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Exceptional 19th C. Ottoman Turkish Trebizond Trabzon Laz Bichaq Yataghan Sword

( ID: is960 )

An exceptional 19th C. Ottoman Turkish yataghan of trebizond type. Normally these examples are found made of crude iron without fine detailing on the blade or scabbard.  This example is one of two examples known, the other published example in Astvatsaturian's "Turkish Weapons" and belonging to the Moscow State Historical Museum that exhibits exceptional workmanship and are truly artistic examples of bladesmithing.  These are called Laz Bichak and associated with the Lazeri ethnic group in Turkey who populate the eastern Black Sea coastline north of Armenia and south of Georgia. Culturally they have a mix of Turkish and Georgian culture having converted to Christianity early in its spread in the Eastern Black Sea region and then converted to Sunni Islam under the Ottoman Empire. They speak their own language and current estimates of the population of Laz are somewhere bteween 45,000 and 1.2 million souls.  

See two photos of Laz warriors wearing these traditional swords in the photo section.  In the late 1940s, David Wright wrotes of the Lazes:

"The Lazes are, to my mind, the most interesting of all the Turkish minorities, and it is a pity that so little is known about them. The resourceful Father Minas Bjishkian suggests that they are the descendants of the Colchians, to whose land Jason went in search of the Golden Fleece; while Lynch, writing at the end of last century, states that they " may represent the aboriginal occupants of their country, the wild tribes who harassed the army of Xenophon." According to Finlay,* the district between Trebizond and the Phasis, previously known as Colchis, was renamed Lazia in the time of Justinian; he also records that the Greeks of Constantinople were wont to refer contemptuously to the Comneni Emperor of Trebizond as the " Prince of the Lazes," just as to-day the Turks are apt to nickname anyone coming from this part of the country as "Laz."

The vast majority of the Lazes (54,000 out of 63,000, according to the 1935 Census) are settled in the coastal region between Rize and the Russian frontier. They are recognized as good orthodox Moslems and the finest seamen on the Black Sea. They are also crack shots, and go out in their schooners hunting porpoises which they shoot as they leap from the sea; they then bring them to Trebizond, where they are boiled down for their oil. The Laz language, which belongs to the MingrelianGeorgian group, is unrelated to Turkish. They also have a national dance of their own, the Horun, which is danced by the men jerking and stamping in a circle round a fiddler or bagpiper; often one can see it being performed by steerage passengers on the Black Sea steamers. Under Ottoman rule Rize, now famous for its tea, tangerines and linen, used to be the capital of the Sanjak of Lazistan, which, until 1878, included Batum and district. When Batum was ceded to the Russians the Lazes there, unwilling to remain under Christian rule, moved westwards to join their brethren on Turkish territory, after having made various picturesque but unsuccessful appeals to Queen Victoria, Lord Salisbury and the Lord Mayor of London to proclaim a British protectorate over Lazistan. In return for such a declaration the Laz Beys, in October, 1878, offered to send a contingent of 4,000 Lazes to fight for Her Majesty in her war with the Afghans! To-day Lazistan no longer exists as an officially recognized district, though locally the term is still in common use, but the Lazes have no political ambitions or separatist ideas and are loyal Turkish subjects."

The blade on this example is of traditional type but is exceptionally forged with a razor sharp edge and finely formed fullers.  The blade ricasso is marked with fine koftgari decoration similar in type and aesthetic design to the example in "Turkish Weapons".  The blade is of thick and heavy for its shape and size and could fully be used in combat, though this was likely a sword for presentation. The handle is of Turkish provincial form with some older soldering repairs, but is otherwise of the correct type.

The large original wood lined scabbard has the original iron mounts with nearly all of the silver koftgari remaining in addition to a small inscription on the backside.  

Trurly a capstone collection example.  Price on Request.

Overall length is 32"', blade is 24".

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