Bıçak (Uyghur)

Bıçak, Uyghur

Code EA12

This is a very rare example of antique 19th century knife, the Bıçak (Pichoq), from the Central Asian Islamic Emirate of Bukhara, previously Turkistan, present - day Uzbekistan. Bukhara weapons are extremely rare compared to Turkish, Indian, Persian, or Caucasian weapons. This region was not heavily populated and warriors were a very small percentage of the population. The Bukhara arms are hardly ever seen in museums, including museums in Russia. Contributing to their rarity were the actions of the former Soviet Union. They sought to suppress local cultures and customs in favor of approved uniform Soviet designs and confiscated most if not virtually all existing Bichaq, whether they be used as a work knife, kitchen knife or for personal defense.  Very few of the older examples of this indigenous knife survive. 

The shape of this blade differs from other pichoq in ways that suggest it was created by an Uyghur smith. In comparison with other varieties, this type (named “Kaike”)  has a gradually narrowing blade and a distinctly curved profile. It is sometimes referred to as “old Bukhara” or “old Khokhand. In Russian, it is usually called “Afghanka”.

 The Uyghur (Uighur, Uigur) are a Turkic ethnic group principally residing in the Xinjiang, China area called the Tarim Basin.  However, there are significant diasporic communities of Uyghurs in Uzbekistan, northern Afghanistan, and elsewhere in Central Asia. 

The Bıçak (Bichaq, Bishaq, Bichaq, Bichac), also called the pichoq (pichok, pchak, pechak, P'chak), is especially interesting because the design influenced knife-making from Uzbekistan to the Balkans and throughout the Ottoman Empire.  Uzbek (Özbek) smiths are known to have traveled to the Middle East and shared their wares, designs and skills. An Uyghur population settled as far away as Turkey. Both Uzbek and Uyghur tribes belong to the same ethnic subbranch of Turkic people.  The word "Bıçak" simply means "knife" in the Turkic language spoken by these groups.

This knife is 10 ¼ inch overall, the blade 6 ½ inches. The width is precisely 1 inch at the forte and ¼ inch thick, tapering distally to the tip. The forte (bolster plate), of brass, is decorated with a four petal floral motif commonly found on Berber weapons.  The blade has a single primary fuller stretching nearly the entire length. Above this, towards the spine, are two partial fullers about ½ the size, followed distally by a single wider and deeper fuller towards the tip. The blade shape has edge and spine parallel for about ⅔ of the length, thereafter the tip rises at the spine and the edge sweeps up quickly to the tip.  In addition to the fullers, the blade is decorated with five circular brass inlays on both sides; three before the dual fullers and two after, each surrounded by a stipple pattern of dots.

The hilt is of two pieces of dark horn (also often found on Ottoman weapons) in a typical Bıçak shape with three decorative inset carnelians on both sides surrounded entirely by brass pins.  Along the top spine of the hilt is a decorative brass inlay with a geometric pattern. Along the bottom of the hilt is a similar brass inlay with overlapping S-shaped carvings inside parallel lines along the length.

Category: Knife