Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period

The book contains information with regard to the classification of watered steel by al Kindi, Beiruni, Ibn Sina, etc. and a comparative analysis of the research in this field. For the first time, the classification of watered steel in Noroozname by Omar ibn Khayyam Neishaburi, the renowned Persian poet and mathematician from the 11th century, is examined. The development of swords from double-edged blades into single-edged sabers encompasses an important part of this text. Many valuable primary sources, such as Adab al Harb va Shojae by Mobarakshah ben Mansur, Noroozname by Khayyam Neishaburi, and secondary Iranian sources, are consulted to establish a solid cultural foundation for the development of edged weapons.

Beautiful examples of Iranian shamshirs (swords) attributed to Iranian kings and rulers are illustrated. Included are powerful images of shamshirs without fullers (shamshir attributed to Shah Ismail Safavid), with fullers (shamshir attributed to Shah Safi), highly curved blades (shamshir attributed to Karim Khan Zand), and slightly curved and serrated blades (shamshir attributed to Shah Suleiman Safavid), proving that different styles of swords coexisted with each other.

One of the hallmarks of the text is the analysis of three shamshirs that are attributed to Timur. Additionally disclosed is some proof that the highly curved Iranian sword (shamshir) was known for a long time before Shah Abbas -Safavid’s rise to power. Two of these blades show separate gold-inlay with different datings and names. This, of course, is an indication that these swords were used as hereditary swords from one generation to the next.

Illustrated within the treatise are different swords with the signature of Assadollah. Each signature is meticulously scrutinized, and a careful analysis of royal pieces shows that there are different styles of handwriting. These styles accompany these cartouches. The same is true with the signature of Kalbeali and the different styles of Kalbeali cartouches that are presented. The volume explores the meaning of each one of these names in its cultural setting and concludes that these names would have been used as honorary titles. Other smiths, such as Askari Isfahani signed, their blades with their own names. The research shows that double-edged swords were not abandoned after the introduction of curved swords; rather, they coexisted together into the Qajar period. However, the curved swords were generally favored.

A beautiful, double-edged sword with a watered blade, enameled handle, and gold-inlaid cartouche from Nassereldin Shah Qajar shows the beauty of these swords. A chapter of this book is dedicated to the meaning of dragons, which appear on the ends of the quillons of many of these straight swords. Another important topic dealt with are the images of the lion and the sun and its meaning for Iranian dynasties. As it will be shown, the emblem of the lion and the sun has a long tradition, going back to the Saljug times. The image also appears on some coins from the Safavid era, known as “folus.” The engraved forte of a shamshir with the symbol of the lion and the sun from the Safavid period is photographed. Contrary to the popular belief, the symbol existed before the Qajar era and not only appeared on coins but also on sword blades.

Many ancient Iranian images continued to be used into the Qajar period. One of the most famous that appears as a decorative motif on some arms is the fighting scene between a lion and a bull. The meaning of this emblem is investigated and based on references, an explanation of its significance is presented. The emblem appears on the forte of double-edged, curved daggers (khanjar). A number of Iranian khanjar with carved ivory handles are also illustrated. The carved images show an interesting variety of ancient heroes such as Shahname, Sassanian kings, and some Europeanized images (farangisazi). Other types of Iranian small arms, such as the kard (knife) and pishqabz (a dagger with a single-edged, double-curved blade), are shown, and the different styles of these weapons are discussed. Included are discussions of other types of weapons, such as maces (gorz), axes (tabar), spears (neyze), and shields (separ).