi. Interestingly, Artzi's example has it leatherwork dyed green; exactly the color used on most Laz Bicagis ( see, for example, post by Tim on this thread and dated Oct. 12, 2005)
Once again, thanks to Artzi for his help.
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