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Old 18th June 2005, 08:34 PM   #1
Perkun
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Default Tatar saber for discussion

It is not often one has a chance to discuss Tatar wepons. Here is an example of a 17th c. Tatar (or Polish-Tatar as some texts would call it) saber I was recently fortunate to find.
Perhaps Wolviex will be so kind and help to narrow the age range.
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Last edited by Perkun : 18th June 2005 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 18th June 2005, 09:01 PM   #2
Jacob
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Is that sharkskin on the hilt?
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Old 18th June 2005, 09:15 PM   #3
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Yes. Held up very well too!
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Old 19th June 2005, 12:11 AM   #4
Jim McDougall
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This does appear to be an example of a Tatar type sabre of the latter 17th century. While this form originated with the Tatars, it was commonly duplicated in examples made in Lvov by Armenian craftsmen, thus the term commonly misapplied 'ormianka' or the Armenian sabre. King John III Sobieski of Poland favored Eastern fashion thus he is portraited wearing one and a number of them were likely worn by others in his favor, during latter 17th century. In Poland these sabres were termed 'ordynka' (=horde) for thier likely steppes origins, or often 'czeczuga' (=small sturgeon) for the distinctive ray or fishskin grips.

These sabres are beyond incredibly rare! and very little is published on them aside from the data above which is from "Polish Sabres: Their Origins and Evolution" by Jan Ostrowski & Wojciech Bochnak, in Art, Arms & Armour, Vol. I, 1979-80, pp.232-33. Examples are also illustrated in Zygulski (p.242-43) and in "Iranian Swords of 17th c. with Russian Inscriptions in the Collection of State Hermitage Museum" by Yuri Miller (p.138, #150). In the Miller illustrations the hilt form is of this type but mounted with shamshir blade dated 1698. The mounts and hilt on yours seem consistant with the example illustrated in the Ostroski article, and it appears by the photos yours has held up quite well. Is there anything you can divulge on the provenance of this fascinating piece?
Thank you so much for posting it!!!!
All the best
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 19th June 2005 at 01:55 AM.
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Old 19th June 2005, 12:16 AM   #5
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As Jim neatly outlines, this does appears to be a latter 17th century Lvov variant of the tatarska type, given the motifs on the mounts and the method of affixing the suspension rings. Any marks on the blade or mounts?

Sincerely,

Ham
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Old 19th June 2005, 12:50 AM   #6
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Jim,
I got it in Poland. The seller stated it came out of an old collection being sold off by the widow of the collector. I will continue my efforts to get more info on the previous owner as the continuity of the provenance is important to me.

You are right, very little has been written about them. There is another recent very good Polish publication (in Polish and English) "Bron i Uzbrojenie Tatarow" (Tatar Arms and Armour) , (I will look up the publisher and author for you later).
I still cannot beleive my luck.
Because of the shape of the blade and the nature of the decoration I suspect it is of Lwow manufacture, but I don't know enough to make it a definite identification.
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Old 19th June 2005, 01:00 AM   #7
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Ham,
There are some markings on the spine of the blade (in gold, visible although not well on one of the attached photos). I have not yet examined the saber in person so I don't know if they are owner's Tatar tamgas or maker's marks.
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Old 19th June 2005, 01:20 AM   #8
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I attach images of Tamgas of Golden Horde and Lithuanian Tatars
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Old 19th June 2005, 02:27 AM   #9
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Perkun,
Thank you for noting the Polish title, I had forgotten about that particular resource, a very good one! It is by Jacek Gutowski and published by Res Publica Multiethnica , Warsaw , 1997, ISBN 83-909001-0-6 ( for the benefit of those who would like to find this, it is beautifully illustrated and the text is both in Polish and English).
In this book, concerning tamgas it notes "...only one example of a blade with a Tartar ownership mark is known , this sabre with a Tartar tamga sign impressed in its scabbard isn the Polish Army Museum ". In this book it is illustration #76, and as noted, with the reduced hilt guard.

The tamga reference you have provided the plates from, which work is it?
I only have some data on these from research done over 8 years ago, and was advised of a Russian title, but this is the only one I have heard of that specifically addresses these most interesting markings.

You truly are incredibly lucky to have found this weapon! and it was very kind of you to share it here. Possibly the marks can give us more clues.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 19th June 2005, 02:48 AM   #10
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A wonderful find.....congratulations!
I often find it interesting that you have western/European swords and ethnographic swords, yet when the specifics become known, the line blurs and so many move from the former to the latter.
Wonderful research and information to go with the sword itself, so well done on all counts, and the reason I keep coming back.
Sometimes this IS the best place for information that's little known elsewhere.
Mike
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Old 19th June 2005, 02:54 AM   #11
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Jim,
I found the Tamgas on the net:
www.gaumina.lt/totoriai/english/tradicijos_info3.html

The page cites a 1930's Polish publication by Stanislaw Dziadulewicz entiteled "The Collection of Emblems of Polish Tatar Families";
I assume the plates are form this particular work.

I beleive that with this purchase I have opened up a whole new fixation for myself, now I feel I will be hunting down pieces of Tatar armor and equippment...

Last edited by Perkun : 19th June 2005 at 03:05 AM.
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Old 19th June 2005, 04:02 AM   #12
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I know of about a dozen of books/monographies about tamgas - tatar, circassian and ancient iranian (scythian, sarmat etc.) tamgas, however they are all in russian or tataric. However if I'm given a tamga I can try to attribute it to family or more likely a tribe.
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Old 19th June 2005, 06:29 AM   #13
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Rivkin,
I would be very grateful for your help in researching the possible Tamgas.
I attach additional pics.
I don't know if the gold inlay dots on the blade could be tamgas but they are there on both sides of the blade. In one of the plates of tamgas I attached above, there is a tamga in shape of a circle.
I also enhanced the pic. of the spine by tracing over the not so well visible gold inlay there. Please check your references if you could make any sense if it.
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Last edited by Perkun : 19th June 2005 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 19th June 2005, 01:41 PM   #14
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Perkun, regarding the hilt material, it is actually rayskin (with round noduals) not sharkskin (with triangular noduals).

Nice and complete piece. Thank you for sharing it. Rsword has one, would like to see what he makes of this.
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Old 19th June 2005, 04:22 PM   #15
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Hi Perkun!

This is really nice example. I wish I had one in my museum, because we have no example of such sabre, amongst many others!

I think that Jim gave you information you needed, anyway my knowledge won't help you much in here, and I just have nothing to add. So please let me one more time admire your sabre -

All the best as ever!
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Old 19th June 2005, 04:43 PM   #16
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Perkun,
Thank you again for the additional notes on tamgas, and the clearer photos of the markings on the back of the blade. Kirill, thank you for the offer to help with these very obscure, and important markings.

In reviewing material from discussions on the history of tamgas some years back, and pages of material on Caucasian tamgas, the marks on Perkuns sword do not correspond to the illustrated tamgas there, which include quite a few Qipchak examples. The catalog I have was at that point an unpublished manuscript by a well known arms and armour author so I will defer reference unless I can confirm its publication.

The geometric pictograms which are seen in double on the back of the blade somehow do not seem to be tamgas. Unless I am mistaken, doubling or parallel representation seems to occur more on European makers marks or native interpretations of them. However, in Caucasian regions the application in multiples of key markings or symbols does of course occur on blades.
It is known that tamgas were later often incorporated into certain Russian and European heraldic devices with varying degree of accuracy in interpretation. The geometric floral device on the guard and pommel seems to suggest certain heraldic device possibility. Many of the Polish heraldic elements of course seem to derive from possible tamga origins.
Returning to the double 'lazy n' pictogram (well, thats what we'd call it here in Texas!!, we need more research, but at this point to me it does not seem to represent tamga. Possibly researching tamgas further might reveal such 'double tamgas'.

The gold or brass inlay dot in the blade. It seems that such dots or varying symbolic marks were often placed at strategic locations on blades in India, in the case of this sabre referring to the location at the base of the apparant step in the blade back. It is yet unclear what such symbolism may imply, but the placing does seem strategic, thus some inherent meaning is distinctly possible. Again, it does not seem to be any type of makers mark, but some sort of key symbolic application.

Rick, you rascal!! You have one of these as well ??!!! Any chance we might see it ? It would be great to compare these. I have known of these sabres for a long time from books, but never thought we would have a chance to discuss them from actual examples. Well done guys!!!!!

All the best,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 19th June 2005 at 04:56 PM.
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Old 19th June 2005, 05:11 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Perkun,

The gold or brass inlay dot in the blade. It seems that such dots or varying symbolic marks were often placed at strategic locations on blades in India, in the case of this sabre referring to the location at the base of the apparant step in the blade back. It is yet unclear what such symbolism may imply, but the placing does seem strategic, thus some inherent meaning is distinctly possible. Again, it does not seem to be any type of makers mark, but some sort of key symbolic application.

Jim


I hope this is considered relevant, but, I recently read this in "Islamic Swords and Sworgsmlths" by Dr Unsal Yucel on Page 57 while describing Umayyad and Abbasaid Swords
'The majority of these swords have somewhere between one to seven gold-filled holes, generally located on either side of the inscription and sometimes at the tip. These golded filled holes were made by riveting a piece of gold into a hole in the blade. They are usually level with the surface of the blade and approximately 5mm in diameter. It is thought that the purpose of these gold rivets was to bring good luck to the swordman'

All the best.
Jeff
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Old 19th June 2005, 05:31 PM   #18
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This type of mark seems to be common, almost worldwide; it is common on medieval European knives (not so much swords), often in silver, copper, etc. I believe in Europe it was usually soldered in place, with peining being optional. Also seen on medieval European knives were grooves filled with contasting metal wire. I have no established meaning, but it's common; seen in China, SE Asia, India, Europe, and in a thread on a spear we just saw, N Africa (?) Some variability from culture to culture as to size, number, placement, affixing method, and even shape, but a widespread interesting phenomenon.
What is the relation between that "step" in the back and the crosshatched part of the spine? Is it hatched out to that? Then what happens?
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Old 19th June 2005, 08:21 PM   #19
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Thank you everyone for such wonderful insightful responses.
Jeff, applying KISS method (which I really like) is the best policy and in this light your observation and interpretation seems most plausable to me.
As a matter of fact it was exactly in this fashion ("a gold filled hole") that this mark was described to me by my friend who personally examined the saber.
Tom,
Not yet having the chance to examine the sword in person I cannot answer if the cross hatching on the spine is a form of decoration or a sign of mechanical abuse. The "step" (or a double step as it is repeated at the point of the blade forming a "cut out" in the middle of it) is a common feature on Polish sabers and the book by Jacek Gutkowski cited above shows a couple of examples of Tatar sabers with this feature.
As to the spine markings if we rule out tamgas then a possibility of them being an Armenian maker's marks should be examined, perhaps it represents the letter "h".
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Old 19th June 2005, 09:19 PM   #20
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A georgeous sword that you have posted and quite rare indeed. I cannot add too much to the discussion but do have an example that Jose has kindly referred to and will be glad to post pictures for comparison purposes and hopefully additional education.

In regards to dating, Gutowski in his book "Bron' I Uzbrojenie Tatarow" makes an argument that one can date these sabers by the crossguard size. Later examples seem to show the Caucasian influences and have become very short compared to earlier examples. Generally, examples with the short crossguards can be dated to the late 17th to turn of 18th century. It will be interesting on Perkuns example once he has it in hand to find out if the blade is an imported. Most often, blades were imported and the profile of Perkuns example is that of Shamshir form and may be an imported Persian or Ottoman example and could be watered. My example has an archetypal blade form and really shows how the early Eurasian blade profiles lasted well into the 17th century.

I agree with Jim that neither mark on your sword is a Tamga sign. The "S" shape on the spine is very similar to marks on my sword blade. Mine are found at the top of the blade on both sides just below the spine. My example has 21 of these marks down each side of the blade. If one looks closely, in example 68 in Gutowski's book, that blade has a similar "S" shape marking along the top of the blade near the spine. I believe all the crosshatching on the spine of your blade contained many of these "S" shape marks but it looks as though many have worn away over the years. I do not know what these marks could represent as the example in the book looks to be a Persian imported blade, yours is undetermined as of yet, and my example seems to be of Lvov manufacture.

Gutowski mentions as Jim referenced that only one Tatar sword is known with a Tatar Tamga mark and in that example it is inlaid on the scabbard. My example has the Tamga mark done in silver inlayed on the blade and appears to be the same mark as the example referenced by Jim which is currently in the Polish army musuem. I would be most interested if any of Rivkins resources can identify the family or clan of this particular mark.

A fascinating discussion and I hope to learn more about Tamga marks on my sword and I look forward to Perkun getting his example in hand to learn more about his blade.

Rascalfully yours,

Rick
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Old 19th June 2005, 09:46 PM   #21
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I am just drooling all over my key board......
Will write something coherent later.
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Old 20th June 2005, 12:19 AM   #22
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Fugh, I'm not an expert on turkology, so it can all be bs, but:

AFAIK tamga is usually just a signature. Turkish writing evolved from hieroglaphic to alphabet based, and so did the tamgas. There are 3 types of tamgas - consisting of one symbol (Type I). Usually these are the old ones, correspond to pictogramms or hieroglyphs. Very often have a totemic (or animistic) symbolism.Type II - tamgas consisting of two symbols that are symmetric or anti-symmetric to each other. These tamgas usually have to be understood as a combination of individual characters forming a word (with some of the vowels, especially initial vowels omitted). Why turks specifically liked symmetric writings (like swastika - two letters "a") I don't think anyone knows. The third type is tamgas composed of completely different letters, again these are already writing using an alphabet.

Concerning the first sword - these symbols can be tamga, or they can be not, I don't know. However in turkish alphabet this lazy n is usually "t" (however sometimes m or if looked from a different agnle -o and dz can be written quite similarly). Example - attached is an example from Karachai (turkish tribe from northern Caucasus).

Conerning the second sword - that's a classical tamga, probably modified Type II (symmetric with respect to one axis, anti-symmetric with respect to another). The letters involved seem to be "a or ae" and "n".

I'm not an expert in tatar to know which word exactly they coded like this...
Concerning family names - nothing comes up immediately, unfortunately because the letters are very popular ones, there are dozens of tamgas that use at least one of these letters + something else - for example a circassian tamga on the second picture, but did not yet find something exactly like this.
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Old 20th June 2005, 03:14 AM   #23
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Another lazy n (this time it's "m" ?). From the writings of ancient bulgars.

And one more thing - eastern turks (I guess our tatars ?) write from right to left. Western (bulgars etc.) from left to right.
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Old 20th June 2005, 06:03 AM   #24
Jim McDougall
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Kirill,
Thanks very much for this excellent data on tamgas! Since these typically dont occur very often on the swords from these regions, this has not been a hot topic in research for some time (the research my material is from dates from over 8 years ago!!). Its great to have the topic reopened, especially with these fantastic examples. Excellent input!
All the best,
Jim
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Old 20th June 2005, 06:31 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff D
I hope this is considered relevant, but, I recently read this in "Islamic Swords and Sworgsmlths" by Dr Unsal Yucel on Page 57 while describing Umayyad and Abbasaid Swords
'The majority of these swords have somewhere between one to seven gold-filled holes, generally located on either side of the inscription and sometimes at the tip. These golded filled holes were made by riveting a piece of gold into a hole in the blade. They are usually level with the surface of the blade and approximately 5mm in diameter. It is thought that the purpose of these gold rivets was to bring good luck to the swordman'

All the best.
Jeff


Hey, thats an interesting note Jeff, I too noticed this thing with the gold rivets. Could there or is there a relation between those 8th century swords, and this saber (in relation with the gold spot)?
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Old 20th June 2005, 06:43 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M.carter
Hey, thats an interesting note Jeff, I too noticed this thing with the gold rivets. Could there or is there a relation between those 8th century swords, and this saber (in relation with the gold spot)?


Hi Mike,

I actually bought this book because of your recommendation in a past thread. I am enjoying it very much!!! Thank you. We will see as these side discussions are often very illuminating.

All the Best,
Jeff
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Old 21st June 2005, 01:15 AM   #27
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Hi All,

I didn't want to say anything until I was sure I could find this one in storage. Tatar saber with Persian blade.

Enjoy.
Jeff
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Old 21st June 2005, 06:07 AM   #28
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Jeff,
What a surprise! Could you tell me more about it, age, region? What is the scabbard covered with?
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Old 21st June 2005, 06:17 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perkun
Jeff,
What a surprise! Could you tell me more about it, age, region? What is the scabbard covered with?


Hi Perkun,

It has a similar story as yours. Most likely made in Lvov 18th century. The blade is clearly Persian with a very nice wootz pattern. The scabbard is wood with a later leather recover. the mountings are brass.

This is definately one of my favorites!
Jeff
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Old 21st June 2005, 04:37 PM   #30
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While we are on this topic, are there any good publications on the history of the Tatars post Jochi? or for that matter the Lithuanian Tatars?

Jeff
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