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Old 11th December 2007, 08:02 PM   #1
TVV
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Default Karabela for comment

Here is another nice sword that belongs to a friend in Bulgaria. To me it looks like a Polish karabela, but I might be wrong, as it could be Turkish or Arab. I am curious to see where you guys place is in terms of origin and age. Also, is someone familiar with the little x-shaped marks in the fullers and their significance? Finally, according to my friend the hilt is dark wood (ebony?) and not buffalo horn - is that unusual?

Thank you,

Teodor
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Old 12th December 2007, 01:09 AM   #2
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Teodor, this is an interesting cavalry sabre that is probably quite early, probably 18th century and most likely Eastern European, whether Polish or Hungarian always hard to say. It does carry the karabela style hilt and the guard corresponds to those seen on earlier Polish examples, really difficult to say without better references at hand.

The markings are of course most interesting, and exactly the kind of thing we are discussing on the early makers marks thread, where it seems the 'X' marks appear in a number of variations, typically enclosing a name, phrase or inscription. It does seem sometimes they occur in some sort of systemic representation of a numeric, which is the theme of the topic, trying to determine the symbolism behind these mysterious marks. Perhaps you might visit the thread?

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 12th December 2007, 06:05 AM   #3
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Thanks Jim, I will be sure to check the "Early Makers' Marks" thread.
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Old 12th December 2007, 06:28 AM   #4
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Thank you Teodor, the reason I brought that up is that this is exactly the sort of questions on markings on blades that prompted starting the thread. While this is of course most likely a European sabre, blades of this type occur often in various ethnographic swords, and this is a great example.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 13th December 2007, 12:32 AM   #5
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Great piece! I think this is most likely Arabian in origin. The Karabella hilts like this were well used. I will post one from Pg10 Of Elgood's The Arms and Armour of Arabia described as a Arabian nimsha with wooden hilt. The nail head decoration is well documented on Arabian swords and daggers. Is there any way to get a better picture of the guard? The blade most likely is as Jim describes, and European. I will see if I can find any reference to the marks.

Again a great piece (I want it )!
Jeff
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Old 13th December 2007, 01:06 AM   #6
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Hi Jeff,
You're right, the pommel on this is very un-karabela like and in rethinking it seems like the characteristic Ottoman hilt with a peak. The karabela hilt is multilobed and of course is a highly stylized zoomorphic that seems to be a bird head of some sort. I think of those silver hilt pallasches that Elgood also shows in that book, which are noted as 18th century and probably from Hadramaut . Many Arabian regions were under Ottoman suzerainty, so the presence of Ottoman forms seems well placed.

Thanks for coming in on this Jeff! I think those are the usual X markings that show up with ANDREA FERARA etc. at either end, but again think of those numeric sequences.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 13th December 2007, 01:15 AM   #7
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Jeff,

Thanks for your comments - if it was not for you and Jim, what would we do? I will try to get a better picture of the guard. I have Elgood's book and if I recall correctly he stated that nimsha literally means "half" and therefore is best applied to naval cutlasses. This one seems to be a bit too long for this, but I compeletely agree that the hilt shape resembles the hilt pictured in Elgood's book, and your point about the nail decoration is very convincing as well.

Regards,

Teodor
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Old 13th December 2007, 03:43 AM   #8
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Teodor, thank you for such kind words, and I am always impressed as well at Jeff's on target observations and quick command of references!
It is indeed interesting what you note on the term nimcha, as described by Elgood which is apparantly in Arabic a reference to a small or short sword. It seems this is yet another of the 'collectors glossary' which began to evolve with early transliterations and misnomers from narrators, travelers and adventurers. The 'nimcha' term is of course most commonly associated with the multi-quilloned sabres of Morocco and in collectors parlance also tied to Barbary Pirates et al. These are actually termed locally sa'if, which is the generic Arabic term for sword.

Very best regards,
Jim
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Old 14th December 2007, 05:39 PM   #9
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Here are some better pictures of the guard.
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Old 16th December 2007, 05:01 AM   #10
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Teodor,
Thanks for the additional photo of the guard. I once had a sabre much like this, in nearly the same condition. The guard was exactly the same and the hilt was of roughly the smooth pommel Ottoman form. The blade was a heavy one like this with an inscription in the center which seemed possibly Polish, but cannot recall. It turned out to be indeed Arab.....as rough as it was, I wish I still had it!
When I bought it back in the 1970's from a dealer, it was listed as a 17th century Hungarian hussars sabre.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 24th December 2007, 09:52 PM   #11
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Thanks for the too kind words

As Jim has expertly noted the hilt form is Ottoman and of course covers a large geographic area. Here are a couple more Ottoman hilts from Swords and Hilt Weapons
Thanks for the better shots of the hilt, It is always great to collect as much data as we can.

All the Best
Jeff
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Old 25th December 2007, 03:03 AM   #12
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Well, gentlemen, we are entering a new topic: the origin of the Karabela handle. Persian? Turkish? Arabian? ( I doubt the latter, but just for the sake of completeness).
We were led to believe that the "eagle head" handle was invented by Shah Abbas himself who got the idea observing the silhouettes of the windows at the shrine in Karbala ( I am not mentioning the author of this hypothesis, but it was published in a very big book).
The fact (as I understand it) that the shrine was not even built at that time presents a slight inconvenience...( to me, not to the author).
The popularity of these handles in Balkan countries and in Hungary suggests to me that the original source was Turkish. Also, karabelas were mentioned in Polish books and depicted in Polish sources well before Poles established friendly relations with the Persians, but well into their long and bloody wars with the Turks. The Ottoman origin of the" eaglehead" handle also explains its popularity in Arabia.
Did it come from the locality named Karabel ( Near Izmir?)
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Old 25th December 2007, 05:19 AM   #13
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The question about the origin of the karabela hilt is a hard one, from what I have read so far, perhaps just as hard as determining what the name "karabela" originates from - is it "black curse" in Turkish, Kerbala, or Karabel near Izmir?
I wonder whether it would be best to first see where this hilt form gained popularity, such as Poland, Arabia, Balkans, etc. and then start eliminating certain regions from the list of potential candidates?
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Old 25th December 2007, 08:55 PM   #14
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Great idea Ariel, and thanks Teodor for letting us divert your thread.

The "big book" is a good accumulation of information on shamshirs and brings to light many example that would not have been seen in the west. Unfortunately the book was original intended for the Cultural Heritage Instutution of Iran and is therefore very pro aryan (at times may have made even Leni Riefenstahl blush). The text has to be veiwed in this context.
The origins of the karabela style hilt has been postulated as Polish, Persian and European. Oliver Pinchot discusses it briefly in his article The Persian Shamshir and the signature of Assad Allah Below is a copy of portraits of Shaw Abbas, Shah Safi and Shaw Abbas II with what appears to be Karabela style shamshirs. These portrates are circa 1633. He reiterates the theory that Sha Abbas may have encountered this style of hilt during the reconquering of Karbala in 1623.
The possibility of it reaching Poland from Persia (although not specifically stated) may have began with trade missions started in 1601.
Oliver goes on to quote Ostrowski and Bochnak in Note 16 that the hilt style did not appear in Poland until after the Relief of the seige of Vienna in 1683.
Elgood on Pg 15 ofThe Arms and Armour of Arabia Supports the idea that the political ties between Poland and Persia, united to fend of the Ottomans, may have been the source of this hilt style.
Nadolski in Polish Arms-Side Arms on Pg 36 also suggests the Karbala origin.
Yet by the Seige of Vienna in 1683 completely mature forms of the Karabella style hilted saber are seen illustrated below from Fig 150 Odsiecz Wiedenska 1683 . This saber was used in the campaign and has a clearly Ottoman blade (mountings?), suggesting a Ottoman captured piece.
I think at this time the concensus is a Persian origin for the style, but, an Ottoman origin seems to me very possible. I will see if i can find more.

All the best
Jeff
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Old 25th December 2007, 11:02 PM   #15
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Jeff, I do not mond diverting the thread a bit - after all, this forum's purpose is the enhancement of our knowledge about the things we collect. I wonder whether there is any evidence that the karabela hilt became popular in areas under strong Persian influence, such as Central Asia and Northern India? If the form originated in Persia, it is logical that it should have spread in the regions, where Persian fashions were followed.
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Old 26th December 2007, 03:00 AM   #16
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I was searching for other info when I accidentally stumbled upon a sword with a karabela hilt and a little different crossguard with down-turned quillons in a book about the weapons of Peter the Great. The description states that the blade is wootz, the hilt is made of tortoise shell, and that the crossguard, scabbard mouth and scabbard chape are marked with the tugra of Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617). Perhaps another clue pointing towards Ottoman origin.
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Old 26th December 2007, 05:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Jeff, I do not mond diverting the thread a bit - after all, this forum's purpose is the enhancement of our knowledge about the things we collect. I wonder whether there is any evidence that the karabela hilt became popular in areas under strong Persian influence, such as Central Asia and Northern India? If the form originated in Persia, it is logical that it should have spread in the regions, where Persian fashions were followed.


Great observation Teodor,

To my knowledge, Central Asia essentially used the classic persian shamshir hilt as well as their own local/regional styles ie Bukhara hilts, shashka like etc.. I will await Ariels observation as he is much more familiar with this region then myself. North India again favored the Tulwar and classic shamshir hilt, animal motifs are also seen but I cannot think of any Indian made Karabella hilts (they must exist, if only for export).
The style was mass produced in Poland, Saxony and Russia as well as the middle east (Nadolski Pg36-37).
I like your epicenter approach.

Best of the Season
Jeff
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Old 26th December 2007, 08:50 PM   #18
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Let's define the question: Karabela is a saber with a characteristic "eaglehead" handle.

This is, supposedly, the contribution of Shah Abbas ( 1571-1629, reigned since 1588). He first invaded Mesopotamia ( war with the Ottoman Empire) in 1603-1605 and that was the earliest he could see the shrine in Karbala from the door grilles of which he supposedly got the inspiration for the new type of handle ( as per M. Khorasani's book " Arms and Armor from Iran"). The author cites Lebedynsky's description of a portrait of Sultan Selim the Grim (reigned 1512-1520) wearing this type of sword, but persists in claiming that the priority belongs to the Safavids. The earliest example cited by him is the sword attributed to Shah Safi ( 1629-1642). That should be enough already.

Additional evidence in favor of a Turkish origin:
1. Kwasniewicz " Dzieja sczabli w Polsce"
- cites contemporary descriptions of the raid by Kalisk and Poznan principalities against Turks and Wallachs in 1497-1498, with Poles armed with "karabelkas"

- Early 16th century doggerel by Waclaw Potocki
" As long as we carried swords, sabers and kords,
We were not afraid of the Horde.
But as soon as Karabelkas and Czeczugas got to be worn by a Pole,
The plows went idle over Ukraine and Podol"
( Sorry for the translation )
- p.72: pictures of Polish "eagle head sabers with or without yelman, dated to 16-17th centuries.
- description of "eaglehead" Polish swords in the museum collections in London, Netherlands and Sweden ( captured during the Swedish "deluge" war in 1655-1660, but, obviously, made earlier)


2. Astvatsaturyan : "Turkish Weapons"
- cites and shows ( p.90) drawings of an" eaglehead" sword from the book by De Marsilli ( real spelling was, likely, different, but the book was published in Russian in St. Petersbourg, 1737) " Military state of the Ottoman Empire with its ascendancy and decline"
_ presents photographs of several Ottoman "eaglehead" swords from the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow, bearing tugras of Ahmed II ( 1691-1695) and his successors till 1730.

3. "Hongaarse Wapenpraal"

_ p.38: picture of a Hungarian saber with eaglehead handle dated to the beginning of 17th cen.

4.Wagner " Swords and Daggers"
- pp. 96-97: Turkish and Polish Karabelas with "eaglehead" handles dated 17th cen from "MM's" collection

5."Ubojite Ostrice" ( collection from Croatian museums)

- p.70: Hungarian "eaglehead " Karabela 17th cen

Thus, it is quite obvious that the "eaglehead" Karabela handle was known in Eastern Europe and Turkey well before the supposed visit of Shah Abbas to Karbala. Nothing to do with Persia.
Well, at least, Safavid Persia invented... Nanotechnology!
http://www.persianmirror.com/Articl...SubCategory=115

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Old 27th December 2007, 04:50 PM   #19
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Hi Ariel,

Awesome references. The Sha Safi Karabela is shown in the middle portrait above. Oliver Pinchot note that it most likely is the same as his fathers.

Here is a quote from Pg 62 of Orez Perski Lech Kobyliniski states;
On portraits of Sha Abbas the Great dating from the 17th century shamshirs with a carabela hilt appear. This type of hilt can also be seen in portraits of Shah Safi and Shah Abbas II. On one picture in Padshahnama, which shows the audience granted by the emperoe Shahjahan to a Persian ambassador, the Persians carry sabers with such a hilt. Based on these portraits, some authors connect the genesis of the carabela hilt with Persia, however it is known that this type of hilt also appeared in much earlier Turkish sabers and so it probably originated there and was adopted in Persia later. Anyhow, it was used only in court sabers, and it was popular only for a short period of time.

I will see if I can find some of these earlier Turkish sabers. Looks like it is starting to swing your way.

All the Best
Jeff
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Old 27th December 2007, 05:01 PM   #20
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Another hint:
Some time ago I posted this Yataghan:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=4728
and thought it had a Karabela handle.
I was corrected, however, by several Forumites. This is the so-called North African form of the Yataghan handle.
However, look how similar it is to the "eaglehead" configuration!
I would say the N. African handle was a local modification of the Karabela one. Any disagreements?
Another area of Ottoman influence, and no connection with Persia!
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Old 15th March 2010, 09:40 PM   #21
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My friend in Bulgaria, in his latest attempt to cause me great envy, has added another karabela hilted sword to his collection.

Tha blade is marked with what looks like a hand holding a cleaver, I am assuming meant as a stylized version of a kilidj (a blade with a yelman). Looking at the old markings thread, I saw similar markings, such as one by Peter Munich. In Munich's version though, the sword was straight and double edged. Does anyone recognize this particular marking?

Also, what would be a good guess on age? Late 17th century? There are a few similarly hilted swords in Vienna in displays associated with the second siege of the city by the Ottomans, thus my guess.

Many thanks for all responses,

Teodor
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Old 15th March 2010, 11:37 PM   #22
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Nice to see old threads being resuscitated.
Somebody ( Alzheimer playing tricks again) on the Forum advanced another line: The Karabela handle was widespread all across the Ottoman sphere of influence, but pitifully sparse in Persia proper ( in fact, only a couple of pictures with Shahs sporting them) and never East of Persia or in Persia-influenced ( on-and -off) Daghestan. To attribute Karabela to Persia simply because Poland had good relations with Persia and Poles carried Karabelas is an argument of a dubious nature. Poland never shared a border with Iran, and their trade was limited to occasional batches of expensive souvenirs brought to Poland by Armenian traders. In contrast, Poles were in constant contact with the Hungarians, Tatars and Turks ( their borders spread down almost to the Black Sea).To amplify it even further, the ultimate Persian sword, Shamshir, was never popular in Poland. If we to believe the "Poland as the proving ground" theory, we need to ask ourselves: why did Poles choose an unpopular "Persian" sword karabela and ignored shamshir? My answer: because karabela did not come to them from Persia.
Interstingly, Cossacks, Poles close neighbors, carried a lot of shamshirs, but they raided Persia since 17th century ( Sten'ka Razin, for example).
That should be enough for anybody to conclude the origin. No?
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Old 24th January 2018, 02:02 AM   #23
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Post resurrected again:-)))

Shah Abbas I captured Karbala around 1622, and that is when he could have seen the windows of the Imam Hussain shrine.


Here are 2 pictures by European artists: Albrecht Durer ( 1471-1528) and Pietro Befulco ( active 1471-1503).


Both show unmistakable karabela handles. Where from?

Ottomans invaded and occupied Balkans between 1352 ( Bulgaria) till 1526
(Hungary). Plenty of time for their weapons to become familiar to the Europeans.

Thus, karabela handles were known in Europe ~ 50-100 years before Shah Abbas I was even born ( 1571).
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