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Old 18th February 2020, 01:46 AM   #1
kahnjar1
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Default SHASHKA for Comment and ID

I recently picked up this Shashka which I think is Caucasian. This earlier thread http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ghlight=shashka ,attempts to identify where the particular styles come from.
Referring to the feature ID shown at Post#71 of this thread, it would appear that mine is Caucasian BUT it has features which do not tie in with that given.
Suspension is blade edge DOWN rather than up and of course with the silver covered hilt, it is not possible to see how many rivets are present.
There are no markings on the blade BUT the letters A.C. are stamped into the hilt as shown.
Any information as to origin, and any comments are very welcome.
Stu
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Old 18th February 2020, 03:01 AM   #2
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The “edge down” is not characteristic of Caucasian origin, more like Turkish.
The decoration of the handle is not something I have seen on Caucasian either. Moreover, the handle and the details of the scabbard do not match. Both suspension ring part and the chape are made of silver while the handle is of a different materiel, and the throat is of yet another one. The existing scabbard parts are decorated in niello of Circassian style ( it does not prove their Circassian origin: this style was copied extensively) and the handle I cannot say what is the materiel of the scabbard cover, but it is not customary leather
Usually, the width of the blade is the same as the lower quillon; this one is much more slender and the juncture between the two seems to be worked on rather extensively.

I think it is a combination of different parts and the age is uncertain, but the entire object might have been assembled well after shashkas as fighting swords went out of use. Conceivably, scabbard parts were placed upside down during the assembly.

In brief, a highly isuspicious object and I do not like it.

Last edited by ariel : 18th February 2020 at 03:19 AM.
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Old 18th February 2020, 06:50 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
The “edge down” is not characteristic of Caucasian origin, more like Turkish.
The decoration of the handle is not something I have seen on Caucasian either. Moreover, the handle and the details of the scabbard do not match. Both suspension ring part and the chape are made of silver while the handle is of a different materiel, and the throat is of yet another one. The existing scabbard parts are decorated in niello of Circassian style ( it does not prove their Circassian origin: this style was copied extensively) and the handle I cannot say what is the materiel of the scabbard cover, but it is not customary leather
Usually, the width of the blade is the same as the lower quillon; this one is much more slender and the juncture between the two seems to be worked on rather extensively.

I think it is a combination of different parts and the age is uncertain, but the entire object might have been assembled well after shashkas as fighting swords went out of use. Conceivably, scabbard parts were placed upside down during the assembly.

In brief, a highly isuspicious object and I do not like it.

Thank you Ariel for your comments....I agree regarding the scabbard not matching the sword hilt, and having a mix of fittings. I suppose it is also possible that at some stage that the two could have been miss-matched. It also appears that it is likely to have been recovered at some stage.
However it is the sword itself that interests me, and it is the origin of that which i would like to establish. The sword handle is silver by the way.
Stu
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Old 19th February 2020, 10:15 PM   #4
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Default Shashka Origin???

To clarify what I am trying to establish, herewith is a pic of the sword without the scabbard (which has been correctly described as a "bitser").
The handle is silver and is decorated extensively. As can be seen from the other pics, the handle is of the "eared" type, and has the letters A.C stamped into it. So can anyone please tell me if this sword is Caucasian, Khyber or Bukhara, or some other type.
Stu
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Old 19th February 2020, 10:44 PM   #5
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This sword, without reservation, is Caucasian. I really like his hilt. I saw exactly the same thing at the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg. I think this handle is made in Tiflis, Georgia. The letters AC are the hallmark of the Assay Chamber inspector.
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Old 20th February 2020, 04:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren
This sword, without reservation, is Caucasian. I really like his hilt. I saw exactly the same thing at the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg. I think this handle is made in Tiflis, Georgia. The letters AC are the hallmark of the Assay Chamber inspector.

Thank you very much Ren. Just the information I was seeking.
Stu
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Old 20th February 2020, 05:52 PM   #7
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To me, the blade looks very different from the typical blades used in the Caucasian or Russian shashkas.

I also checked with the examples in Kiril Rivkin's book but didn't find a match...

Also, the hilt is significantly wider than the blade which I consider a clear indication they were matched together in a later marriage...

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Old 20th February 2020, 07:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Also, the hilt is significantly wider than the blade which I consider a clear indication they were matched together in a later marriage...


It is quite possible. Traces of soldering between the blade and the hilt indicate repair.
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Old 21st February 2020, 12:24 AM   #9
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I could not find anything similar in any of Rivkin’s books, in any edition of Astvatsaturyan’s book, or in a book ( album, essentially) of the Russian Ethnographic Museum.
It is possible that the latter does not show the entire exhibition or of the storage.
If so, I would appreciate seeing a picture with the label and/or provenance.
It should be mentioned that quite a lot of examples presented in their album are grossly mislabeled. I remember a discussion on the Russian Forum about it with multiple concerns. The publisher/editor agreed with the reaction but had 2 explanations: publishing team had no time for any review and they had to use museum labels. Pretty flimsy, isn’t it ?

Assay chamber stamps used initials of the inspector, a symbol ( female head or a coat of arms of a city where it was assayed) and the purity of silver. I am unaware of any official stamps with Cyrillic “AC” and no other official information required by law from the imperial assay inspectors. АС cannot be an abbreviation of Assaying Chamber: Russians did not call it as such in English. In Russian it was Probirnaya Palata.

I am certain you are unlikely to argue that the vastly different styles of decoration of the handle, suspension element/chape and throat indicate haphazard assembly.

The “ edge down” mode of suspension is also not Caucasian.

In summary, I see nothing Caucasian in the final product, and the “dog breakfast” of parts ( including conceivably even the blade, with which you hesitantly agree) do not give me any faith in the authenticity of this chimera of a shashka.

Last edited by ariel : 21st February 2020 at 03:07 AM.
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Old 21st February 2020, 03:12 AM   #10
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Kahnjar1:
What is a “bitser” ( allegedly correct identification of a scabbard)?
I am unaware of this word.
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Old 21st February 2020, 06:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Kahnjar1:
What is a “bitser” ( allegedly correct identification of a scabbard)?
I am unaware of this word.

Your original comment regarding the scabbard stated that it appeared to be made up of several non matching components and was covered with non original fabric, to which I agree. The slang term "bitser" means literally something made up of non matching parts (a bit of this and a bit of that). Perhaps not used in the USA but commonly used here, to describe anything put together from mixed parts. Also applied to dogs etc. of uncertain mixed breed lineage.
We learn something new each day....
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Old 21st February 2020, 08:59 PM   #12
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Thanks. Will use it next time I go Down Under in a geographical sense of the word, not the funeral one:-)
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Old 21st February 2020, 09:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
.
In summary, I see nothing Caucasian in the final product, and the “dog breakfast” of parts ( including conceivably even the blade, with which you hesitantly agree) do not give me any faith in the authenticity of this chimera of a shashka.

Chimera - this is when in Brooklyn an Indian blade of the beginning of the 20th century is attached to an Polish hilt of the late 18th century
In this case, we see:
1) the hilt - the Caucasus, the 19th century
2) the blade - the Caucasus, the 19th century
3) the details of the scabbard - the Caucasus, the 19th - beginning of the 20th century.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I could not find anything similar in any of Rivkin’s books, in any edition of Astvatsaturyan’s book, or in a book ( album, essentially) of the Russian Ethnographic Museum.

The lack of similar items in books is a very weak argument. If I took it into account, I would have to admit the absence of Vietnam and Laos weapons in nature. And since Indochina’s weapons are the subject of my main interest, I know for sure that this is not so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Assay chamber stamps used initials of the inspector, a symbol ( female head or a coat of arms of a city where it was assayed) and the purity of silver. I am unaware of any official stamps with Cyrillic “AC” and no other official information required by law from the imperial assay inspectors. АС cannot be an abbreviation of Assaying Chamber: Russians did not call it as such in English. In Russian it was Probirnaya Palata.

I don’t understand where the assumption came from, that the letters AC can be an abbreviation of the Assay Chamber in English. It can only be a personal mark of the assay inspector. The set of characters you listed has become mandatory in the Russian Empire since the 1880s. Earlier in the Caucasus, much simpler rules applied. Which, moreover, did not apply to the item produced for the local market - silver made by the masters of Dagestan for customers in Dagestan does not have assay marks.
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Old 22nd February 2020, 04:50 AM   #14
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You have mentioned seeing “exactly the same” hilt in the collection of Russian Ethnographic Museum in SPb. I just wanted to see it myself hoping you might have a picture of it. If not, I understand.

“ AC” cannot be an abbreviation of the imperial Assay Chamber, because in Russian the words defining those institutions are different and could not be abbreviated as “AC”, and imperial assaying stamps had officially defined elements.The handle could have been made by a private Russian jeweler, but somewhere outside the Caucasus: there are shashkas made in Russian workshops from as far as S. Petersburg and some places in the Ukraine. I have one like that.
Imperial assaying stamps in the Caucasus date not to 1880s, but to 1804 ( see Astvatsaturyan). She has a list of Caucasian and Russian/Ukrainian assaying stamps( see “Caucasian weapons” 2nd edition, pp. 412-415) with names and initials of the chief assayers of those offices. There is no AC mark among them.

There is no doubt that what was presented here for discussion is a shashka, but the only unquestionably Caucasian details are 2 scabbard elements. The implied mode of wearing it ( edge down) is absolutely not Caucasian. The origin of the blade may be Caucasian, Russian or Turkish, but quite likely not originally belonging to the same hilt.
In short, IMHO it is a composed weapon, a chimera, or a “ bitser” :-) with final assembly of an unknown age ( 21st century not excluded).

I have presented my arguments and am ready to see a refutations of them that are based on material facts. Perhaps, I am wrong, in which case I am ready to change my analysis: learning something new is what this Forum is for.

One can find perfectly legitimate reason to acquire this shashka for his collection and it is not for me to criticize this decision. My point is that I personally do not like it and would not wish to own it.

Overall, we seem to have diametrically opposite opinions. Both of us are entitled to our own ones. We are just not entitled to our own facts.

Last edited by ariel : 22nd February 2020 at 05:27 AM.
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Old 22nd February 2020, 05:16 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
You have mentioned seeing “exactly the same” hilt in the collection of Russian Ethnographic Museum in SPb. I just wanted to see it myself hoping you might have a picture of it. If not, I understand.

You can see an object with a similar hilt in Особая кладовая/ Treasury of the Russian Ethnographic Museum. Access there is limited for ordinary visitors, but is open to specially organized groups - scientists, students, collectors. I hope you understand that it is forbidden to take pictures there.
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Old 22nd February 2020, 05:29 AM   #16
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I understand. Regretfully, I am an "ordinary visitor" and we cannot put images of both hilts side by side to compare their decorations.

I looked at the images of the scabbard cover of the discussion object: the material seems to be a tarpaulin or some other impregnated fabric which is incompatible with old Caucasian origin. Also, it is perfectly intact, without any signs of age-related wear and tear. I have to conclude that it is a modern creation. Would you agree?
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Old 22nd February 2020, 07:12 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren
Chimera - this is when in Brooklyn an Indian blade of the beginning of the 20th century is attached to an Polish hilt of the late 18th century
In this case, we see:
1) the hilt - the Caucasus, the 19th century
2) the blade - the Caucasus, the 19th century
3) the details of the scabbard - the Caucasus, the 19th - beginning of the 20th century. .


The hilt is most likely from the Caucasus.

However, I do not believe the blade is Caucasian. And even if it is, it isn't a shaska blade.

And I don't consider you can make a shashka by simply attaching a shashka hilt to a blade.

On top of all that has been said, the fitting of the blade within the scabbard is definitely not Caucasian. The Caucasian shashkas go into the scabbard to at least two thirds of the hilt length, leaving out only the hook of the hilt.

So, my oppinion is this is not a shashka, but marriage (an unhappy marriage in my oppinion) that was not even made in the Caucasus area.

Of course, everybody is free to believe what they want, but this is what I believe...

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Old 22nd February 2020, 07:26 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I understand. Regretfully, I am an "ordinary visitor" and we cannot put images of both hilts side by side to compare their decorations.

I looked at the images of the scabbard cover of the discussion object: the material seems to be a tarpaulin or some other impregnated fabric which is incompatible with old Caucasian origin. Also, it is perfectly intact, without any signs of age-related wear and tear. I have to conclude that it is a modern creation. Would you agree?

Hi ariel,
As I have already stated the scabbard cover appears/is a replacement so there is no argument there. I have in fact removed the covering which which came away very easily, and reveals bare wood. I will likely leave it like this, as it is better than an incorrect dress. It also showed that the suspension ring, throat and the drag were in fact fitted wrong way up. So the blade would in fact have been suspended edge UP as it should be for Caucasian Shashka.
As stated before, my interest is not the scabbard, which may or may not be original to the blade, but the actual sword itself.
Stu
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Old 22nd February 2020, 09:45 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren
The lack of similar items in books is a very weak argument. If I took it into account, I would have to admit the absence of Vietnam and Laos weapons in nature. And since Indochina’s weapons are the subject of my main interest, I know for sure that this is not so.


I agree 100%

But i found in Elgood a blade very similar, he says "blade form frequently found on Arab swords in Syria and Arabia".

I think your sword was shortened at the ricasso.

This sword is really nice!

Last edited by Kubur : 22nd February 2020 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 22nd February 2020, 10:53 AM   #20
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Stu,
Thanks for the information.
How does the bare wood look?

The chape is set under some angle, suggesting that the original scabbard and blade for which it was created were not straight but curved. If my visual impression is correct, either the scabbard parts do not belong to the original, or the blade was replaced. Taking into account the difference in the decorative motives between the handle and the scabbard elements, I favor both.

Caucasian shashkas were almost universally slightly curved. This one is straight. European blade?

After exile of Circassian in the 1860s into the Ottoman lands, shashkas were mass produced there with noticeable modifications , different decorations etc. Many examples were worn edge down, saber like. True Caucasian blades were almost invariably marked by a stamp of the master. A straight and unmarked blade suggests not Caucasian origin.

Shashkas can be crudely divided into two groups: Caucasian and Asian type.
In the former, the handle went down deep into the scabbard, so that only the pommel remained visible. In the latter, the handle was flush with the throat.

The “Asian” type was a later construction, likely of a Russian origin, widely used in the regulation army models.

Original Caucasian ( native) shashkas were practically always of the former type. That is yet another hint that yours is not a genuine native Caucasian type.

All together, I tend to believe that yours is a very late composite creation, either Russian or Turkish. Its age might be better reflected by the condition of the wooden component. Earlier examples would have extremely thin ( paper thin in fact )wooden “walls” due to multiple repeated insertions and withdrawals of the blade and the wood would be very dark and stained by oiling, moisture etc. I can’t remember where I read it, but Russian military regulations for Cossack shashkas specified a new scabbard every 3 years.

Again, all handmade weapons are unique by definition. Anything and everything mentioned here might be counter- argued by a genuine example with similar features. But IMHO there are far too many inconsistencies here to define this shashka as a fully original Caucasian weapon.
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Old 22nd February 2020, 11:08 AM   #21
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Kubur,
Of course, an absence of proof does not imply a proof of absence.

Still, it is always an advantage to find a documented and 100% provenanced example favoring one’s assertion. This is why we all go to the books.
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Old 24th February 2020, 12:10 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Stu,
Thanks for the information.
How does the bare wood look?

The chape is set under some angle, suggesting that the original scabbard and blade for which it was created were not straight but curved. If my visual impression is correct, either the scabbard parts do not belong to the original, or the blade was replaced. Taking into account the difference in the decorative motives between the handle and the scabbard elements, I favor both.

Caucasian shashkas were almost universally slightly curved. This one is straight. European blade?

After exile of Circassian in the 1860s into the Ottoman lands, shashkas were mass produced there with noticeable modifications , different decorations etc. Many examples were worn edge down, saber like. True Caucasian blades were almost invariably marked by a stamp of the master. A straight and unmarked blade suggests not Caucasian origin.

Shashkas can be crudely divided into two groups: Caucasian and Asian type.
In the former, the handle went down deep into the scabbard, so that only the pommel remained visible. In the latter, the handle was flush with the throat.

The “Asian” type was a later construction, likely of a Russian origin, widely used in the regulation army models.

Original Caucasian ( native) shashkas were practically always of the former type. That is yet another hint that yours is not a genuine native Caucasian type.

All together, I tend to believe that yours is a very late composite creation, either Russian or Turkish. Its age might be better reflected by the condition of the wooden component. Earlier examples would have extremely thin ( paper thin in fact )wooden “walls” due to multiple repeated insertions and withdrawals of the blade and the wood would be very dark and stained by oiling, moisture etc. I can’t remember where I read it, but Russian military regulations for Cossack shashkas specified a new scabbard every 3 years.

Again, all handmade weapons are unique by definition. Anything and everything mentioned here might be counter- argued by a genuine example with similar features. But IMHO there are far too many inconsistencies here to define this shashka as a fully original Caucasian weapon.

Hi ariel,
Some clarification herewith regarding your comments.
A pic of the scabbard with the "new" covering removed, and clearly showing the wood. As previously mentioned, when the covering was removed, there were clear signs that the hanging rings had been put back upside down. This has since been rectified. Also the chape(drag) now fits correctly in line with the wood, rather than having an upturned end.
You say the blade appears to be straight, but in fact it is not. As you can see from the pic, the blade has a slight upturn as do Caucasian blades.
Hope this clarifies some points.
Stu
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