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Old 2nd December 2006, 08:23 PM   #1
ariel
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Default Ancestors of modern sabers

Just ended.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...70595&rd=1&rd=1
If they are real (and I tend to believe they are), we can learn a lot from them!
I am not very much into so much rust and the price is rather "biting", but ... nice to look at them.
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Old 3rd December 2006, 07:02 AM   #2
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Hi, Ariel
Thanks for sharing this link. Quite a few of these are hitting the market as of late, I hear "on the street" that many are being excavated in and exported from Hungary. Those are attributed to the Avars, a nomadic warrior people of Asiatic origin who invaded Eastern Europe around the 9th cent. AD.

Although we have heard a lot of "bad news" from our colleagues in the European medieval sword field about the plethora of fakes coming out of Eastern Europe, I have examined a number of these Eurasian sabers (including the one in the Met) and am generally confident that most are indeeed "kosher" . For one thing, these blades to date have been a rather esoteric collecting field with limited appeal (as opposed to the long-standing immense interest in the swords of Western Europe's chivalric age), there has been little financial incentive to fake them.

Last summer I bought one from Czerny's (it was an unsold lot). Blade very similar to the longer one in the eBay sale, with the iron scabbard chape attached. I removed the chape, and found the blade to be in surprisingly good condition in most parts (other areas predictably corroded), with surfaces and contours in far better condition than the eBay specimens.
What interested me was the sleeve or "tunkou" at the forte (almost identical to later Chinese examples), and the prominent ridges or "shinogi" on both sides. I polished a portion of the blade and found it to be quite a decent example of lamellar construction. Gently flexing the blade reveals that it is quite resilient, and it rings clearly when struck (most reassuring to know that it isn't a hammered-down piece of wrought-iron fence post )
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Old 4th December 2006, 02:12 AM   #3
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Philip,
I believe the Avars were mostly gone by the 9th century AD, destroyed by Charlemagne in the early 9th century and their lands split between the Frankish Empire and the Bulgarian Khanate. They were a major presence in Eastern and Central Europe in the prior few centuries, but I do not think that they should get the credit for bringing the sabre to Europe. Based on archaological finds, the Magyars were the ones who brought the weapon from Asia. The Avars, and the Bulgars used the palash - a straight, single edged slashing weapon, similar to the sabre and perhaps its predecessor, but still not a sabre per se.
I do not know how many sabres have come to the market being recently found in Hungary, but keep in mind that in Bulgaria there have been about a dozen sabre finds, including fragments, for more than a century now. I know, Bulgaria is small, but so is Hungary. Also consider Hungarian laws, which I am pretty certain prohibit the export of antiquities, just as the laws of other Eastern European countries. This does not prove anything, but it makes me suspicious, as there is plenty of incentive for forgers to make good fakes - and believe me, there are some excellent craftsmen in Eastern Europe, who can make superb replicas.
Regards,
Teodor
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Old 5th December 2006, 04:05 AM   #4
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Teodor,
Thanks for the information. In my post, the Avar attribution is something given to the pieces which are now coming onto the marketplace in Western Europe; I wouldn't necessarily ID them as such, but you can look at the autumn 2005 catalog of Hermann Historica in Munich to see what I mean. I meant to say that dealers are calling them that, it's up to individual collectors and students to identify them properly. Sorry if I caused any confusion.

In my post I did not specifically give the credit to the Avars for bringing sabers to Europe, I am quite familiar with the Magyars. I trust that you have W. W. Arendt's article on these early sabers in an issue of ARCHAEOLOGICA HUNGARICA from the 1930s, and other literature pertaining to this material.
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Old 5th December 2006, 05:13 AM   #5
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Philip,
Thanks for pointing out Arendt's article to me - I have not read it but I will try to find it. My primary interest in this age lies not with the Magyars, but with the Bulgars (Danube and Volga) and the Avars (as far as these mixed with the Bulgars), and so it is Avar and especially Bulgar weapons that I have studied. This is why I found it necessary to point out that unless there are new archaeological discoveries, these two peoples do not seem to have known know the sabre, or at least to have used it as extensively as the Magyars did later. I am sorry if I created any confusion.
As for the attributions, I am sure we agree that auction houses should not be trusted completely. The sword pictured in Hermann-Historica's catalogue is interesting, but I would not call it a sabre, since it is not curved (and Hermann-Historica do not call it a sabre either). As for the dating, I hope one day there will be a realiable study which would be able to separate sabres into periods and cultures according to style (Bulgar sabres, once they were adopted were different from the Magyar ones, but this is a different topic). For now, I think that a dating needs to be attributed according to finds surrounding the sabre, such as pottery, jewelry, etc. One thing is certain - it is not Avar - the blade is too narrow and too long. Furthermore, the term Avarisch-Chasarisch is way too broad, just as the term Eurasian, and seems to be applied to any Steppe Peoples' weapon from the sixth century Avars to the 13th century Cumans.
This is a fascinating topic, which has not been studied enough. My knowledge is extremely limited, and I would love to learn as much as I can.
Regards,
Teodor
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Old 5th December 2006, 05:43 AM   #6
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Teodor,
You are right, more research is necessary in this field. Swords, backswords, and sabers of the various peoples which inhabited vast stretches of western Asia and eastern Europe during the middle ages have been recovered and studied by scholars of various nations, but what is needed is a comprhensive study that attempts to tie together all of these in an overall historical and ethnographic context.

You might find these works useful, included is the complete citation for Arendt's article.

W. Arendt, "Tuerkische Saebel aus den VIII-IX. Jahrhunderts", ARCHAEOLOGICA HUNGARICA 16, (1935). A very rare publication, I searched bookstores all over Budapest with no luck, I found a copy in the library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Anatolij Kirpicnikov, "Der sogenante Saebel Karls des Grossen", GLADIUS 10 (1972)

---, "Mittelaelterlicher Saebel mit einer armenischen Inschriften gefunden in subpolaren Ural", GLADIUS 10, (1972)

Yu. S. Khudyakov, VOORUZHENIYE YENISEYSKIKH KYRGYZOV: VI-XII vv, (Novosibirsk: Akademia Nauk SSSR, 1980
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