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Old 22nd April 2018, 05:48 PM   #1
ariel
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Default Estradiot Yataghan

Here is a medium size yataghan I bought strictly because of its handle.
It is simple, wooden, and its only embellishment are 3 round silver-niello bosses situated in places that did not require them from a mechanical point of view. The blade was hardened using a differential technique: uneven high-carbon edge , resembling Japanese Hamon ot some Caucasian Kindjals.
The form of the "ears) is not a typical yataghan-like; it is a simplified form of what is seen on the so-called "ear daggers", originally Hispano-Moresque, then Venetian, then Estradiot.
I guess it is Greek: silver-niello decorations and the fact that Stratioti were by and large Greek. It looks like a kind of homage to the old pattern. Most likely 19th century, but if anyone suggests the 18th one, I shall not argue:-)
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Old 23rd April 2018, 09:00 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I guess it is Greek: silver-niello decorations and the fact that Stratioti were by and large Greek. It looks like a kind of homage to the old pattern. Most likely 19th century, but if anyone suggests the 18th one, I shall not argue:-)


Ariel you're our in-house shashka expert.
Is it an unfortunate weeding between a shashka and a yataghan??
Are you sure it's Greek and not Bulgarian or Caucasian???

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Old 23rd April 2018, 03:37 PM   #3
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I do not think so. Shashka's ears are separated by very narrow slits, with no defined flat base at the bottom. Same is true ( to a lesser degree) in the case of yataghans..
I do suspect ( not sure!) that the eared handles of shashkas owe their existence to Turkish yataghans.
The main reason why I think it is a homage to the Estradiot " ear dagger" is the imitation of the rivet : in the original source it was a true securing device, attaching the ears to the tang. Here there is no rivet, just the decorative bosses located without any mechanical purpose, but imitating the external appearance of the Estradiot pattern. Secondarily, as I have mentioned before, the space between the base of the ears is very substantial, which is not seen either in the examples of yataghans or shashkas.

I checked the Internet, and there are quite a few perfect high-end 19th century copies of ear daggers. The fascination with them never disappeared. Mine is not a decorative copy, however; it is a perfectly functional and rather modest and unpretentious weapon recalling the old example.

Why do I think it is Greek? Solely on the basis of "silver/niello" ( admittedly very shaky argument, but an argument nevertheless). This combination was very popular in Crete, that was one of the later sources of the recruitment of Stratioti. Apparently, technique of niello decoration was brought to the Caucasus by the Greeks and this is actively supported by Asia Eutykh, a very famous contemporary Circassian jeweller, who even traces her heritage to them ( Eutychius). Greek trade settlements were very well represented in the coastal Caucasian areas, and may even go back to Jason and the Golden Fleece of Colchis:-) However, I would not dismiss North-Western Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Boka Kotorska ( for the latter see Elgood's book with their daggers: down-turned quillons resembling Moorish examples). They were all tightly connected to Venice and formed a bulk of Stratioti.
Bulgarian Karakulaks have totally different handles : very yataghan-ish with rudimentary ears. Nothing similar to my example.
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Old 23rd April 2018, 09:48 PM   #4
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I have handled and seen quite a few "karakulaks", and this blade looks very much like one, based on overall shape, the integral bolster, the crude blade mark and the acid etch showing evidence of an inserted edge construction. If it was just a bare blade, without the two horn pieces on the hilt, I would identify it as a higher end karakulak.

That being said, the hilt is obviously different and quite possibly original - it was definitely put on the blade sometime ago. Even the fanciest karakulaks which have hilts of layers of horn and bone look nothing like this one in terms of shape and certainly in terms of the niello decoration on the rivet cap. Could it be a karakulak that was hilted somewhere in Epirus or Southern Macedonia? I honestly cannot say.

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Old 24th April 2018, 12:03 AM   #5
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Theodor,

I agree with you that the blade is very simple and could have been made anywhere in the Balkans. That is exactly the reason why I ignored it in my original discussion.

And yes, the handle is the plum in the pudding.
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Old 20th October 2018, 03:02 PM   #6
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Just an aside about karakulaks.

I found a Russian paper about weapons of Karachay-Balkaria: Northern Caucasus region. The paper is written by Soltan Elkanov, a highly respected weapon historian from the above area, very objective and not given to jingoistic tendencies.
He shows examples of fighting knives from the Golden Horde ( upper two pics) and an example of two Crimean bichaqs.
IMHO, they are remarkably similar to Bulgarian karakulaks. He cites a French consul in Crimea ( 1757) describing mass production of knives ( up to 400,000 units per year) and exported to the Caucasus, Black Sea area ( Bulgaria??) etc.
Taken into account history of Bulgarian nation ( Asparukh), one can suggest a common origin of Kipchak/Kuman/Tatar weapons and Bulgarian karakulaks. My colleague Sergei Samgin and I published a paper about a potential source of Ottoman yataghans : Ottoman invasion of Crimea in 1475, closely preceding the first royal yataghans of Bayazet and Suleiman.
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Old 21st October 2018, 06:28 PM   #7
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This is interesting food for thought, and there could be a link. In the early 14th century, the Golden Horde became an important ally to the Bulgarian state, and supplied troops to virtually all major battles fought by the Bulgarian tsars. These troops often proved to be the difference - they were late to arrive at Velbazhd, which to a great extent decided the outcome in favor of the Serbian Kingdom, for example. Tatar military equipment was certainly known and available in the Balkans.
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Old Yesterday, 07:16 PM   #8
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Dear all,
I am not qualified to talk on yataghans, but I want to draw some attention to the niello fittings. These ones on the sample (both the rivets and the one at the end of the pommel) remind me of the horse harness fittings of the Caucasian saddles. May I have the courage to suggest that these fittings are a secondary use from a saddle harness? We do know that the harness fittings were used mostly on belts, but also bracelets, necklaces, and even on kindjals and shashkas. Here I attached two photos I just surfed on the net. Many -and precise parallels- can be found with a detailed search. So, IMHO, the "last touch" to the sample should be around the 2nd half of the 19th century, but the blade is of course an other story.
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Old Yesterday, 07:26 PM   #9
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Additionally, none of the niello fittings seem to be functional, which makes me think of some silver fittings from a harness used to dress it.
The pieces on a harness can easily be enough for a few "circassian" or "caucasian" belts, and yet some more will be spared for silver fittings where needed. I do have a similar piece on my shashka
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Old Today, 10:57 AM   #10
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Thanks for the examples. Indeed, they are very similar: simple examples of bosses with economical decorations.
IMHO, it would not be likely for a Balkan weapon to use details of Caucasian objects: I am unaware of any trade. Unless, of course one postulates reuse of broken equipment brought to the Balkans by Circassian muhajirs ( exiles) after massive ethnic cleansing of Circassians by the Russians or reuse of Russian military equipment from the Russo-Turkish war. Both events occurred in the second half of the 19 century. So, you might be correct with your dating. However, equally plausible might be local manufacture of simple parts with rather predictable decoration: kind of parallel development.

You are perfectly correct: these bosses have no practical mechanical use, they do not serve as reinforcers of anything. And that is exactly my point: they mimic the old and elaborate examples of ear daggers, so beloved by the Estradiots. As I said from the beginning this yataghan/karakulak is a homage to Estradiot weapon, NOT the contemporaneous Estradiot weapon.This would strengthen the feeling that it is of a relatively late manufacture. On that we are in agreement.
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