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Old 5th January 2022, 03:43 PM   #1
GePi
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Default An Afghan 'Shashka' for comment and help with translation

Hello,
I would like to present an Afghan Shashka (or Pseudoshashka if so inclined) I have recently acquired. It is quite a nice example with ivory grip scales, white metal bolsters with chased inscriptions and a nice Indian style blade with brass inlays.
I also would like to request some help with reading the inscriptions because I can only decipher the easy ones inlaid into the blade. Any other comments are of course also very welcome.

Due to the strange way pictures are sometimes sorted here, I will split them into several posts.
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Old 5th January 2022, 03:44 PM   #2
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The maker's cartouche to me reads amal-e mesr i.e. made in Egypt
I think it should rather read amal-e mesri, invoking the famous Mamluk swordsmith, but I really do not see an i at the end.

The cartouche on the other side is a bit hard too read, but I am sure it is the common'Nasrum Min allaahi Wa Fathun Qareeb' i.e. help from god and a speedy victory.
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Old 5th January 2022, 03:45 PM   #3
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The inscriptions on the bolsters on the other hand far surpass my meager language skills, and I would gladly appreciate help by any capable forum members.
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Old 5th January 2022, 11:57 PM   #4
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A very nice one!
Typical Afghani pseudo- shashka ( using Lebedynsky's careful definition).
Interesting that the blade has " indian ricasso". A lot of higher class Afghani blades were imported from India, so there is a pretty high possibility that this one was also Indian, likely NW part of it, Mughal territory. Elephant ivory also hints at Indian origin.


Why not "shashka"?

Because the prevailing " pro-Shashka" opinion is based on 2 assumptions:
1. Most available swords of that constructions can be attributed to the 19th century at the earliest.
2. Their presence in Afghanistan is attributed to the Russian Army ( cossacks)

There are some problems with it: Russian army went into Central Asian khanates only after ~1860. And, more importantly, they had military contacts with the Afghanis only in 20 century. Any attempt to rely on the writings of the 19 century Russian officers universally calling them "shashkas" is fruitless and frankly somewhat comical: of course, Russian officers, not being weapon historians, used the same word for them that reminded them of the official Russian name for Caucasian and by that time regulation Russian sabers for lower ranks.

However, similar guardless sabers were depicted in the manuscript about Nader Shah's war with the Afghans. And it seems that both sides were using them. Old Western Georgian churches ( 17 century) have frescoes of the financial donors, and they all carry shashkas. Caucasian warriors served prominently in Persian military as early as under Shah Abbas I, and went to Afghanistan several times under him and later, under Nader Shah. Could it be that the Afghans were so enthralled by the Caucasian guardless sabers that they adopted them? Possible.

But whether shashka-like sabers might have been influenced by the Georgian examples, the locals never called them by that name. British Lord Elphinstone traveled in Afghanistan in the very beginning of 19 century and mentioned the presence of guardless sabers that locally were called "shumsheers".

Importantly, the Afghani pattern has a feature clearly distinguishing it from the Caucasian example: the bolster, a typical feature of the purely Afghani weapon "selavah" ( what was called by the Brits a " Khyber knife").

The other feature, the "ears", was also used to tie the Afghani example with Caucasian and Russian shashkas. But the same feature can be seen on Afghani Ch'hurras, close relatives of the " selavah", and there the ears are not as big simply due to the smaller size of the Ch'hurra, a stabbing dagger.It is simply the result of using 2 separate pieces of materiel ( wood, horn, ivory) to cover the tang. The same “Earred” feature is an indelible mark of Ottoman yataghans, and Afghanistan and the Ottoman Empire enjoyes significant religios, cultural and trade relations.

Thus, in the most charitable way, the Afghani saber was a mix of a curved blade ( potentially reminding us of Caucasian shashkas but equally applicable to any existing saber, be it Indian, Arab, Turkish Persian or European) and purely Afghani handle.

But what about the lack of the handguard? Well, not only Caucasian shashkas were guardless, but also a bunch of weapons from other cultures. Turkish yataghan is just one example, but also a multitude of weapons from India. As a matter of fact, the Afghani selavah is also guardless.

This is why Lebedynsky, a professional weapon researcher, was very careful to name the Afghani guardless swords as "pseudo-shashkas". He justifiably preferred to warn his readers that they had much more complex and uncertain parentage.

It would be very interesting to talk to a bunch of old Afghanis and to spend days upon days in Afghani archives for the genuinely real local name. After all, the very word " research" is "re-search", "to search anew", to expand on a casual remark by Lord Elphinstone.

Regretfully, such an endeavor is impossible for obvious reasons now or in the foreseeable future .

Thus, for now it still remains a "pseudo-shashka".....

Last edited by ariel; 6th January 2022 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 10th January 2022, 06:55 AM   #5
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Congratulations, GePi!

An excellent shashka.
Discussions about name of this weapon, in my opinion, are somewhat meaningless. Pseudo - a particle that is put in front of some words and gives them the meaning of falsity, falsity. If such a SHASHKA were an imitation of the Russian (Caucasian) one, then with great assumptions the name "pseudoshashka" could be used. But since this weapon originated in Afghanistan completely independently of the Russian (Caucasian) models, it makes no sense to use the "pseudo" particle. We see a shashka in front of us, and since these shashkas were used and produced in Afghanistan, it is logical to call it an Afghan shashka.
For those who are not in the know or have not read my book, let me remind you that such shashkas in Afghanistan were called "shamshir", like any weapon with a long blade The Afghans were not smart about the name of the weapon .

Last edited by mahratt; 10th January 2022 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 10th January 2022, 09:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt View Post
Congratulations, GePi!

An excellent shashka.
Discussions about name of this weapon, in my opinion, are somewhat meaningless. Pseudo - a particle that is put in front of some words and gives them the meaning of falsity, falsity. If such a checker were an imitation of the Russian (Caucasian) one, then with great assumptions the name "pseudoshashka" could be used. But since this weapon originated in Afghanistan completely independently of the Russian (Caucasian) models, it makes no sense to use the "pseudo" particle. We see a shashka in front of us, and since these shashkas were used and produced in Afghanistan, it is logical to call it an Afghan shashka.
For those who are not in the know or have not read my book, let me remind you that such shashkas in Afghanistan were called "shamshir", like any weapon with a long blade The Afghans were not smart about the name of the weapon .
Please watch your Google Translator: “shashka” is not translated as “ checker”.

Checker is a nonexistent singular of English “ checkers”, a board game that in Russian is called “ shashki”. Machine translation is brainless:-)

But I am glad you have changed your position : you used to trace the appearance of Afghan pseudo-shashka to the Russians who brought this pattern to Afghanistan and defended it in your book. Of course, it is not a shashka. Glad you finally agree. I know full well Elphinstone quote about “ shumsheers”: if you read my earlier post, you will find it.

There is nothing bad in the word “pseudo” : Lebedynsky just indicated that the Afghan example had very little ( and questionably not at all ) with the Caucasian one.

I understand that you are trying to re-publish it in English. Glad we are beginning to agree and that you are beginning to accept my critiques in a positive, useful and constructive way.

With best wishes,

Good luck!

P.S. I understand you are collecting materials for a book on Central-Asian weapons. If you wish, I shall be ready to go over the preliminary draft and express my opinion. I also have several interesting examples of these weapons and shall be glad to provide you with photos and descriptions. Hopefully, they will make the future book more comprehensive. Let me know.

Again, good luck!

Last edited by Ian; 13th January 2022 at 04:58 PM. Reason: Removal of past grievances and criticisms already expressed elsewhere
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Old 10th January 2022, 05:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel View Post
Please watch your Google Translator: “shashka” is not translated as “ checker”.

Checker is a nonexistent singular of English “ checkers”, a board game that in Russian is called “ shashki”. Machine translation is brainless:-)

But I am glad you have changed your position : you used to trace the appearance of Afghan pseudo-shashka to the Russians who brought this pattern to Afghanistan and defended it in your book. Of course, it is not a shashka. Glad you finally agree. I know full well Elphinstone quote about “ shumsheers”: if you read my earlier post, you will find it. And it was in my review of your book.

There is nothing bad in the word “pseudo” : Lebedynsky just indicated that the Afghan example had very little ( and questionably not at all ) with the Caucasian one.

Glad we are beginning to agree and that you are beginning to accept my critiques in a positive, useful and constructive way.

With best wishes,

Good luck!

P.S. I understand you are collecting materials for a book on Central-Asian weapons. If you wish, I shall be ready to go over the preliminary draft and express my opinion. I also have several interesting examples of these weapons and shall be glad to provide you with photos and descriptions. Hopefully, they will make the future book more comprehensive. Let me know.

Again, good luck!
(Reply redacted by Moderators)

Last edited by Ian; 13th January 2022 at 05:03 PM. Reason: Removal of abusive response
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Old 11th January 2022, 07:13 AM   #8
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Exclamation Thread closed pending Moderator review ...

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Old 13th January 2022, 05:08 PM   #9
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Exclamation Thread reopened ...

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Old 15th January 2022, 01:51 AM   #10
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Default Nice sword!

Nice and very functional blade, (I'm big on functionality) that I'm sure works very well for the work it was intended to do. I'll bet you can clear the line at the supermarket quickly with that. The handle is lovely too, with a beautiful patina that shows some age. The calligraphy is nice too. I like it. Looking again I noticed another nice detail, what looks like a false edge near the point.
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Old 16th January 2022, 02:58 PM   #11
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Thank you for opening up the thread again Ian. I will not comment any further on that absurd nomenclature derail.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Montino Bourbon View Post
Nice and very functional blade, (I'm big on functionality) that I'm sure works very well for the work it was intended to do. I'll bet you can clear the line at the supermarket quickly with that. The handle is lovely too, with a beautiful patina that shows some age. The calligraphy is nice too. I like it. Looking again I noticed another nice detail, what looks like a false edge near the point.
It sure does have a false edge, not sharpened though. As said above said the whole blade has a very Indian feel and would feel right at home mounted in a tulwar hilt.

It may be well be wootz, but due to a feature I forgot to show I will not refinish it. It has some geometric decoration at the forte, either applied via (negative) etching or through polishing, I am not sure, very similar to an example from the Ashokaarts archive. It's crude, but of course it has to stay.
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Old 16th January 2022, 03:13 PM   #12
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As for the translation, Dmitry was kind enough to forward my request and received the following transcriptions.

The inscription on the front side bolster:

نادي علياً مظهر العجائب تجده عونا لك في النوائب

Which google translate gave as:
"Call upon Ali, the manifestation of wonders, and you will find him to help you in calamities"

The upper part of the obverse bolster:

كل هم وغم سينجلي بعظمتك ياالله

Which google translates as:
"All worry and sorrow will be cleared by your greatness, O God"

The lower part here is still missing, unfortunately. Anyone proficient in Arabic able to confirm these readings?
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Old 17th January 2022, 08:54 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GePi View Post
As for the translation, Dmitry was kind enough to forward my request and received the following transcriptions.

The inscription on the front side bolster:

نادي علياً مظهر العجائب تجده عونا لك في النوائب

Which google translate gave as:
"Call upon Ali, the manifestation of wonders, and you will find him to help you in calamities"

The upper part of the obverse bolster:

كل هم وغم سينجلي بعظمتك ياالله

Which google translates as:
"All worry and sorrow will be cleared by your greatness, O God"

The lower part here is still missing, unfortunately. Anyone proficient in Arabic able to confirm these readings?
Good end to the discussion.
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Old 18th February 2022, 03:44 PM   #14
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Just to complete the reading already given of the Nadi 'Ali quatrain as it is found on this piece:

SIDE A

ناد علیا مظیر العجائب
تجده عونا لك في النوائب

SIDE B

كل هم وغم سينجلي بعمظمتك يا الله
[بنبوتك يا محمد بولايتك [يا علي


"Call upon Ali, the manifestation of wonders, you will find him a help in hardships/
All worry and sorrow will be dispelled, by your greatness O God,
By your prophethood O Muhammad, by your trusteeship [O 'Ali!]"

For some reason, the final words "O Ali" appear to be missing, or at least I cannot see them. Presumably not enough room on the bolster
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Old 20th February 2022, 09:13 AM   #15
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Thanks a lot, kwiatek!
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