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March 2, 2003


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Reconstructions based on Mamluk and Syrian belt plates
By Steven Baker

The most interesting belts, from my viewpoint, are the Syrian and Mamluk belts. They are a century apart yet show a large number of similarities.

13th Century Syrian.
Admittedly the Syrian belt picture shown here is made from elements in the Mamluk picture but it is based on the drawings that David Nicolle made in his book. For the Syrian belt he records that it consisted of two sword loops, 11 vertical stiffeners, 27 discs, 2 discs with holes and a belt buckle.



14th Century Mamluk.

For the Mamluk belt, according to Nicolle, there are two discs with holes, 10 other discs, and 8 vertical stiffeners along with a buckle plate and a strap end. According to Mayer however there are 41 discs some of which have holes for the tongue of the belt buckle and 19 vertical stiffeners. Which, if both are accurate, may mean that some pieces have gone missing during the 47 years between Mayer and Nicolle. Alternatively it could be that Mayer saw all these pieces as one belt and now they are seen as part of several belts and so the collection has been split. It would be interesting to find out which is the case.

I decided that since I had two belts that were very similar I should base my reconstruction on them. One thing to remember with these reconstruction's is that they are my best guess work. You can add more straps and reduce the waist size or reduce the number of straps and increase the waist size. All I can say is from the available evidence these are the most likely reconstructions.

The plate pattern shown is based on the details shown in the photograph in L.A.Mayer's Mamluk Costume and Supplemented by David Nicholle's comments and drawings.
The red dots indicate the rivet holes. The rivets used are slightly domed. Unfortunately at this point in time I do not have details as to how the rivets were finished off on the other side of the belt. The most likely option would be a small metal washer on the other side which would stop the rivet pulling through the leather.


There are two sets of assumptions I will be using. The first will be that the disc width is 25mm (1"), the width of the stiffener is 10mm (0.4"). This will make the length of the buckle and plate 109mm (4.3") and the strapend about 81mm (3.25"). The second will be that the disc width is 30mm (1.25"), the stiffener is 12mm (0.5"), the buckle and plate is 129mm (5.2") and the strapend is 100mm (4"). In both cases I assumed that there was a 5mm (0.2") gap between the pieces.


Reconstruction of the Syrian belt from Nicolle's Information.
Based on the first assumption this belt would be 1.245 metres long (4' 2"). Based on the second assumption 1.439 metres long (4' 10"). This is a fairly long belt and while medieval European belts are shown with the belt end hanging down it is not a common feature in the Middle East.


Reconstruction of the Syrian Belt with pendant straps.
The addition of these extra straps reduces the first assumptions belt length to just under 1 metre (3' 3"). The second assumption works out to a belt of 1.17 metres (3' 11").


Reconstruction of the Mamluk belt from Mayer's Information.
The reconstruction of this belt based on the first assumption yields a belt that is 1.1 metres (3' 7"). The second assumption yields a belt 1.27 metres (4' 3"). Also we have more pendant straps for this belt.


This is another alternative for the Syrian belt.
A common depiction in manuscript illuminations from this period is the sword hanging suspended underneath the belt's pendant straps and no sign of a separate belt holding up the sword. One possible way this could have been done is for the pendant straps to be over the top of the sword loops (see lines in red). By doing this the belt comes out at 94cm (3' 2") for the first assumption. For the second assumption we would end up with a belt 1.05 metres (3' 6").




This is a restructured and reorganised version of the information on Steppes Nomad Belt fittings presented at Steven Baker's Steppes Nomad Resource Site - http://www.oocities.com/qilich.

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