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"Arab baldric over left or right shoulder" Topic


11 Posts

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407 hits since 4 May 2022
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Comments or corrections?

Druzhina04 May 2022 4:36 p.m. PST

There are drawings of statuettes of warriors from Khirbat al-Mafjar, Palestine, 8th century, e.g. Fig 7 in David Nicolle, 'An introduction to arms and warfare in classical Islam' that show one with a baldric over the left and one with a baldric over the right shoulder.

These appear to be a mistaken understanding of a photo of an Umayyad Stucco Bust from L. A. Mayer, ‘Saracenic Arms and Armour', Ars Islamica, Vol. X, 1943. where the broken statue is placed next to a mirror.

The damage to the back of the headgear can be seen in the other photos where the baldric is over the right shoulder.

This headgear is used in Arab Heavy Cavalrymen in 'Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066' by Ian Heath

mirror sites
David Nicolle, 'An introduction to arms and warfare in classical Islam'
Umayyad Stucco Bust, Khirbat al Mafjar, Palestine, mid-8th century AD. Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, Jerusalem.
Arab Heavy Cavalrymen in 'Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066' by Ian Heath

Druzhina
Arab Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2022 6:39 p.m. PST

Since there were no "uniform regulations" back then, I would imagine a soldier would wear the baldric over his dominate shoulder so his weapon scabbard would be on his non-dominate side and thus easily drawn by his dominate hand. Except those pesky Romans who wore their gladius sword on their dominate hip. grin

Jim

marmont1814 Sponsoring Member of TMP05 May 2022 9:38 a.m. PST

Strikes me as an over think, they are irregulars doing and dressing in irregular clothing and attire

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP05 May 2022 10:50 a.m. PST

Did lefties learn to fight with their weapon in their right hand? I don't know. If the formation requires a degree of uniformity (everyone holds their shield in their left hand and their weapon in their right hand) I can see it. Irregulars will do as they please.

Swampster05 May 2022 3:43 p.m. PST

If handedness is all that it is down to, then about 1 in 8 of the irregular sword wielding types in 19th and 20th century photos should have their scabbard on the opposite side to the others.
Looking at Bedouin, everyone of them has sword scabbard on their left and dagger on the right. Same with Caucasian warriors like the Khevsur.
There are cultural and organisational reasons why they might all do the same.

Druzhina05 May 2022 5:47 p.m. PST

Not all Arabs are irregulars, e.g. the Jund.

My main point is that this piece of evidence is a mistake, which has been repeated.

Druzhina
Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

Swampster06 May 2022 1:42 a.m. PST

I agree with Druzhina.
And my point is that even irregulars can be consistent.

Druzhina07 May 2022 11:22 p.m. PST
Erzherzog Johann17 May 2022 2:04 p.m. PST

Islam has quite strict rules around which hand is used for which function; the right for clean tasks, like eating, and the left for unclean tasks like toileting.

Consequently, while no Muslim I know these days objects to left-handedness in everyday life, like writing, they do still follow the left-right conventions for the above examples.

Therefore I'd be very surprised if dark age or mediaeval Muslim society would have been so much more enlightened than European society in this regard. I'd say people would have been trained to fight with the right hand, so baldric wearing would be consistently on the right, so that the sword is drawn with the right hand, across the body from the left side.

So to pick up on what 79thPA observed above, how many depictions do we see of left handed soldiers, ie with weapon in the left and shield on the right. I'd hazard to guess that the answer would be either a) none, or b) vanishingly few.

Cheers,
John

Druzhina17 May 2022 8:40 p.m. PST

Irregulars can do as they choose, but, they mostly choose to fit in with their comrades-in-arms. This is why groups of irregulars can often be identified by their costume and equipment, except where an expensive item can only be obtained by the poorest by looting.

Even individualistic, 15th-century knights chose to follow fashions that might change with the decades.

There are some depictions of left-handed use of weapons in 'Oriental Armour of the Near and Middle East from the Eighth to the Fifteenth Centuries as Shown in Works of Art', by Michael Gorelik. These include use of a two-handed lance in a left-handed fashion. In all cases the figures are on the right, facing left. Some of these are in groups of left-handers. These may be something the artists have chosen for their composition (with a preference for front facing figures) rather than to represent left-handers. Some depictions may be just to keep the weapon to the edge of the image rather than in front of another figure.

Druzhina
Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

Erzherzog Johann18 May 2022 1:11 a.m. PST

I would say groups in particular will be a case of artistic convenience. Unrecorded units of left handers seems very unlikely. Drawing a mirror image when the troops face the other way would be more useful in showing more than just the soldier's back.

I hasten to add that I am no expert in this area, just someone with a theory :~)

Cheers,
John

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