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Old 25th January 2007, 12:08 PM   #1
FenrisWolf
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Default My first flyssa

I've wanted one of these since I first saw one listed on the website of a dealer in ethnic weapons. Recently this one surfaced on ebay, fortunately for me with a poor photo and a worse description:





What surprised me was the hilt. Virtually every other one I've seen had had a hilt completely covered in engraved sheet brass. The only other example I've seen with this type of construction was described as a 'tribal' variant.

So, any comment, ideas as to how old, the reason for the different hilt, whatever? I want to learn more about my collection!

Fenris
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Old 25th January 2007, 12:21 PM   #2
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Nice one Fenris!
I've always wanted one...or many actually...
There have been a few of these plain-hilted ones discussed over the years, and it seems that some may simply have lost their brass cover and others simply lacked them altogether. Different tribes produced these swords, with varying quality.
As to age, you're generally looking at early-to-mid 19th century I guess. I think production generally stopped after the French conquest.
Here is a compilation I made of all the flyssa discussions on this forum: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3935 you'll find lots of info.

Emanuel
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Old 25th January 2007, 05:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manolo
Nice one Fenris!
I've always wanted one...or many actually...
There have been a few of these plain-hilted ones discussed over the years, and it seems that some may simply have lost their brass cover and others simply lacked them altogether. Different tribes produced these swords, with varying quality.
As to age, you're generally looking at early-to-mid 19th century I guess. I think production generally stopped after the French conquest.
Here is a compilation I made of all the flyssa discussions on this forum: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3935 you'll find lots of info.

Emanuel
Hi, Emanuel!

Thanks for the links, they made fascinating reading, both the history behind the blades and the speculation as to their use. I tried the different grips mentioned in one thread and was amazed what a difference a slight change of grip made. Then again one thing I always have to keep in mind when handling ethnic weapons is that I have very large hands to begin with (finding gloves that fit is a stone bitch), and combining that with the generally smaller-than-average hand size of most tribal warriors, at least in comparison to Europeans, and what may be very comfortable to them seems awkward to us.

Still and all a pleasnt morning's reading. Now I have to find another one, and another, and another....
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Old 25th January 2007, 06:25 PM   #4
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Hi Fenris Wolf,
I'm not 100 % certain ....but this could be a Yataghan (Yatagan) due to blade shape...or perhaps a Flyssa/Yataghan hybrid? I am sure others will correct me if I'm wrong. Nice piece
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Old 25th January 2007, 07:16 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FenrisWolf
Now I have to find another one, and another, and another....

Hahaha when I'll be rich, I'll make sure to cover a whole wall with flyssa's my favourite sword - though I've yet to own one.

David, I think this is a full flyssa, on account of the grip and bolster, very unlike the yataghan and very much like regular flyssa - it has the rivets, the camel head and the peculiar tang/bolster construction. I can see how the blade could be seen as a yataghan, it does have that forward curve...the more I think abou these, the more I am prepared to lay down arms and say that the flyssa is derived from Ottoman sources (both yataghan and the thin Circassian sabres).

Regards,
Emanuel
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Old 25th January 2007, 07:29 PM   #6
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Default More obsessive thoughts

Hmmm now that I've started thinking about the flyssa again, I wonder at the peculiar bolster construction. The octogonal bit, which is actually not a bolster at all, but a continuation of the blade, is not seen on Caucasian sabres I believe, and certainly not on the Circassian sabres posted by Ariel. The yataghan does not have this feature either, always having the tang sandwitched between two scales.
The only weapons that come to mind that do have this strange feature are Indonesian - particularly the Acehnese rencong. It's weird, as it does not bolster the blade and it is not a tang...only a prelude to one. So I'll merrily hang on to this point to champion the independent development of the Flyssa

No other weapon in the Maghrib has this octogonal part, and no other Ottoman or even Islamic weapons in the west and near east have it either, except the khodme, which has a small one. What is the reason for its presence if the flyssa was adapted from the yataghan or the Circassian sabre? I would think that there is a precedent somewhere in berber history for this feature. I have another thought, but it's way too radical to mention right now
Any thoughts?

Last edited by Manolo : 25th January 2007 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 25th January 2007, 08:10 PM   #7
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Nope, I'm wrong, there do seem to be yataghan with the weird "integral bolster" :http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3466 but then it is really small and it looks like that of a khodme

So here I'll ask Ham and Jim and others with experience on Ottoman weapons to say whether the octogonal "bolster" is found often enough on blades produced in Turkey/Asia-Minor/Caucasus.
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Old 26th January 2007, 07:06 PM   #8
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i see my flyssa in one of the references, here's a slightly better picture along with a curved variant, others of which were also mentioned in the ref. both are large dagger length rather than swords. i hope to eventually get a sword length one to complete the set. i like the one you posted above, looks a neat simple battle blade.

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Old 26th January 2007, 10:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
i see my flyssa in one of the references, here's a slightly better picture along with a curved variant, others of which were also mentioned in the ref. both are large dagger length rather than swords. i hope to eventually get a sword length one to complete the set. i like the one you posted above, looks a neat simple battle blade.


Now this is interesting. I have seen a number of the curved version for sale on ebay, sometimes called flyssa, other times called nimcha. Up until now I thought the flyssa reference was in error because there was so much departure in style from the earleir flyssa form; the hilt was significantly different, being inlaid wood with actual quillions, and the blade so sharply curved. But here we have a hilt sheathed in engraved brass that is only slightly different from the traditional flyssa, and a scabbard whose carving is also reminiscent of the earlier form. It seems fairly obvious that the curved flyssa is a more recent evolution of the flyssa, one that appeared after the sword form fell out of favor.

Fenris
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Old 27th January 2007, 04:25 AM   #10
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Hi Fenris,
Interesting variant of flyssa you have there and I find it most interesting because it appears to be a genuine fighting example, without the dress hilt covering etc. I am not sure that I would classify this or other variations that occur 'tribal' variation, more likely armorer variations.

As Emanuel has noted, there were distinct influences from outside the North African sphere that inspired the weapons there, in the case of the flyssa, in my opinion most likely the Ottoman yataghan, though considerable debate remains. There were of course distinct Caucasian influences via their presence in the Ottoman forces, and this and the presence of weapons from these regions has often come up in discussion on the forums over the years.
We are all well aware of the 'dreaded Black Sea yataghans' ...which most resemble deeply recurved flyssa blades mounted with distinctly horned hilts, and it is debated whether these were actually a North African variant of the flyssa rather than thier largely proven domicile near Black Sea regions.

These, much like the flyssa, were latecomers to the edged weapon spectrum, and the earliest examples of flyssa are thought to be from c.1820's while the Black Sea yataghans likely appeared about mid 19th c. It would seem that most flyssas of the familiar brass hilted form date from mid to the end of the 19th c. and probably ceased functionality of course with the increased use of firearms, as typical of these times.

The curved examples as shown by Kronckew, in my opinion are not a development of the flyssa, and though often termed either flyssa, nimcha or even yataghan in very loose descriptions, seem to me to have derived most likely from European naval dirks of the 19th c. These are often very nicely made, as the example shown by Kronckew, but I think are elements of costume that are found throughout Saharan regions and mostly 20th c.

Most terminology used in describing these weapons is typically misapplied as in the case of these dirk type weapons, and the terms are actually general terms that have become used colloquially by collectors for certain forms.
The term 'flyssa' is thought to be a French adaption describing the Iflisen tribe of Berbers, who are considered the origin and source of manufacture of these distinct swords. The term is applied equally to all variations in size of these weapons, which goes from full sword size to the smaller daggers.

The term nimcha, according to Elgood, is basically an Arab term meaning small sword (nim, cha or sha) and of course seems misapplied to the full size sabres of Morocco distinguished by this term (actually more often called sa'if).
I hope S.Anizi will elaborate on that, as there is likely more to this. It would seem actually that the term would be more correct for the 'dirks' that are often labeled flyssa, nimcha or yataghan

On the octagonal bolster, which is noted here, I would defer to Ham or Ariel who have more experience at handling Caucasian weapons than myself, but in this example it does seem in character with flyssas whose hilts are faceted. With reference to the octagonal section, I have often wondered if this could in some cases associate with the Islamic eight pointed star, much has been suggested in certain architectural perspective. While this may be irrelevant, particularly in discussion of a Berber weapon, it seemed worthy of note in a general sense.

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 28th January 2007, 01:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

The curved examples as shown by Kronckew, in my opinion are not a development of the flyssa, and though often termed either flyssa, nimcha or even yataghan in very loose descriptions, seem to me to have derived most likely from European naval dirks of the 19th c. These are often very nicely made, as the example shown by Kronckew, but I think are elements of costume that are found throughout Saharan regions and mostly 20th c.
...
The term nimcha, according to Elgood, is basically an Arab term meaning small sword (nim, cha or sha) and of course seems misapplied to the full size sabres of Morocco distinguished by this term (actually more often called sa'if).



Hello Jim!

ErnestoJuan and I had discussed these strange variants and some point, and we looked as some interesting examples on ebay. I think they're the original small nimcha, which was then made into the tourist dance variant with long, curved and very thin blade cut from sheet metal, and the extremely large handle and pommel that looks like those of the saif-nimcha. I like the attribution to European naval dirks, thanks for that . I guess these are often mistaken as flyssa because of the similar decorative scheme - often the same geometric motifs and the same carving on scabbards and handles. I understand that their blades are much thinner than those of true flyssa, is this correct?

Yup, I definitely like the study of ethnographic arms!! A healthy, albeit costly obsession.

Emanuel
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Old 28th January 2007, 02:54 PM   #12
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Hi Emanuel,
Exactly right!! Good point on the associations to the other weapons via the decorative schemes, that does seem very reasonable, especially coupled with the terminology difficulties. The semantics in ethnographic weapons terminology becomes even more maddening in spheres such as the Indonesian, where a weapon may be called by different names even in various villages. There, much as in the Indian subcontinent, the variation in dialects often becomes profuse, even though the variation may be subtle in degree.
The blades on the true flyssa are actually very well forged, and typically actually quite heavy. I have always considered them rather awkward because the length and weight of the blade seems disproportionate to the relatively small, unguarded grip. But, as I claim no true understanding of martial arts, and especially the exact manner in which these were used, I may be off track

Actually I hadn't noticed the idea on the naval dirks before myself, as I hadnt really none much on the small variants prior to this. While working on another project, I came across a number of portraits of European naval officers with these dirks, and the association seemed pretty compelling. It always seems that serendipity is one of the most driving forces in the study of these weapons and yes, it is very, very addicting, and often pretty costly.
That is most often the theme here in our group therapy session!!!
But always fun, thanks for being here too !!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 28th January 2007, 03:52 PM   #13
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Default it's coming...in a couple of years.

Just watch Jim, in a few years I'll undertake my super-massive flyssa study in Algeria and the large flyssa collections of the world and publish something close to "definitive"
I'll dig into all the archives and find that ellusive ethnographic report that tells us how these beauties were forged, when/where and all that

Continuing to enjoy the therapy (and getting sicker ),
Emanuel
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Old 28th January 2007, 03:58 PM   #14
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Emanuel JUDL!!!
And when you 'fly the cuckoos nest' to do that, I'll be cheerin' you on!! and be there to say 'I knew you when'!!

All the best !!
Your fellow 'sickie'
Jim
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Old 28th January 2007, 10:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manolo
... I understand that their blades are much thinner than those of true flyssa, is this correct?
...


just for further information, the blade on my curved knife above is 6mm wide at the spine near the guard, tapering down to the point. the guard is fairly thin brass and not really suitable as a defensive guard, being more decorative, though it is satisfactory for preventing the hand sliding down onto the blade. the blade is razor sharp and appears to be a concave grind rather than flat. the grip is decorated brass sheet over wood, held by a large number of small flathead brads set flush to the brass in a decorative straight line pattern.
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Old 28th January 2007, 11:36 PM   #16
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hmm that means business. So let's put this down to a knife variant borrowing charcteristics from European examples, interpreted in the way of local precedents, and slowly converted or adapted to ceremonial uses and the tourist trade. Yours is the original from which the tourist ones developed then.

Emanuel
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