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Two Afghan mother-of-pearl inlaid flintlock guns or jezail

Afghanistan or Northern India, circa 1820-1840

L. 120 & 146 cm

These jezails are of typical form, with a smooth bore barrel secured to the fore stock with brass barrel bands, the butts inlaid with palmettes or geometric patterns and bands of mother of pearl panels, one with lock mechanism stamped 1808, one marked for Moore.

The jezail or jezzail (Arabic: لیازج, meaning ́long barrels') is a simple, cost-efficient, and often handmade long arm commonly used in South Asia and parts of the Middle East in the past. It was popular amongst the Pashtun tribesmen, who deposed Shah Shuja and were primarily utilized in the First and Second Anglo-Afghan Wars by Pashtun tribesmen.

Jezails were generally handmade weapons, and consequently, they varied widely in their construction. Jezails were seen as very personal weapons, and unlike the typical military weapons of the time, which were very plain and utilitarian, jezails tended to be well crafted and were usually intricately decorated. The guns were handed down from father to son, and inlays were changed according to fashion or wealth. Some material was hard to get than others, for instance, mother-of-pearl versus bone.

The stocks were handmade and ornately decorated, featuring a distinctive curve which is not seen in the stocks of other muskets. The function of this curve is debated; it may be purely decorative, or it may have allowed the jezail to be tucked under the arm and cradled tightly against the body, as opposed to being held to the shoulder like a typical musket or rifle. The argument against this method of firing is that the flash pan would be dangerously close to the face, and the weapon would be harder to aim. It is more likely that the rifle was only tucked under the arm whilst riding a horse or a camel. The curve may also have saved weight; by shaving away some of the heavy wood used for the stock through the employment of the new curved shape, whilst maintaining
the same structural integrity of the stock, it could still be fired from the shoulder safely whilst also being lighter.

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