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Old 30th October 2006, 01:02 AM   #1
Emanuel
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Default Interesting Flyssa

This flyssa ended on ebay: http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...AMEWA%3AIT&rd=1
It seems basic enough, lacking the usual brass ornamentations. This is also what makes it interesting, it has intricate carving on the blade...quite deep and different from the brass inlay. Its heavy look renders it older to my eyes than the beautiful decorated examples. Could this be an earlier example than the 1820s - early 19th century - or just one made by tribes not as skilled as the Ifflissen?
Any thoughts on this?
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Old 30th October 2006, 01:54 AM   #2
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Actually it is a yatagan. This form of blade is unusual but known, as is the integral bolster. As to dating, much more difficult to say. Yatagans remained in use in parts of the Ottoman Empire into the 20th century though this probably dates in the first half of the 19th. Eastern Anatolia judging from the decoration, grips look to have been replaced at some point. Nice example.

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Old 30th October 2006, 02:43 AM   #3
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Hello Ham,
Thanks for the clarification. How interesting that this yataghan looks so much like a flyssa...for one thing the almost fully straight spine strongly recalls the flyssa...I've got to study these in more depth.
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Old 30th October 2006, 05:13 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ham
Actually it is a yatagan. This form of blade is unusual but known, as is the integral bolster. As to dating, much more difficult to say. Yatagans remained in use in parts of the Ottoman Empire into the 20th century though this probably dates in the first half of the 19th. Eastern Anatolia judging from the decoration, grips look to have been replaced at some point. Nice example.

Ham

Looks like Flyssa to me. The blade is heavier than most, but the configuration ( widening blade with sharp point) is typically Flyssa-like. I am unaware of Yataghans with such sharp point. The incisions look quite deep, but this may be an illusion of a close pic, and the motives look N. African to me. Are you basing your conclusion on the pommel? It does look eared, but the handle is a replacement, as you noticed.
Similar example from Artzi's "sold" index:
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=545
I apologize if I was not allowed to post it.
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Old 30th October 2006, 02:31 PM   #5
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I hope from this example that some at least, have realised that the flyssa is a development off the yatagan, specialised as a cavalry weapon both for cutting and thrusting.

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Old 30th October 2006, 03:00 PM   #6
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So this particul example would be a virtual "prototype" for the flyssa? It's nearly identical to the classic flyssa form...in that case, the whole weapon style would be attributed to Anatolia, not Algeria, would it not?
Are there more confirmed examples of this?

I still think it's a flyssa...and I'm still intrigued by the carving. And the grips are similar to those on this example http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=flyssa Replaced or original, they're still reminiscent of the brass camel head on finer flyssa like the one from Oriental-Arms.

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Old 30th October 2006, 03:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ham
I hope from this example that some at least, have realised that the flyssa is a development off the yatagan, specialised as a cavalry weapon both for cutting and thrusting.

Ham

I, for one, never realized that flyssa is a development of a yataghan. Yataghans have recurved blades, flyssas have straight back and variable degree of widening/narrowing of the edge , but I do not think they can be called "recurved".
I've never seen a mention or a theory that the two were closely related.
Can you provide reference, please?
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Old 30th October 2006, 03:52 PM   #8
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I agree entirely with what Ham has, as always, very astutely observed.
It seems that the flyssa is one of a number of relatively late arrivals in the world of edged weapons, with another very similar (recalling years of debate) with unclear associations, being the so called 'Black Sea yataghan'.

Probably the earliest known examples of the Kabyle sword known as the 'flyssa' (for the Berber tribe associated with producing them, the Iflissen), are from c.1820's. The familiar examples often found today typically are of the form seen from c.1850's and usually have the brass stylized zoomorphic hilt and the blade inlaid with the characteristic geometric forms. The scroll type motif on this blade is notably atypical of Berber design, as has been noted.

It would seem that the Ottoman presence in North Africa clearly accounts for the influence in numerous weapon forms, particularly the flyssa, and it seems generally held that it did in fact evolve from earlier forms of yataghan with straight blade and deep belly at cutting point.

This example seems to be an excellent representation of the confluence of these distinct weapon forms. The presence of the many Caucasians in North Africa within the Ottoman sphere may account for the seemingly related horned yataghans that appear to be recurved cousins of the flyssa and as mentioned are commonly termed 'Black Sea yataghans'. While these curved swords, also deep bellied and with the needle point of the flyssa, are widely known throught Anatolia and Transcaucasia, there is at least one example of these with geometric North African markings (Tirri).
(here goes the hornets nest!!!
Seriously, I hope this doesnt draw out that really, really old tirade again...but it seemed important to illustrate the close associations of these forms.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 30th October 2006, 04:49 PM   #9
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Default Yataghan / Flyssa

Hi Jim and all others.

I am intrigued by this thread. I can not say I am convinced with the statement that the Flyssa is evolved from the Yataghan (I am not trying to open a new debate like the similar one mentioned above) Evolution in such a short period of time of several hundred years only, should have left in the Flyssa some characteristics of its forefathers: Be it blade shape, or handle shape or balance of blade, or mode of use or even general dimensions. I can not find any of these above. Furthermore, The Flyssa distribution is quite limited to a rather small Geographical area and people, whereas the Ottoman empire spread all over the place, so why it was evolved to another form of sword only in one place?? Also, we are all familiar with Yataghans (In a classical Yataghan shape) Coming from Algier and Tunis, so both an evolved version and a none evolved version were leaving side by side?? The answer may be yes to all and I would love to hear more and change my mind.

To add to my confusion, I am holding a Yataghan, with a classical blade shape and eared handle and length and weight, but the scabbard is wood, carved in a very similar and typical Flyssa scabbard carving, even with the belt loop identical. So I wonder where this one came from (Unfortunately the scabbard of this one was badly attacked by worms and it is under restoration now. It will take some time before I would be able to post photos)
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Old 30th October 2006, 05:07 PM   #10
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Hello,
Ariel posted a similar yataghan a while ago http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=flyssa

Such occurances were mentioned by Camille Lacoste-Dujardin in "Sabre Kabyles, Etude des Flissa du Musée de l'Homme", Journal de la Société des Africanistes, XXVIII, 1958. Particularly, she observes that imported Ottoman yataghan blades were re-fitted in Algiers and Oran with local Kabyle scabbards. Some yataghan blades were even forged locally by smiths who had travelled and worked in the empire.

This makes me wonder...by the time Kabyles were importing classical yataghan blades, they were using their own scabbards...so why would they possess an indigenous scabbard form if not for an indigenous sword?

Jim and Ham, could you provide Ottoman carvings similar to those on this sword or some reference concerning them?

Regards,
Emanuel
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Old 30th October 2006, 05:13 PM   #11
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Default North African Yatghan in Flyssa scabbard

This is indeed the same Yataghan. I will gladly post photos when restoration is completed.
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Old 30th October 2006, 05:27 PM   #12
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This might be totally irrelevant and the quality of the picture is very bad. The guy in the picture seems to have a very long and distinctive type of yatagan, if it is a yatagan and I am not making it up. Any opinions?
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Old 30th October 2006, 05:43 PM   #13
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It might be that many of these weapons with such mixed influences are from much older forms pan mediterranean/black sea. With examples developing local and national flavour and given different names. Modify the shape of the blade only slightly especially with the more knife sized examples and they could come from almost anywhere in the regions mentioned. Only the scabbards, handles and decoration hinting as to who used them.
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Old 30th October 2006, 09:57 PM   #14
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Well, it surprises me that anybody brought it up yet, but i have a similar example in my collection wich was discussed here some time ago.

It is definetly a weapon of the same type, but lacking in decoration. and it is definetly an old flyssa! Ham, the pictures above could be deciving. The determinant factor is the tang.Yataghans have a full and wide tang, wich flyssas have not. Look at the notch on the backedge, another typical flyssa sign.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=flyssa

Manolo, have you got it? I saw it too, but forgot to bid (as usually) , NICE ONE!
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Old 30th October 2006, 10:14 PM   #15
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Valjhun, I linked to your thread in post #6
I also got to it too late, I've been dying to get one for the longest time.

This one is indeed almost identical to yours, with the addition of the deep carving on the side of the blade. So far only Ham and Jim have indicated he has seen these before...does anyone else have examples of such carving on flyssa - or yataghan for that matter. I do not have Tirri's book...could anyone post the picture referred by Jim?
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Old 30th October 2006, 10:51 PM   #16
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It seems that the rolling scroll motif is a common design on flyssa swords. I still feel that the longer straighter flyssa were more of a calvary sword while the shorter ones like the first one shown was more of a hack and slash weapon. The one that I have posted has a 3ft blade and is quiet unwieldy to be used in close quarter fighting.

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Old 31st October 2006, 12:57 AM   #17
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Gentlemen,

I think Jim has got the picture quite accurately.
There is no specific reference indicating that the flyssa developed from the yatagan-- it has been said more than once that Islamic/ethnic/tribal etc. arms are interesting for the very fact that they require cogitation to sort out, this is what makes them interesting. I do believe the connection is obvious, however. A quick review of Ottoman provinces in North Africa will reveal a strong and enduring Turkish presence, adding a cultural aspect to the formal evidence where flyssas are concerned.

3 additional points:

1) Note that yatagans virtually never have a backedge, while flyssas virtually always do.

2) Note that the chiselled motifs on one side of Manolo's sword are Turkic, they ultimately derive from Byzantine motifs-- they are not quite the same scrolls one finds on flyssas. These descend from a different motif.

3) For a yatagan to appear with a scabbard which is typically that of a flyssa simply suggests that it saw use in a region where flyssas were mounted. We certainly see this with every other bladeform, particularly kindjals and shamshirs.

Ham

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Old 31st October 2006, 01:02 AM   #18
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Lew,
Nicely done!! I stand corrected on the scroll motif, and was focusing on the typical blade decoration, I had not noticed those scrolls on the brasswork of the hilts.
The close similarity of this weapon to the straight blade yataghans noted by Ham, and obviously the inevitable variant forms of the traditional flyssa do present a puzzle. I am inclined to rethink the likelihood that this may indeed be an Ottoman weapon from the Maghreb littoral, and plausibly may reflect
a variant or latter example of earlier Ottoman swords present there.

The straight blade form of yataghan with deep bellied blade is known in Turkey as c.1500 with one of the best provenanced examples shown as from Turkish workshops of Bayazid II ("The Age of Suleyman the Magnificent", Intl Cult.Corp.of Australia, 2000, p.64 #50). The profile of the blade is remarkably like that of the flyssa, with of course the familiar collar at the base of the blade.
Apparantly, a very similar sword, with the Ottoman 'karabela' type hilt and the blade with extremely slight curve in back, and the same deep belly profile, again remarkably as those of the flyssa, is shown as from Algerian regions dated 1746. This is shown in "Ethnographic Objects in the Royal Danish Kunsthammer 1650-1800" , National Museet, Copenhagen, 1980, p.84, EMb60a ..and is described as a diplomatic gift to Denmark in 1746, Algiers, from the Ottomans there.
It is stated in Tarussuk & Blair (1979) that an envoy of King Ferdinand VII of Spain was presented a flyssa in 1827, and that the Iflisen tribe of Kabyles had been producing these for some time.

While it does seem unusual that a distinct weapon form can remain indiginous and uninfluenced by other weapon forms without noticeable deviation, it is known in a number of ethnographic circumstances. For example, the takouba of the Tuaregs has always retained its distinct characteristics, and has coexisted in closely congruent regions and tribal groups with the Sudanese kaskara. While both simple crossguarded broadswords, they cannot be confused with one another. The tulwar of India seems to have maintained its presence within the confines of the subcontinent, and to have been used concurrently with swords such as the khanda, and often by the same warrior groups.

It seems that the straight blade 'yataghan' of early Ottoman form was present in the Maghreb at least during the 18th century, and that native armourers, especially those serving the Ottomans, would have produced similar swords. These likely were the influence of those produced by the Iflisen, and it would be great if prototype examples showing such transitional development could be seen.

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 31st October 2006, 01:37 AM   #19
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Jim,
As a matter of fact, I never noticed that the Flyssa's pommel looks just like Karabela's!
If this is not a chancy fluke, then it is an argument in favour of Turkish, rather than Iranian, origin of Karabela's "eagle's head" pommel.
Indeed, rather than Iraqi Karbala, we may revisit a place neas Izmir, called Karabel.
We tried to stay away from the Black Sea Yataghan mine field ( Laz Bicagi), and I can hear a collective groan. But then (just bear with me, I am just a piano player!), there is a rather marked similarity in the "ricasso" part of the blade between Flyssa and BSY. Also, if we take a Flyssa and bend it along the long axis, we end up with a..... And I am not talking about a similarity between the tangs....
Once again, I am raiding Artzi's site
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=1143
vs.
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=1003

BSY is like a bad habit: always comes back!
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Old 31st October 2006, 04:43 AM   #20
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Hi Ariel,
Actually the trilobate 'karabela' type pommel I noted was on an Ottoman sword from the Maghreb, not on the typically seen flyssa, which also carries an unidentifiable zoomorphic pommel often suspected to be eagle or some significant bird. Interestingly the hilt noted is very much like certain Arabian saif of 18th c.as shown in Elgood, in the trilobed pommel, again much like karabelas. It seems generally held that the karabela hilt, though the term etymology is uncertain as is its origin, was well known in the Ottoman sphere.

The similarities between the Black Sea yataghan and the flyssa are clearly known and as I had noted, I feel that the significant presence of tribesmen from the regions established for BSY may account for such influences. This is especially noted in the needle type point, similar to Tatar sabres such as the Polish examples known as 'ordynka'. Many of these were produced in Armenian shops in Lvov, and it is interesting that the original accounts of the BSY, as early as Jacobsen (1941) and subsequently Siefert (1962) termed these recurved sabres Kurdish-Armenian yataghans. The tribesmen from Transcaucasian regions (another term applied to the BSY) that entered Ottoman forces in the Maghreb may have carried such weapons with them to these regions.
Naturally this is speculation, but while geographically distant, such diffusion within the Ottoman sphere seems entirely plausible.

I knew it would be hard to avoid dragging out the old BSY syndrome, but it really does seem pertinant here. As I noted before, your work in establishing the BSY as Laz Bicagi was great! and in my opinion pretty much closed the book on the mystery, despite the steadfast opposition which still disagrees.

It would seem that the rule of Occams 'yataghan' should apply!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 31st October 2006, 08:47 PM   #21
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Jim and Ham, thanks for the references, I will look them up.
Some interesting questions reguarding the adaptation of the Ottoman yataghan (BSY or regular kind) to the flyssa form are why was it done? Why straighten the blade and add a back edge? If a cavalry weapon, why not simply keep the nimcha and the other known berber sword form with the peculiar tip.

Further, where did the zoomorphic pommel as it looks on refined flyssa come from? Its specific form is not seen on other swords, even if the lobed shaped has Ottoman precedents. My point is that it must have had a period of development independent of Ottoman examples.

If the Iflissen and other tribes had a lucrative industry producing these swords, why import or keep mimicking yataghan blades?
Too many unanswered questions in my mind to convince me fully but if the decorations are Turkic as Ham says, then the example I posted really gives me pause to reconsider. The article by Lacoste-Dujardin is the only published material I could find dedicated to these swords...the literature on them really ought to be updated.

These question really should be debated over a bottle of good liquor as Ariel so often suggests would make for some good times.
Emanuel
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Old 10th April 2007, 05:59 PM   #22
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Hi Emanuel,
found this web page....in French....Babel-Fish translation not too good so I've linked to the French page.....some interesting images at the base of the page....

http://lunis1.free.fr/article.php3?id_article=7

Regards David
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Old 10th April 2007, 07:07 PM   #23
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Hi David,
Thanks a lot the link, the whole site is very informative on the Kabyles, and the French is not a problem. I already acquired the treatise by Camille Lacoste-Desjardins "Sabres Kabyles". It is the most comprehensive and complete work on so subject that I could find. Quite extensive, and it is the principle source for the website you linked, and that of Pierre-Louis Cavaillé: http://blade.japet.com/flissa1.htm

I've been studying it for a while, and it could do with some updating. One area requiring further research revolves around an ancient stele depicting a warrior with a flyssa-like weapon in hand. I am currently looking through archaeological reports from diggs in Algeria, hoping to find some remains of pre-1800 Kabyle weapons. No luck yet, but there is a lot of info which leads me to continue questioning some of the assumptions presently held about the flyssa and the Kabyles.

If you're interested, I could provide you with a copy of it. It is in French though and you'd have to spend a lot of time with translator bots.

In the future I plan to invest a lot more time into this research and perhaps publish some modest work of my own stay tuned my friend

All the best,
Emanuel

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Old 10th April 2007, 10:11 PM   #24
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Hi Emanuel,
sorry there was no new info But when I found it ...you were the guy I thought of.....I don't think it's much of a secret how much you like Flyssa's
Please, when you get the chance, send me a copy.....my French is poor....but good enough that I can order a beer in France If you do get to publish your work and would like it in PDF format.... I'm sure I can help....I have the necessary 'professional' PDF software but not the 'expertise'....but I'm sure I could 'muddle through' and do a good job.

Regards David
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Old 10th April 2007, 10:22 PM   #25
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Hello

Where can I get that article about flyssas

thx

Ward
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Old 10th April 2007, 10:23 PM   #26
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Haaha thanks David!

I am indeed quite obsessed with this sword, even if I've never held one. Article coming up, and thanks for the offer

Emanuel
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