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Old 17th January 2007, 08:40 PM   #1
Emanuel
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Default About the Dussäge

Hello,
Today, while visiting the Royal Ontario Museum, I came across an interesting sabre/cutlass which was labelled as a Norwegian Dussäge with a German blade, from the the 1600s. The thing is, it looked like a kilij with basket hilt...it had a decent curve and the yelman. Didn't have a camera to take pictures unfortunately.
Is this common for these swords? Could anyone provide more info and pictures of actual Dussäge?

Thanks,
Emanuel
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Old 18th January 2007, 01:24 AM   #2
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Closest thing I could find in Stone is "Dusack, Dussack: of Hungarian or Behemian origin...soon adopted throughout Germany by the middle and lower classes as an excellent weapon...single piece of iron, one part of which was fashioned into a cutlass blade..."
This sounds like it, but no pictures...
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Old 18th January 2007, 02:18 AM   #3
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A quick google search turns up a lot about the dussack - apparently also known as dusägge - but none of the pics and woodcuts so far look anything like the kilij I saw the my museum Maybe this is the same old error of labelling ottoman/islamic swords as miscelaneous scimitars...
Any comments/pics would be most appreciated
Emanuel
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Old 18th January 2007, 09:54 AM   #4
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I know the one you mean. It’s beautiful.

"Dussack", "Dussäge"... is quite used, generically, to describe short, curved swords of centre-north European origin from about 15th - 18th c., as well as the training instruments utilised to learn its use.. Many featured a yelman of sorts, and can be related to what later was known as a "cutlass". To find pieces similar to the one you saw, though, you may have better luck searching for "Sinclair Sabre" or Saber. This is how many of those were labelled by the XIX c. collectors/academics due to a spurious history that linked the spread of those in Europe to a Scottish mercenary and his men, who were allegedly defeated in an ambush in Norway. The story goes saying that from the basket-hilts that were taken as spoils of that battle by the victors, this typology emerged. The anecdote is indeed spurious, as are many of the early typological justifications put forth with dismaying easiness by quite a number of those who studied Arms and armour in the 19th. c., but the name, as so many others, stuck, and have survived up to our days, for the desperation of some.

Of course, if one wants to keep a bit of seriousness in the study, has to know the facts and discard the adornments, but, in this case, as many others, I can't help but thinking that, as the Italians say, "se non è vero, è ben trovato" (loosely, "Even if it's not true, it is well conceived").

A couple pics, from around the web:



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Old 18th January 2007, 02:04 PM   #5
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Hello Mark,
The dussäge at the museum was indeed also described as a "SInclair Sword" and a short synopsys was given about his ficticious incursion through Norway into Sweden.
Thanks for the pics, the second/bottom one is closest to what I saw, but still not the same. The one at the ROM was much more curved and the yelman was very well defined. The blade was somewhat narrower as well, and -not too sure- but it seemed a bit thin as well.
I will go again in June and take pictures to post.
Emanuel
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Old 18th January 2007, 10:14 PM   #6
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Something like this?
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Old 19th January 2007, 01:05 AM   #7
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Beautifully written and outstanding information Marc!!!
Joe, fantastic example!
Now here lies the true origins of the Scottish basket hilt, and interestingly there are examples with curved blades, usually termed 'turcael' referring to the curved Turkish blades often seen by Highlander mercenaries in Eastern Europe. Naturally there remains considerable debate on the basket hilt origin issue, but the highly developed hilts on the guards of the so called 'Sinclair' sabres from Northern Europe seem the most plausible ancestor in my opinion.

From what I understand , the term dusagge (dusack) although originally applied to very pedestrian peasant swords, and training swords.As fencing with these developed, the term began to be applied to various heavy, short sabres and as noted cutlasses.

It would appear that terminology applied locally to certain weapons can often be expanded colloquially to a wider range of similar type weapons as the terms diffuse via trade, transliteration and travellers. Because of this it can often become maddening to try to categorize a particular weapon to a specific term as the same weapon may be referred to by very different terms in various places where found. I hope I said that right !

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 19th January 2007, 02:48 AM   #8
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Good one Joe!
It looks just like what I saw. Jim, the turcael would most certainly be kilij sabres no? If so this presents a clear path in my mind of the way in which Islamic and Persian curved sabres became the unidentified scimitar of western European literature and art. I always wanted to see actual examples being seen and eventually duplicated by Europeans...before Napoleon and Brits popularized Mamluk sabres, and eastern European Hussars and misc cavalry units introduced their own forms.

It's quite amazing to see this kilif form being adopted and further adapted to European uses and shapes.

Many thanks all of you!
Emanuel
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Old 19th January 2007, 03:42 AM   #9
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Hi Emanuel,
The term 'turcael' was of course a Gaelic derived term as noted, thus used in description for 'curved blade' in Scotland, from what I understand. The term 'kilij' is primarily a general term for sabre as applied in Turkish regions.

The term 'scimitar' is a general term, as you note, used in literature to describe curved sabres, typically referring to Islamic forms, and does not specifically refer to an exact weapon. This term apparantly derived from a transliteration and is generally thought to have applied to the shamshir.

The sabres of the nomadic steppes tribes, the Turks, and of course Muslim forces in general, have certainly influenced the development of these forms in the west. During the crusades, various forms of falchion arose in France and England, and during the 15th-16th centuries the sabre developed in Eastern Europe from the sabres of the Turks. By the 18th century, sabres and flamboyant uniforms of cavalry in Western Europe derived from those of Eastern Europe.

It is interesting to see English sabres of late 18th and early 19th century that show influence of the fully parabolic curve of the shamshir and the use of the yelman at the point of the blade from Turkish kilij and the Polish/Hungarian sabres. Similar applications are seen in French and German sabres, and as you have noted, the influence of the Mamluk sabres from the Egyptian campaigns.

There has been a great deal written about the development of the sabre, which is a matter of considerable contention, but the views I have noted here as I understand seem to be generally accepted. I very much agree that it is fascinating to see the developing influences in these weapons, which reflect the development of history itself through the centuries and many cultures.

Your observations are right on target!!! and I like the way you think!
Careful or you'll get obsessed by this stuff like me

All the best,
Jim
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Old 19th January 2007, 06:26 AM   #10
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Personally Jim, I've always viewed the origin for the raised back-ridge on Western single-edged swords as being a combination of independent specialization, and popularization of the Turkish (and surrounding regions') sword-making styles. Which may explain why the yelman was sharpened, but most dorsal ridges on Western European swords were not.

But then, who knows?

Anyway, here's a little food for thought: attached are a few images, showing the "Eastern concepts" on European swords.

The first is Polish 18th(?) century.
The second is German dated to 1550.
And the third is an English "scimitar" from the 19th century.
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Old 20th January 2007, 11:20 PM   #11
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Exactly Joe, lots of speculation and generally accepted ideas, but without hard evidence these remain inconclusive, though quite plausible.
Sir Richard Burton, a pioneer in edged weapons research wrote in 1884 ("Book of the Sword", p.139 ), "...the old Persian sword, often called by mistake the Turkish sword, ends in a point beyond a broadening of the blade. The effect is to add force to the cut; the weapon becomes top heavy, but that is of little consequence when only a single slash, and no guarding is required of it. This peculiarity was curiously developed in the true Turkish scymitar, which we see in every picture of the sixteenth century...".

Naturally, we know that Burton's work has been tremendously superceded, and that he is describing the yelman, and that this feature was quite well known in Europe on various forms of falchion long before and during the 16th century and certainly concurrent in that period with Turkish forms.
While these falchions do not necessarily correspond to the blade profile with yelman, they do carry blades dramatically widened toward the tip, and usually radiused rather than the step type widening from the back edge.
In "European and American Arms" by Claude Blair (1962), the following falchions are shown....a German falchion of early 15th c. (#40) ; the parade sabre of Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol c.1560 Italian ; Brescian falchion (#161) of mid 16th c. ; the Conyers falchion from Durham Cathedral c.1260-70 (#21).

The development of the sabre prior to these times seems the most disputed, though as noted, has been discussed and written on considerably.

Great photos!
What are the sources?

The first one has a blade that seems more 19th century, is it identified in the source as Polish? It seems a bit heavy for a Polish sabre.

The last English 'scimitar' I would agree is latter 19th c. and corresponds with decorative items produced in that period. While the huge blade somewhat reflects some of the early falchions, it seems to also parallel the huge 'dadao' blades of so called 'oxtail ' form that were widely seen in China during the "Boxer Rebellion" of 1900, though these swords had been in use long prior to this. The crossguard seems very much like those on kaskaras, and the grip and pommel recall certain medieval style. Is this from a collection?

All best regards,
Jim

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Old 21st January 2007, 08:03 AM   #12
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I agree Jim, too much time has passed since the use of these weapons, for us to do much more than speculate on their origins and uses. But as long as we're speculating, we may as well voice our opinions.


A good start is stepping back and drawing conclusions from swords indiginous to other countries. The raised ridge also appears on Russian, Indian, and Chinese swords, albeit at a much later time than those found on early falchions and Turkish swords.

Most evidence concludes that the Indian tulwar (introduced in the 1700's?) gained its (albeit uncommon) dorsal ridge as a result of influence from Persian and further blades, and I'm inclined to agree with this end. But the Chinese niuweidao, introduced in the 1800's (although new evidence is pointing to proto-nuiweidaos developing in the 1700's) had a dorsal ridge for the purpose of adding weight to the tip of the sword, and increasing its capacity for chopping. It reached this purpose because the primary users of the nuiweidao were peasents, who were not trained in sword arts and thus had very limited applicable techniques, and relied on chopping strength in favor of more advanced abilities. And then there is the Russian klytch, which more than a few old pictures and a current auction, I know nothing about. However, it is apparent from its appearance that it is directly related to the Turko-Persian sabers featuring yelmans.

Working from these three examples, we find that:
Klytch=Influenced origin
Nuiweidao=Independent origin
Tulwar(yelman)=Influenced origin

Working on this as a rule, we find that while the dorsal ridge on blades is likely to be influenced from other cultures, it also has the capacity to develop independently. And working back from this, let us observe the dorsal ridges on earlier blades. Certainly they appear on falchions and messers of the 16th century. But you've indicated that you have seen them on earlier period swords. I'd love to see any pics you have (if you couldn't tell, I share your enthusiasm for this sort of thing).


However, I have seen them on Turkish swords of the 15th century. One great example is the one attributed to Mehmed II, and dates to the mid-1400's. Another (provided below) is Mamluk, and goes back to the early 1400's. And a final one is attributed to Sultan Bayezid II, son of Mehmed II (weird how they're both The Second though....), late 1400's.

And then, I have another gap in my information. But continuing earlier, they appear in the 8th century. The most famous of one of which is undoubtedly the sword long-attributed to being used by Charlemagne, but since proven to have been merely a presentation gift to him from either the Magyars, Avars, or Huns (I am not entirely positive exactly who gave it to him). But it is not the attribution which draws attention to this sword, but the very long dorsal ridge.

And then, going the furthest back I can at the moment, it appears that the earliest sabers found with this feature are Bulgarian, and date to pre-7th century. And there we have it.


But anyway, on to the pics I posted earlier. The first passed through eBay in late 2005. It was identified as Polish by the seller, but he isn't the best at correctly identifying swords (last December, he sold an Afghan shashka which he incorrectly attributed to Russia. Ariel posted a thread about it.), so there is a definite possibility that it may be Hungarian, or Georgian. Here's a link to his eBay store if you were interested:
http://stores.ebay.com/Eclectic-Mus...3QQftidZ2QQtZkm

The second is from:
http://www.hessink.nl/
It is item number 1428 in their current catalogue.

The third was really just a lark, showing that even though it only bore a slight resemblence to the genuine article, this is the image of the "scimitar" that has remained in popular culture, even to today! And I agree, it does bear a resemblence to the Chinese dadao of the 1800's and early 1900's, but I think we're probably drawing an imaginary line of relation. And yes, I noted the unusual guard and handle. Quite an amalgamation, this piece! But then, I have seen one similar Indian piece.... but besides that, I have no idea if the piece is part of a collection, but it probably is. It passed through the market sometime in the middle of last year, I think.

My, I wrote quite a bit, didn't I? Sorry, if I misspelled anything.

For those impetuous people who read my posts only for the pics I always include, here's the part where you pay attention.

Starting at the top...
1: Various sabers and falchions, most from the 16th century.
2: Sword of Sultan Bayezid II.
3: Sword of Mehmed II.
4: Mamluk sword, early 15th century.
5: Mamluk sword, 15th century.
6: Various old kilics.
7: Saber owned by Charlemagne.
8: Bulgarian sabers, pre-7th century.
9: The REAL oldest single-edged sword with a dorsal ridge.
10: A dussack, to show what these things evolved into.
11: Why not, an Indian "scimitar."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...llaceswords.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...21/bayezid1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...ehmedkilij1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...inesskilij1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...id-15th_C_1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...icsandsaifs.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...sabermatrix.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...sabi-yotov_.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...321/khopesh.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v...rvenkasbook.jpg
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Old 21st January 2007, 02:31 PM   #13
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Hi Joe,
Fantastic response!!!! and absolutely you did not write too much!!!
If I may say so, you've addressed all aspects of where we are in the discussion in a beautifully organized and well thought out and detailed post. It seems pretty clear we are on exactly the same page in our interpretations and speculations (opinions and that is an incredibly rewarding situation. Sometimes there is so much banging heads in trying to discuss weaponry it seems helmets are needed!!! Of course it is often necessary to really get anywhere and sort out what solutions may be most plausible, but great relief when agreement is found.

I like the individual assignment of independant and influenced origins of the klytch, nuiweidao and tulwar also. While the oxtails seem to have become popular around the beginning of the 19th c. I think the blade form had been around for a while earlier into the 18th century, at least that is what I got from research a few years ago on the Chinese ring pommel dadao. It seems that the biconcave curves on the reverse edge had developed on swords used in the 12th c. AD by Persian armies in India and elsewhere ("Islamic Arms & Armour of Muslim India" Dr.S.Haider, Lahore. 1991, p.169) and these are suggested to have borne the influence of swords painted on painted scrolls in China (Li Lung Mien 1085 AD). I have not see any example of that painting but the reference seems quite provocative and supportive of your note on the independant development of the blade form in China, which probably evolved from atavistic interpretation of course much later.

In discussion concerning the tulwar, it is interesting that Dr.Haider (op.cit.p.169) also notes that during Mongol conquests of Muslim territories resulted in Persian adoption of many of thier arms, and that these type swords with biconcave curves on reverse edge along with the straight type sword were ancestors of the subsequent forms used in Persia and Muslim India.
On p.170 (op.cit.) it is noted that a modified and improved version of what Burton has termed 'the old Turkish sword' with heavier biconcave curves (of the 'scimitar' shape) appeared in Persia c.1380 AD. Via the Timurids ruling Korasan exterting strong influence on Muslim India,this form seems to have
entered western India by the 15th century.
It is unclear when the profile of the tip became a more defined raised step type dorsal widening in the form we know distinctly as the yelman, or where this might have occurred. It does seem that this feature was present on the Polish and Hungarian sabres during the latter 15th century. I have seen tulwars with distinct yelmans from the 18th century, which form does not seem apparant on 19th c. blades. As far as the development of the tulwar hilt, I think the jury is still out , but that is presently being researched.

I agree that the Charlemagne sword is extremely intriguing and that dorsal ridge is incredibly long. If I am not mistaken, the sword is believed to be of Avar origin, these being the mysterious steppes nomads who are also believed to have been among the earliest users of sabres.

We could probably go on for days on the complexities of sabre development!!


Thanks very much Joe, for the detailed response, great photos and outstanding perspective!!

All very best regards,
Jim

P.S. Now THIS is writing too much!!! as everybody here knows, I'm the antithesis of laconic !!!

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Old 21st January 2007, 08:52 PM   #14
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Hmm, your post reminded me of something else that I omitted from my earlier post. Below is a picture of Saladin rex Aegypti from a 15th century manuscript. Compare his sword to this later period tulwar owned by Jens Nordlunde.

Both exhibit a biconcave curve in the yelman. Unusual stuff...
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Old 21st January 2007, 09:10 PM   #15
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Right on Joe!! I had forgotten that incredible tulwar of Jens' !!
Definitely a great example of that biconcave curve .

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 21st January 2007, 10:08 PM   #16
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Fantastic posts Jim and Joe!!
Thank you very much!
I will submit my full reply a little later, but I've found a picture and mention of a 16th century Italian sword with extreme bi-concave curvature along the spine. I have yet to scan it, it actually looks like the literary impression of what scimitars may be.
Will post in the coming days.

Warm regards,
Emanuel
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Old 22nd January 2007, 01:34 AM   #17
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Thanks Emmanuel. I look forward to seeing your pics.

Two more biconcave yelmans. One on Ariel's ancient shashka (which I can't believe I forgot about), and another on a very high-class tulwar.

Full pic's of Ariel's sword can be seen here:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=2695

Hmm, I can't help but think that there's something connecting all these different sword types, some sort of missing link.........
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Old 24th January 2007, 04:26 PM   #18
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Hello,
Here is the promised wonder
What say you to this quadri-concave beauty? "A rare example of a storta, Italian (Venice), c. 1490...The antecedents of the storta can be found in the medieval falchion and the single-edged sabres carried...by nomadic warriors from the Eastern steppes." (p.48 Swords and Hilt Weapons, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London 1989)
It was found mainly in Italy and France. I'd say this qualifies as the scimitar of old. This Venician piece could be taken rather as a derivative of Islamic examples due to the city's trade networks, than a development from the falchion, I think. Odd that 15th century Europe still preferred thrusting weapons to slashing. The cavalry of most western European countries was still mainly equiped with lances at this time wasn't it?

A pitty there are so few extant examples of this sabre type, it's magnificent!

Best regards,
Emanuel
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Old 24th January 2007, 06:47 PM   #19
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Beautiful sword. The guard reminds me a bit of that of a flyssa.

"Storta," by the way, means "crooked" or "twisted," and sometimes depending on context "distorted" (as in a distorted view of the world).
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Old 24th January 2007, 08:51 PM   #20
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Hello Mark,
Do you mean the nimcha? The flyssa doesn't have a guard. Looking through some books, the handle and guard on this one are a lot like those of other falchions of the period. A fascinating weapon, I'll keep reading on it.
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