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Old 14th February 2005, 11:23 PM   #1
erlikhan
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Default Turkish?Georgian? Polish? Shamshir

I recently acquired this shamshir from one of the most luxurious antiquities auctions here, for an unbelievable price! ( around the total of two pcs. silver scabbarded average kindjals with good condition) . And furthermore, I acquired a long and heavy, silver mounted shashka and a good American marine sword in the same lot included in this price too. Shamshir was so heavily patinated that I am sure most thought the mountings were iron, and looked unattractive to high society customers, but in fact they are all high grade silver, including scabbard mountings, even the hanging loops, all cross guard,wires and grip strap. I've only cleaned a little part of it yet. Grips are ivory. Blade is 90 cm. Confusing point , is the gold koftgari on both sides. What alphabet and language are they? Any suggestions? Seems partially as latin, partially as Kril, or anything else?? On the locket and grip strap, there are also Islamic inscriptions,which I have no idea if are Turkish, Persian or anything else.

http://www.pbase.com/erlik29/inbox
can you pls check the pics and any opinions?

Last edited by erlikhan : 15th February 2005 at 12:42 AM.
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Old 14th February 2005, 11:42 PM   #2
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That is a simply magnificent piece!
Congratulations is about the only thing I can say.
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Old 14th February 2005, 11:52 PM   #3
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It seems Latin to me.

TNGAINES SIN NONO ? the rest is concealed.
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Old 15th February 2005, 12:57 AM   #4
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Well, i dont know if that means anything in Latin, but looks like a hopeful approach to read the letters. First two letters are concealed under the guard and first is a M for sure, the 2nd perhaps a R? . On the other face, first two concealed letters are M and R? too.
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Old 15th February 2005, 01:34 AM   #5
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Hi Erlikhan,

Great find! That silver when polished will look great. Looks like a Syrian scabbard and guard with an Ottoman hilt (and hilt strap) with eastern European blade. Our Transylvanian-American friend may be able to help you with the translation.

Nice find I wish I could find an auction like that here.

Jeff
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Old 15th February 2005, 03:10 AM   #6
Jim McDougall
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Erlikhan,
My first inclination when looking at the beautiful sabre was that it was possibly associated with the award sabres often presented to Georgian nobles by Russia during the 19th c. as the heavily inlaid gold panel suggested. I checked a book on this ("Russian Award Weapons 18th-20th c.", Moscow, 1994) which is in Russian text, and while similarities occur, nothing for sure. The quillon terminals seem similar to Russian mameluke type sabres (klitch)of the late 19th c. for Cossack sotnias, but again nothing definite.

The scabbard and mounts do have certain Arabian appearance as Jeff has noted. The wire wrap around the base of the grip seems to be a Persian, Northern India characteristic, which is also seen on Arabian sabres. Also the scabbard throat with inset to receive langet and the agrab (device below the langet slide) seems similar to some swords made in India for export to Arabia. The Ottoman hilt in ivory seems unusual as these are more common in dark horn.

At first I thought the panel inscription may be Georgian as the form although very stylized seemed to resemble some of the letters. Then the more I look at the panel, which as discussed seems to have a Latin theme, I began to think I see a familiar phrase. We can only see one side of the blade, but could the familiar 'Spanish motto' be in these seemingly stylized letters?
" NO NE ENVAINES SIN HONOR"
Is there the same type panel on the opposite side?

Truly a puzzling sabre, which whatever it may be is a fantastic example, even more so if that particular motto is what I am seeing there.

As always, just putting observations on the table for evaluation.

Best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 15th February 2005 at 03:23 AM.
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Old 15th February 2005, 04:19 AM   #7
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Hi Jim,

I am less convinced of the Russian atributes of the quillion terminals. See Elgood's Arms and Armour of Arabia on Pg. 27 for a near identical guard and terminals. Also the Lord Athlone sword on Pg. 24 picture 2.21 has again this style although in gold.
I think there is a lot I can learn from this piece so please lets keep the discussion going.

All the best.
Jeff
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Old 15th February 2005, 09:07 AM   #8
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Thanks for all contributions till now and in advance for furthers from all.
Sorry. I was sure I showed both sides, but i'm afraid i have uploaded the same side twice instead of the other one . it is corrected now. But I am almost sure the first letter on both sides is a "M". you can see the other side too. If that's Latin, can be related to Spain, but how? Or it could show any relation with Poland as a catholic country,with lands till Black Sea in past?

Last edited by erlikhan : 15th February 2005 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 15th February 2005, 10:35 AM   #9
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As usual, Jim is right on this one...

The inscription on both sides of the blade is, indeed, the old Spanish motto that can be found (with orthographic variations) in a wide variety of blades from the 16th c. onwards: "NO ME SAQUES SIN RAZÓN / NO ME ENVAINES SIN HONOR" ("Draw me not without reason / Sheath me not without honour").
Now, what the #@$%&! is it doing in such a blade, is anybody's guess...

Not the calligraphy nor the style of the koftgari decoration is Spanish, as far as I can tell. Can anyone tell us something about the decoration style? Or maybe about the letters? I think the key of the place of origin of the blade is there.
I must say that the only reason that I can now think for the presence of this inscription would be that it is there to convey both the quality connotations associated to Spanish (Toledo) blades and to add the additional "exotic" value of a piece made in foreign lands ("exotic" being a term absolutely dependant on the location of its user... as it is "Ethnographic", put to think about it... )

Interesting find, indeed.
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Old 15th February 2005, 11:12 AM   #10
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Great. So it is not Latin but Spanish. Would guess a link to north Africa, but the style is unrelated . 2-3 cms of koftgari is concealed deep under the guard. Is it not a bit odd? The swordsmith or the owner orders it to an artist, and gives a lot of money, and the artist applies his art, to stay hidden and not seen?? Not a waste ? Can the hilt be a later production to reuse a blade with broken hilt?
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Old 15th February 2005, 11:27 PM   #11
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Thank you for confirming that Marc! I was pretty sure I could see the motto, but the gold calligraphy in so heavy it was hard to make out.
As occurs in trade blades in most of the centers, marketability is key, and that so termed 'Spanish motto' is copied in variation in Italy and France as well as Spain, however it is generally attributed to Spanish origin (noted in "The Smallsword in England" John Aylward, 1945, p.43).
I would suspect this blade to possibly have Caucasian origins, as the style of calligraphy and the large lettering that covers the entire blade panel resembles the award sabre examples I noted and many of the letter shapes have similarities to alphabets such as Mkhedruli (Georgian). While the motto is in interpretive styling of Latin, the lettering seems to reflect some of the letters of that alphabet.
I have seen many trade blades carrying mottos and names that simulate original examples of these from the countries or regions of origin, that are not accurately translatable. It is much like the 'thuluth' inscriptions on the Sudanese weapons, intended to carry stylized effect .

As for the mounts and hilt on this sabre, I am inclined to agree with Jeff, that Syria may be a likely point of furbishing where the blade and this hilt may have been put together. This location was key for mounting sabres intended for the Arabian market. It seems that the wire wrapped hilt (note the Syrian sabre in my avatar which has the wire wrap on the grip) and again the 'agrab' on scabbard throat suggest this. The pistol grip Ottoman hilt to me seems very unusual, but still well placed with appealing to Arabian chiefs and ranking tribal members seeking individuality in their personal sabres.

Again, speculation based on the comprehensive elements of the sabre, but with what seem to be plausible observations. With this being a trade blade from Caucasian regions, which often went to Syrian ateliers, this would explain the obvious mismatch in the hilt covering part of the guard.

Really is a beauty of a sabre!!!

Best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 15th February 2005 at 11:37 PM.
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Old 16th February 2005, 02:51 AM   #12
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Great call Jim on the blade! I would never have guessed a Spanish motto. The style looks Eastern European / Caucasian to me, and was thinking of Romania with its Latin based language. I had to reread Elgood today, and he confirms your observation of Caucasian smiths copying trade marks and inscriptions.
Now to explain the hilt? I wonder if the sword was booty taken by a Turkish officer during the Arabian / Syrian campaigns (WWI), then mounted with a Turkish hilt. Perhaps the inscription on the grip band may help.
I will have to rewatch Lawrence of Arabia again this weekend!

All the best
Jeff
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Old 16th February 2005, 07:25 PM   #13
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i am confused more. today i left the saber to an antique weapons master. He will remove rust, clean the blade and silver, small repairs to the leather professionaly. He says, everything on the sword is original, produced together, not any replacement and nothing with style of floral decoration around the letters and scabbard mountings being unfamiliar to Turkish, especially Turcoman swords (partially eastern Turkey,northern Iraq and Iran till Caspian sea). I wonder about the inscription on the grip strap more now. There is one more hand writing on the scabbard mounting too. I can issue it later when the saber returns. i guess, Spanish insc. can possibly mean a Jewish owner ordering it to workshops for himself, as most of Jews in Turkey had migrated from Spain in past and they still talk a dialect densely mixed with Spanish.Who knows?

i uploaded pics. of the shashka and American sword too ,which i won in the same lot with the saber.
http://www.pbase.com/erlik29/inbox

may i learn your comments especially about the American? Is it original army item? it says Zupco-Spain on one face, and there is a David's star writing "proved" in the star, on the other face. blade 79 cm.

regards

Last edited by erlikhan : 16th February 2005 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 16th February 2005, 08:14 PM   #14
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Eirkhan, I think that shashka is "gurda" - I think I see the "jaws". I've seen these guys getting 1000$-2000$ or so... The sword - is not it a USMC Mamluk sword ?

Last edited by Rivkin : 16th February 2005 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 16th February 2005, 08:28 PM   #15
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Rivkin, if you mean the dot and curve stamps on the blade by "jaws", right. I don't know the specialities of "gurda". Can you pls tell more ? But i can say the price level is same here.
"United States Marines" writes on the American.
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Old 16th February 2005, 08:46 PM   #16
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Google strikes again !
http://www.marines.com/about_marines/thesword.asp
History of the US Marine mameluke sword .
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Old 16th February 2005, 08:49 PM   #17
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Gurda is what is considered to be the highest grade of shashka. There are two theories concerning the origin:
1. It is a perverted Genoese symbolics of two toothsaw-like arches.
2. It is similar to german Eisenhauer - something that can chop iron, as jaws chop food.

Gurda therefore is either a perferted Genoa or it's from a chechen "Gurda" - "look", supposedly this used to be said before doing something distinguishing.

Gurda can be recongized by the symbol of two arches with small lines ("teeth") running perpendicular to them.

The american sword is probably a vintage US Marine core Officer sword.
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Old 16th February 2005, 09:20 PM   #18
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Thanks for the info. Can't have much age. Not real ivory. Plastic. There are both types on ebay at the moment. Ivory hilt on ww2 Marine. i guess not long after ww2 they started to use plastic instead of ivory, right?
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Old 16th February 2005, 10:50 PM   #19
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Well, that's _the_ reason I don't collect shashkas - overblown, speculative market for some modern things with "jaws" or "wolves" on them, going for the price of a good XVII century sword.
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Old 16th February 2005, 11:27 PM   #20
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hmm.there is no problem with shashka or -gurda. Everything including the stamps is old. I meant the marine sword as "new", not shashka. It has date "1321" - 1905 on the scabbard and Islamic inscriptions
regards
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Old 17th February 2005, 12:07 AM   #21
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Fugh, sorry I was a little bit hasty - well, yes, it's understood that the marine sword is a new one.
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Old 18th February 2005, 12:36 AM   #22
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Jeff,
Thank you! Good observations as noted in Elgood's book, those quillon terminals are very similar, also the wire wrap around grip base over the vertical langet is as noted an Arabian favored characteristic on many of these sabres.

Erlikhan:
The pistol grip Ottoman hilt in ivory is very unusual, and I think it is important to note that the Arabs typically favored Persian shamshir hilts, which were of course usually ivory. Much of the Arabian littoral was under Ottoman suzerainty and it would not seem unusual that an Ottoman hilt in the material of favor, ivory, might be custom made for a notable individual in those regions, most likely the western from Syria, the Hijaz and as far as Yemen.

The 'Spanish motto' on the blade has nothing to do with special application to Spaniards in this case, it is simply a favored motto that found use on many trade blades of quality, and as previously noted, appears on trade blades in stylized form to suggest quality, and nothing to do with the nationality etc. of the user of the sword it is mounted in. As I mentioned, these blades came out of the Caucusian areas, or even with Armenian swordsmiths in Transcaucasian regions (the lettering style of Armenian in many ways resembles Georgian, used to transliterate the Latin phrase).
Going to Syria for hilting to export into Arabia is most likely, and the Ottoman style hilt has nothing necessarily do do with Turkey as noted these regions of Arabia were only nominally under Ottoman (Turkish) control.
In reviewing Elgood (op.cit.) on page 23 (fig.2.19) there is an Arabian sa'if which has similar 'agrab' feature as yours on the scabbard locket. On page 62, discussing conflicts c.1917, Elgood notes,"...Ibn Sa'ud was about to settle old scores with his great rivals, the Al Rashid of Ha'il who were pro-Turkey". Could this pro Turkish tribe of Ha'il (located due NE of Hijaz and NW of Nejd, south of Syria) be one likely candidate for such an Ottoman styled weapon?

Rivkin,
That is a very well stated description of the 'gurda' term, and this appears to be a very nice example of in my opinion a Daghestani shashka (it is often very hard to distinguish between Daghestani and Chechen). The blade however does appear a very good quality Chechen blade. You are being quite conservative in the estimate on these shashkas, I've seen them go for a lot more!

Erlikhan, the USMC sabre is of course 20th century, and likely somewhat recent, however these sabres are very revered by their owners. Recently one was found at a garage sale, and found its way back to its original owner, having been stolen nearly 20 years ago. The officer had served in Viet Nam and was elated to get his sword back. In 2003, I was asked by a former Marine officer about the history of these so called 'mameluke' sabres, and the subsequent research resulted in my article which was published in the "Marine Corps Gazette" online magazine. While not necessarily 'old' , these sabres are proud examples of the true tradition of the sword which is carried forth to this day. I have tried to relocate the article online but haven't been able to (November 2003 issue under byline James E. McDougall), but if you're interested in a copy contact me PM and I'll send one.

You really hit the jackpot with these swords!!! Congratulations!
All the best,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 18th February 2005 at 01:44 AM.
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Old 18th February 2005, 02:26 AM   #23
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Jim, do you own the rights to that article? If so, perhaps we could persuade Lee to host it on the reference page.
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Old 19th February 2005, 03:32 AM   #24
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Hi Jim and Erlikhan,

To further the discussion of this saber, in the King Faisal Foundation Book Weapons of the Islamic World Swords and Armour they describe this scabbard pattern as "Jofi" style Pg 67.

Jeff
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Old 19th February 2005, 03:47 PM   #25
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Dear Jim McDougall,

Ugh, you make me feel bad. Not so long ago a khevsurian acquitance of mine said that he can sell a very nice gurda khevsurian palash for 1600$, for which I (ignorant of prices as always) said "vai, how expensive".

I do believe that the prices on shashkas are outrageous, and I place all the blame personally on Pushkin and Lermontov, especially when it comes to the famed gurda .

I don't know but why good 19th century sabre should cost way more than quality 17th century broadsword ?

I'm sorry if I'm not getting something.

Sincerely yours,

K.Rivkin
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Old 19th February 2005, 03:50 PM   #26
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It's interesting that NO ME SAQUES SIN RAZÓN / NO ME ENVAINES SIN HONOR has a cuacasian counterpart "don't unsheath without reason, don't sheath without blood". Circassians and Chechens are constantly in a fight concerning who actually invented it, but it used to be a very popular motto.
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Old 20th February 2005, 01:47 AM   #27
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Hi Rivkin,
I'm sorry! Did not mean to make you feel bad!
I think with certain weapon forms, as always, it's what the market will bear.
Here in the west, it is very difficult to obtain good Caucasian weapons, and their very exotic nature leads to quite exorbitant prices. It has been of course even more exacerbated by ebay and auction prices which have greatly inflated prices.
The paraphrasing of the so called Spanish motto is not at all surprising in the Caucusus, as trade centers there occasionally received European trade blades which bore this motto, most typically in Latin. It is of course, a very well said phrase which succinctly captures both patriotism and honor in whichever language it is used. As previously noted and referenced it is typically attributed to Spanish provenance by early arms & armour writers, and travelled quickly through armourers in Spanish, French and Italian provinces who in the period suggested for its origin, were closely linked via the Bourbon sphere.

I am happy that there is a distinct awareness becoming popular in the extremely important history of the Caucusus, however this is also key in the increasing demand and rising prices of these magnificent weapons.

All the best
Jim
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Old 20th February 2005, 02:05 AM   #28
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Hi Jeff,
Outstanding! Thank you for that reference. I hadn't heard that term used for this scabbard before.

Andrew,
Actually the U.S. Marine Corps owns the article now, however I have contacted them to check on possibilities. Thank you very much for the suggestion!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 20th February 2005, 03:21 AM   #29
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Dear Jim McDougall,

I was just kidding.

My preception of the market is a little bit different - these swords are actually _very_ hard to find in Caucasus itself - years of wars, gun control and selling abroad took their toll. The reason these guys tend to be so damn expensive in my opinion is that Tsar used to send all the duelists (including famous poets like Lermontov) to Caucasus as a punishment. Naturally, after a few days there they would would start writing poems about gurdas, bulat kindjals and other local trinkets.

So I would guess in all ex-USSR it's pretty much a semi-fetish item that connects people to the glorious XIX century.

I'm sorry if I insulted anybody,

K.Rivkin
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Old 20th February 2005, 09:50 AM   #30
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Many thanks for all valuable info friends. So, that Spanish motto is just something popular of its age . Like a lady wearing t-shirt with Marylin Monroe pic. doesn't necessarily mean she is American,or a guy with Che not a guerilla. But still the letter style makes suggestions weigh through western Caucassia. Ok. Its still in repair and the master told, the wires were later addition as a repair, due to a broken hilt or cross guards. The writing on the grip strap is cut from the beginning or lies under the wires, and the ivory has been nailed too close to the wires. If it was original, they would not do like that, to avoid a crack with too short distance of safety to the edge. The ivory must be cut and wrapped just for repair. Turkish style hilt could be used by anybody in Arabia, as it is more a matter of personal esthetical preferences and money than political sides. It will probably be solved when the inscriptions on the hilt and scabbard are read.
About the gurda, I am spending effort, and trying to remember which stores here have shashkas with "jaws". Lol. I saw at least 5-10 anywhere quiet recently, and didn't care more than any other stamps. I am sure they are not more expensive than other shashkas here.
Jim, thanks for your offer. I sent you pm.
best regards
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