Evolution of Georgian Weaponry, Part I – Melee, Before Gunpowder
15 February, 2015
Evolution of Georgian Weaponry, Part I – Melee, Before Gunpowder
Over the centuries, every region of Georgia has developed characteristic weapons and other military equipment that reflected landscape peculiarities, combat style and other nuances. According to historical sources, roots of Georgian weaponry lie in the country’s mountainous regions, namely Tusheti, Khevsureti, Svaneti and Racha, as well as Marneuli, Tetritskaro and Dmanisi. This is mainly owed to the fact that these regions contain the largest ore deposits.
Metalworking appeared in Georgia, just as in the entirety of South Caucasus and Middle
East, in VI-V centuries B.C. By estimates, proto-Georgian tribes learned to smelt copper into bronze and forge a variety of items from it in IV-III B.C. Development of metalworking was significantly enhanced by the abundance of many varieties of ore and solid fuels in the South Caucasus. Georgian blacksmiths quickly earned themselves a place under the sun, their art perfected over the centuries.

geotv.geKhanjali is a Georgian short sword that dates back as far as III century B.C. Its small size, reminiscent of the Roman gladius, is owed mainly to the fact that softness of copper and bronze it was originally made of did not allow for longer blades. Later, with introduction of steel, it became longer and narrower, with the blade’s shape starting to resemble that of a poignard. However, its older version, called satevari, refused to give any ground, managing to survive three millenniums and remain as a sidearm.

Brass knuckles, commonly known as knuckledusters, were used in Georgia for millennia, being most widespread in Mtianeti region, where a fighting tradition (not just boxing, but all-out fighting, frequently with tragic outcomes) has been carefully preserved over the centuries. More than 12 variations of brass knuckles were discovered in Khevsureti alone. Three prevalent types include those with rounded tips for combat training, with bladed tips for slashing strikes and with sharpened spikes for puncturing strikes. Traditional fighting with brass knuckles had numerous rules, many of them quite unsettling – for example, combatants were advised to aim for the scalp when delivering punches to the head, so that the hair would conceal the bruises and cuts.

geotv.geTabar (also known as tabardzeni) is first mentioned in Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s dictionary “Sitkvis Kona.” It was a single-bladed or double-bladed axe with a spear tip attached to a flat end, making it very easy for the wielder to make unexpected attacks and inflict massive injury on the enemy without much effort. The Tabar was widespread in Asia, used both by infantry and cavalry. Its shaft was mostly made of wood, although full-metal Tabars were not uncommon. Despite its overwhelming popularity in Egypt and India, not even an approximate date of its emergence is known.

geotv.geSpears were widely used by Colchian warriors since ancient times. Almost every single Colchian burial ground that contained weaponry also included several spear tips. According to Greek historians, Colchians wielded short spears, while Meskhs and Khalibs (Kartvelian tribes) wielded long ones.

geotv.geA hand axe was pretty much a universal weapon by II-I centuries B.C., used in both agriculture and war. Colchian axes are frequently encountered in graves and buried treasure troves, more than a hundred of which were discovered in archeological digs.

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