A tabarzin axe with a hidden stiletto






Early 19th century


Forging, chiseling, engraving, inlaying, damascening, gilding, gem-setting


Steel, gold, silver, garnets, turquoise


Overall axe length (including stiletto) 725 mm; haft length 610 mm; head size 190x160 mm; total stiletto length 726 mm; blade length 647 mm

The axe head is made of watered steel with a broad crescent-shaped blade, block-shaped socket and a protrusion in the form of a lion's head on the poll. Each side of the blade is inlaid in the tahneshan technique with a gold arcuate lobed cartouche containing an image of a horse archer among the chiseled flowers. The head socket is chiseled on both sides with flower bouquets that are surrounded by gold koftgari geometrical borders. The back is engraved and gilded. The tubular steel haft was entirely decorated in silver koftgari with arabesques or eslimi, but they almost completely lost. The haft terminates in a hemispherical knob. The steel stiletto consists of a gilt pierced hilt and a straight, narrow blade with a square cross-section. The stiletto hilt is formed as a mirror-symmetric pair of eslimi each shaped like a stylized dragon's head with a widely opened mouth. This eslimi form is called dahān-e aždahā. In addition, the stiletto hilt is engraved with geometric motifs and inlaid with six small turquoise and garnet cabochons. Due to the threaded base, the stiletto blade is screwed into the axe haft from the side of the head.

COMMENT. Tabarzin is the traditional type of Iranian battle axe, which was a standard weapon of the mounted warriors. The Persian term "tabarzin" literally means "saddle axe". The light-weight variations are characterized by a straight or curved triangular blade with a convex cutting edge, and the poll is usually rectangular or square in shape. The heavier variations have a crescent-shaped wide blade, and the poll is often fitted with a figured protrusion or pointed spike. There are also other variations including heavy axes with two crescent-shaped blades. The thin straight haft is traditionally made of metal, but there are also wooden hafts that are completely or partially encased in metal. The hollow metal haft can conceal a stiletto. The tabarzin type axes were used not only in Iran, but also in India, Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Ottoman Empire. 

LITERATURE: Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 262-263, №93.