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Old 12th October 2019, 10:58 PM   #1
TVV
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Default A North African Yataghan

Time to play the yataghan ID game again. My guess is North Africa - while not a textbook Algerian example, there are quite a few features that make me lean that way:
- Small, trilobate years;
- The hilt material is from African fauna as opposed to Arctic fauna;
- The wooden scabbard encased in brass sheet has decoration that is not of any style associated with the Balkans;
- The scabbard chape looks like it was fashioned out of a thimble and is very similar to the scabbard chape on a flyssa I have;
- The addition of a baldric loop to the scabbard is also not something one would see on a Balkan yataghan scabbard.

This does not mean the yataghan was not made in the Balkans. In fact, it probably was, but with the intent to export it to North Africa, where it received its scabbard and maybe even its hilt.

Now you know what I think about it, but I am always interested in the opinion of the other members here.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 13th October 2019, 02:27 AM   #2
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I vaguely remember that Elgood mentioned Balkan masters exported blades. It ring true: the rest was much simpler and correctly ethnic.
I showed here once mine: agate handle ( one side lost) with small real gems and wootz blade. That one likely was done in N. Africa in toto.
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Old 13th October 2019, 02:49 AM   #3
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I remember that one Ariel, and it is an exceptional piece:

www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=4728

Your especially seems to support the theory, that in Algeria and Tunisia the yataghan was not just a weapon, but also a status symbol, reserved for the Ottoman descended elite. The flyssa is the Kabyle interpretation, and in my opinion, a not very good one based on the badly balanced, thick and generally poorly made blades.
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Old 13th October 2019, 03:24 AM   #4
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I think the handle is a later replacement, not sure when but I am confident that the original handle on this yatagan was a silver one. Sliver handles are prone to damage are easier to fall off than horn or ivory ones. Sometimes people would repacked them with whatever the regional taste was at the time. This one must have been replaced in North Africa as the style suggests. The scabbard also is a later addition to compete the restoration of the nice blade yatagan.
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Old 13th October 2019, 05:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I remember that one Ariel, and it is an exceptional piece:

www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=4728

Your especially seems to support the theory, that in Algeria and Tunisia the yataghan was not just a weapon, but also a status symbol, reserved for the Ottoman descended elite. The flyssa is the Kabyle interpretation, and in my opinion, a not very good one based on the badly balanced, thick and generally poorly made blades.


This is an exquisitely succinct assessment of the yataghan in Ottoman North Africa, and its Kabyle counterpart Teodor, and brings back memories of all the research and discussions here some years back.
Indeed what I learned from that was that the flyssa had become the symbolic weapon of a young Kabyle man's rite of passage, and that the yataghan itself was a much admired sword. While the Kabyle's were not subjugated by the Ottoman's in notable degree, the influences of the yataghan was distinctly present. As noted, the Ottoman focus on these swords in such capacity probably carried into the Kabyle communities.

It does not seem that any feasible explanation as to the manner of use of the flyssa was ever determined, and while illustrations of Kabyle's holding or wearing them exist, none show them in battle. In the actions by the French in 1850's apparently at least one was 'captured' (I found that one held in the Foreign Legion museum in France, date 1857 I believe) but that did not mean it was taken in battle. As often the case, these elaborate swords were probably found in the possessions of people in the communities after any action subsided along with other items considered souvenirs.

The terrible balance, inadequate hilt in most examples with these much oversize blades suggest the status orientation and such use. While the decoration on the blades carries collective theme of talismanic devices and Byzantine motif, there are personalized symbols added as well.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 14th October 2019 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 14th October 2019, 04:34 AM   #6
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Sfenoid and Jim, thank you for your comments. I agree that the hilt is very likely a replacement and of course, there is very little doubt the scabbard is. It is quite possible that originally the yataghan had silver mountings (or tin guilt with silver).

As for flyssas, I do think the shorter versions that are closer to yataghans in shape and size were most certainly intended to be functional weapons. They just were not as well made. Part of it was the skill level of the Kabyle smiths, and the other part was the attempt to make the flyssa into a cut and thrust weapon, sacrificing the excellent chopping characteristics of yataghans for the addition of a pointed tip and a more rigid blade.
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Old 14th October 2019, 09:49 AM   #7
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Teodor, that would make sense, that in the scope of the 'flyssa' as a type, there would be a degree of the weapon intended to have certain combat capability.
The examples which became a kind of personal status accoutrement of course tended to become more elaborately featured, especially the ones with the long, heavy and effectively unwieldy blades. It would be reasonable to expect that examples in the 'status' category would inspire such elaboration in the competitive sense that such personalization would bring.

While the flyssa itself of course remained an indiginous form within the Kabyle communities in Algerian regions, the yataghan of course, as a form, diffused widely in the Ottoman sphere and with localized variations.
In a sense, I wonder if technically, the 'flyssa' might be considered such a localized variation of yataghan, despite the notably extreme features of its character.

Naturally that notion would likely raise literal screams within the arms classification pundits community but given the ever debated possibility of the influences of the yataghan form in the development of the flyssa, it seems an interesting perspective.
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Old 14th October 2019, 11:05 AM   #8
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Years ago I bought this two yatagans (pls see picture enclosed) in Tunisian Djerba. Both of them have scabbard encased in a very thin brass sheat (I cleaned and repaired one of them also years ago, it is not too much nice ...). I am sure the brass cover of the sacabbards is of local Berber origin - you can see typical quarter foil motive (the Berbers have been living also in Libya and Tunisia - not only Morocco and Algeria; in Libya and Tunisia they differ Berbers living in the mountains and living on the sea coast ...). In the case of one of the yatagans you can see the remains of the metal handle (it may be silver ?), far-gone by the salty environs (I guess...).

Nevertheless as far as the thimble heel piece is concerned: They used to use the real thimble as a yatagan scabbard chape in Anatolia (especially T-shaped ordinary "village yatagans")
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Old 14th October 2019, 12:57 PM   #9
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I have a khodmi from Bou Saada that has a thimble as a chape Looks like a common solution.
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Old 14th October 2019, 02:32 PM   #10
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Martin,
The crenellated silver plates on the one with mitigated handle look Cretan to me.
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Old 14th October 2019, 04:05 PM   #11
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Ariel,
yes, it is that Cretan style. And scabbard is North African style ... Mediterranean See, or letīs say the whole area, is simply too small....
(e.g. one of my best qamas is comming from the Libyan Missurata - just because the garrison force during Ottoman times in the city was from Caucasus ...)
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Old 14th October 2019, 04:55 PM   #12
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Hi,
I know the use of a thimble as scabbard tip from Syria. Also the use of thin, decorated brass sheet over wooden core in the scabbard and the pattern of decoration could be Syrian. The lobed pommel design is a feature of Kurdish Jambiya-like daggers, as well as some straight, Kindjal type daggers made in Syria.
Not much to go on, I admit, but I tough that because the North African hypothesis is also not based on much, I could suggest an alternative.
If, as claimed in the original TTV post, the hilt would be made from African ivory, that would definitely point to a North African origin, but to me, it looks like high quality bone, similar to that used in Cretan and other Middle Eastern daggers.
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Old 15th October 2019, 05:20 AM   #13
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I do not think the hilt material is bone. I probably need to make better pictures.
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