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Old 10th April 2008, 06:13 PM   #1
ariel
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Default Yataghan/Flyssa

Just ended
http://cgi.liveauctions.ebay.com/ws...0224029803&rd=1
In moments like that one wonders whether Tirri might have been at least partially correct about the origins of Laz Bicagi....
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Old 10th April 2008, 07:00 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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In Kabyle regions, where the flyssa, whose ancestry seems generally held to have evolved from the yataghan, the young mans greatest rites of passage was the acquisition of his sword. Naturally the flyssa, being locally fashioned, was the traditional aspiration, however it is said that in certain metropolitan regions, the Ottoman yataghan was very much admired and often sought. It would seem that while the traditional blades were the standard, a custom example might have been commissioned.

I am curious about the North African example of the Laz Bicagi, as the horned hilt weapon formerly referred to as Kurdish/Armenian yataghan; Transcaucasian yataghan or colloquially as 'Black Sea yataghan'.
I am wondering if there are more of these in existance than the example in Tirri's book, which is a magnificently produced book and excellent resource overall, despite my unfortunate disagreement with the Egyptian attribution he shows for these ("Islamic Weapons:Maghreb to Moghul", A.Tirri, 2003, p.67, fig. 37B, 'Egyptian/Algerian 'kopesh' yataghan).

While Tirri does not reference his supporting references for the Egyptian 'origin' of these, I recall they included two sales catalogs, and a Russian reference, which was where the kopesh term was used.

My primary question was always, why were all of these swords which were produced in Egypt all exported en masse to regions in the Black Sea and environs, leaving no trace but the forementioned example. I recall in the many years I researched these, finding the identifications of them in 1896, 1941, 1962 shown as Kurdish/Armenian yataghans and so on. I found provenanced examples in Denmark (the article written in 1941 was published by the Danish Arms and Armour Society).

As I have said, the Tirri book is truly outstanding, and it is one that I now have back with me, and I consider it a valuable resource.....with this exception

All best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 10th April 2008 at 08:00 PM. Reason: wording
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Old 11th April 2008, 06:08 PM   #3
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Blast!!
This example kind of kills once and for all my secret hope/thought/theory that the flyssa developed independently of the yataghan. Oh well...

On the other hand, Camille Lacost-Desjardins remarked that kabyle craftsmen did go to Istamboul and upon their return, did create hybrids. There have been examples posted before of flyssa in silver Ottoman fittings, and of yataghan in flyssa scabbard. This one may be one extreme form of hybridization.

Then again, Oriental Arms had a yataghan listed recently from the Balkans, with a brass hilt with scrollwork identical to that of flyssas. Who the hell knows anymore What I still find interesting is that a flyssa blade is about twice as thick as a classic Ottoman yataghan blade. The example at the top is no exception. I say Kabyles were introduced to the yataghan and liked its shape, but already had their own sword.

Anyway, rantings as are to be expected from me when discussing the flyssa.

Cheers!
Emanuel
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Old 12th April 2008, 02:53 PM   #4
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Here is the "yataghan" from Oriental-Arms: http://www.oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=2703

And the pics...The scroll work is very very similar, and the blade shape is odd.
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Old 12th April 2008, 02:54 PM   #5
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Compared to the yataghan flyssa from the auction:
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Old 12th April 2008, 03:00 PM   #6
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Compared to another yataghan with very different construction, not seen on the majority of yataghan. Again, notice the scroll/foliage brasswork. The blade in this case even had the triangular ornaments close to the spine, often seen on flyssa.
Thoughts? I recall Ham had once asserted that this motif is a common Anatolian one. Could we see these three swords as part of a continuous link?
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Old 12th April 2008, 04:41 PM   #7
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Emanuel, this is outstanding! genuine ethnographic weapons discussion and it is great that you continue the quest for the elusive history of the flyssa. It seems with many ethnographic weapons there are always opposing cases for convergent evolution, and clearly there are equally opposing cases for the diffusion of influences.

I recall years ago Louis-Pierre Cavaille in France did a lot of study on the flyssa, but cant find my notes on that, and I'm not sure what became of him, he seems to have disappeared from forums some time ago.

Like you, I always wondered what the earliest examples of the flyssa were, and how might they have developed. In the literature, it seems that the earliest recorded example was c.1827 with one presented to a diplomat essentially. I cant recall exact details, but I know you have that data. Like the notorious 'Black Sea yataghan' , the flyssa appears to have been a late arrival in arms. I did find a provenanced example that was taken in combat in 1857 I believe, and is held in the French Foreign Legion Museum in France. It was exactly as the typically seen examples in collections today with basically the same blade shape and motif etc.

While most references I have seen suggest the 16th century form of straight bladed yataghan with deep belly as the likely source of influence for the flyssa, what is curious is why the blade evolved into the straight extremely heavy, needle pointed form seen on these. With the diverse ethnic groups serving in Ottoman forces, I often thought that perhaps early Tatar sabres with these needle type points (known typically as ordynka in Polish references) from Caucasian and Eastern European regions might have provided influence, that may have been noted by warriors of the Kabyles. Naturally the mail piercing concept must be also considered.

These yataghans which do seem to reflect essential elements of the flyssa indeed present a conundrum. It does seem that as cultures are brought together in either conquest or colonization and trade, there is distinct comingling of virtually all elements of the cultures in degree. The cross influence of weaponry is but one of these instances.

During the British Raj in India, British officers in native cavalry regiments adopted colorful interpretations of Indian costume as uniforms. In many cases, the swords they carried were hybridized with regulation hilts on Indian blades, and more often with Indian hilts mounted with British blades. To get into the concepts of adaption and deeper explanations for this would easily exceed this discussion, but it is common in virtually all situations of this kind.
I think of Lawrence of Arabia, and many others.

I am wondering if perhaps Ottoman officers or officials might have had custom yataghans fashioned in the style of regions where they served. Perhaps, Ottoman craftsmen created these specifically for high end individuals in Kabyle regions, or recognizing the Maghreb in the sense of exotic hubris for individuals who had served there etc.

It seems that the triangular motif is commonly regarded as a folk religion motif that pertains to apotropaic devices, in this case the triangle, which is known as the fibula (in essence, the extended hand with splayed fingers termed 'five in your eye'). This concept is much the same as the Arabic folk religion device known as the aghreb (scorpion) and as stylized image placed on swords or mounts as motif.
I recall Ham's comment on the Anatolian provenance of this motif, and wonder if this too transferred to the cultural sphere in the Maghreb.

In any case, all great food for thought!

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 12th April 2008, 07:48 PM   #8
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Hi again, Jim!

I'm very curious about that last yataghan. Oriental-Arms listed it as eastern European. The construction is so odd though. The two big nobs are reminiscent of Caucasian/Persian kindjals and qamas. I have not yet seen this scrolls/foliage motif on Balkan crafts, does anyone know if it is indeed common, or how often it occurs?
Same for Anatolian work. Do scrolls in brass occur in other art forms?
Do they occur on Caucasian art?
Specifically Circassian? (Reference to this thread: Flyssa in St-Petersburg Museum where Ariel showed Circassian and Tatar sabres as a possible inspiration for the flyssa)
If not, can we say this is an indigeneous kabyle motif?
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Old 12th April 2008, 08:04 PM   #9
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Default Circassian motif?

Here is a site on Circassian arts. In their crafts and traditional motifs sections there are some pictures that with a stretch could be quite similar to our flyssa decoration: http://www.adygaunion.com/gallery/index.php?cat=4

Here is some of their foliage work
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Old 12th April 2008, 08:55 PM   #10
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If only the Hermann's example had a scabbard, it would speak volumes, and, I think, answer many questions...but alas...no scabbard.

As is, I see it as only an Ottoman influence on a traditional flyssa.
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Old 14th April 2008, 10:28 PM   #11
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I agree with the "Chuckmeister". Besides, Tirri was wrong about a number of things in the book, so I would take his "observations" with a grain of salt.
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