Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Jim McDougall 5th December 2018 01:38 AM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by shayde78
I wonder if an enterprising chap was inspired to invent the pata upon studying one of these.




Good observation Shayde!

Actually the pata evolved from the hooded/gauntlet hilt katars of Vijayanagara in 16th century, and ironically Elgood (Hindu Arms and Ritual", 2004, p.257)notes that in the Tanjore Armoury (1860, #830) was a 'puttah', double edged sword to be held in an elephants trunk.

As I noted in my previous post, it is interesting that the channeling in the blade of the Royal Armouries example of 'tusk sword' bears a striking resemblance to the katar blades of 16th c. Vijayanagara.

So your suggestion has most interesting associations :)


attached Tanjore katar

fernando 5th December 2018 12:09 PM

Notwithstanding ...
 
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Looking at the Mughal examples shown here so far, one could easily beleive those were only tusk adornments for parade. Yet the example from the Met looks like the real thing; both absence of decoration and the brutality of its blade profile, hardly constitute an embelishment accessory. Do i understand this one had moved to the Royal Amouries ? Reason why i didn't stumble over it when i was at the Met in 2014 :shrug:.

In the so called Book of Duarte Barbosa, a traveller and navigator who has been in the Orient between 1500 -1516/17, having been a scrivener in Cananor, and some times interpreter of the local language (Malaiala); one who has later joined Fern„o de Magalh„es in the world circum-navigation, i can read in my transcription of his original old Portuguese version, a little hard to read and a little harder to translate:

" Reino de Cambaia, delRei de Guzarate.
The King of Guzarat is a very great Lord, so of people as of great estate and very rich land. He is a Moor, and so are his men of arms, brings a great court and gross cavalry. He is the owner of many horses and elephants, these which they come from Ceylon and the Malabar to sell in his reign, as horses there are plenty in his lands, so that with the elephants and horses he makes great war to the gentiles of of Guzarat, so called Resbutos (from s‚nscrit r‚j‚putr‚), who still don't obey him, and there are also other Kings with whom some times he makes war; and in top of the elephants they build a wooden castle, that bring bows, arrows, muskets and other weapons, from where they fight their enemies, and are the said elephants so well taught in this that, as they engage fight with their tusks they wound the horses and people so hard that many soon run away and disrupt eachother, as also those from his own side. Of these, has continuously the King of Cambay four hundred, five hundred elephants (sic), very big and handsome, which cost 1 500 cruzados each, a little less a little more (sic) in the sea ports they bring them for sale."

On the other hand, although i could (could) admit that Alvaro Velho's version could be questioned, on basis on having 'bought' some local tale, i wouldn't question Garcia de Orta's integrity of facts.


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Jens Nordlunde 5th December 2018 12:29 PM

Maybe the reason why so few tusk swords can be found is, that they were useless centuries before the swords.
So many of the tusk swords were likely melted down, and forged into sword blades.

fernando 5th December 2018 12:33 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Maybe the reason why so few tusk swords can be found is, that they were useless centuries before the swords.
So many of the tusk swords were likely melted down, and forged into sword blades.

Well, one perspective :cool: .

Jim McDougall 5th December 2018 07:33 PM

In accord with Jens' 'perspective':
From "Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths" ( Unsal Yucel, Istanbul, 2001, pp.10-11);

"...the problem of preservation was further exacerbated by the fact that five hundred years ago most medieval European and Islamic swords were valued primarily for their metal.
Little did they know then that these weapons would be deemed of immense historical importance today. Indeed it is pure chance that some even survived. In those days, good steel for swords was an extremely valuable commodity, obtainable only at great expense and effort. Therefore it is not surprising that it was customary among the Ottoman's to MELT DOWN AND REFORGE swords acquired as booty during war, or that they subjected the swords of their ancestors to the same fate".

It is noted further that during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II (1808-39) as he disbanded Janissaries to develop a new, more Europeanized standing army, the Arsenal (in Istanbul) lost its function and became a storehouse for old weapons. As mail and swords etc. were giving way to firearms and artillery, these materials which had been stored rather than being melted down simply sat rusting and in sorry state. It seems I read that often there were heaps of armor etc used as ballast in ships where on arrival in America the metal was simply scrapped. Many fortunate collectors grabbed this stuff for literally pennies.

While swords and edged weapons of earlier times were as noted, melted down, good numbers of still serviceable weapons were stored away in arsenals for possible ersatz use in future call. Unusual items such as the tusk swords, which would have been more in a novelty category would not have been considered worth keeping, especially as elephants in warfare had waned.
If these existed in any number, as has been suggested, it is most likely they fell into the scrap heap, and any which survived (QED) are few.

Regarding the very munitions grade example of apparent tusk sword shown as from the MET, every indication is that these would indeed be in accord with usable weapons. Whether effective or not, their character suggests they were intended for attachment to a tusk. As has been noted earlier, these are quite different than the other examples which seem more for parade or ceremonial use, particularly the Mughal examples from Mysore, which are so noted in Richardson (1999).

It does seem that, again using the term 'perspective' , as noted in one of my earlier posts an item from Elgood (2004) describing item #830 from the Tanjore armory which was apparantly a 'pata' (puttah) and thought to be wielded in an elephants trunk. Clearly the author of this notation had little understanding of Indian arms, and as discussed previously, the notion of an elephant with a sword in its trunk is fanciful, of not in my opinion, ridiculous.

How many contemporary writers might have seen swords such as pata, and presumed them to be elephant swords, and other writers carrying the notion further, presumed them to be mounted on tusks?

fernando 6th December 2018 05:26 PM

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The history of war elephants is vast, as vast is the Indian territory. Adding those to the exuberance of Indian rulers, there definitely are elephant weapon implements for all tastes.
While the pair at the Royal Armouries is apparently functional and visibly (and admitedly) made to fit sawn-off tusks, there are two pairs from the dispersed Mysore arsenal which, besides being rather smaller and with embellished sockets, are built in such weak manner that show they only played a decorative role.
On the other hand, a pair of tusk covers with blades belong in the collection of the Junilee Museum in Bikaner, their date attributed to the XVIII century. This reminds me, as already previously did, the citation by Alvaro Velho of the multi-sword version; instead of being big sized single swords in each tusk, would be some socket-like device with a series of smaller blades.
One other pair with substantial features, certainly from an earlier period, formed part of the Moser-Charlottenfels collection, shown in the 1912 Leipzig catalogue.

Aparently the tusk swords at the Royal Armouries are part of a resident (partly restored) colossal elephant armour, acquired in India between 1798 and 1800, by the wife of the then Governor of Madras. I wouldn't know the reason why they are exhibited in a separate scenario.


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Jim McDougall 6th December 2018 06:43 PM

Well noted on the 'weakly' but embellished pair from Mysore, as shown and described by Richardson (1999), which were apparently vestigial examples reflecting the heritage of the 'war elephant'.

From what I have understood, again in the very informative article by Thom Richardson in the "Royal Armouries Yearbook" of 1999 the elephant armour that was on display there came from Powis Castle collection, and the tusk swords were acquired from there later. It is noted that the armor and the pair of tusk swords were regarded as from different periods, and the sense was that the swords were likely notably earlier (the armor acquired mid 18th c.).
I think that perhaps as these were not of the same period it was deemed more prudent to display them separately.

It is interesting that having established that the tusks were sawn off, the term 'tusk covers' may well have been used whether they were just covers for exposed tusk or embellished with formidable appearing blades. The case seems unclear.

I had not noticed the instance with multiple blades, which again well displays the innovation of these Indian armourers, who always sought to impress their patrons with novelty weaponry.

Jens Nordlunde 6th December 2018 08:44 PM

I remember that Sunde, maybe fifty years ago, told me that he had an elephant armour in an Indian storehouse, but they would not let it go.

ariel 6th December 2018 09:31 PM

I am reasonably OK with the idea of tusk swords, provided they were just extensions of the tusk: they would improve on the penetrating ability of the tusk and at the same time would protect the tips of the tusks from mechanical damage inflicted on them by the contact with enemyís metal protective devices. I agree with Jimís disbelief in the veracity of Nikitinís description of tusk swords.

But the more I imagine curved trunk swords and especially the chains attached to the trunk the more I doubt the wisdom of their use. Inevitably, wild dangling of either ( or both) such contraptions would run a significant risk of injuring elephantís legs and tusks. War elephants were a).not easily replaceable and b). any painful injury to them would run a risk of running away from the enemy and squishing their own soldiers.

fernando 7th December 2018 09:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
... I agree with Jimís disbelief in the veracity of Nikitinís description of tusk swords. ...

The full citation being:
"...large scythes attached to the tusks and trunks of the elephants".
I would drop the 'trunk' part as being the author's 'flowering' the narration. But the 'scythe' term sounds not so distant to Garcia de Orta's 'plow iron'.
I, for one, realize that, all we can say about these things based on the infinitesimal part that we know compared to whatever happened, is perhaps rather reducing.
Notwithstanding the fun of enjoying such appealing conversation.

And a little question:
What was the primary purpose to saw their tusks ?

mahratt 7th December 2018 09:58 AM

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Chains attached to the elephant's trunk. 1750 year. India

mahratt 7th December 2018 10:09 AM

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Mythological plot. But ... Is the author just invented an elephant who has a sword, which is attached to the trunk? Or...

Jens Nordlunde 7th December 2018 08:43 PM

Mahratt, it is an interseting miniature you show, although I think the artist has taken over some of the details.
I have been wondering if the trunk sword was made like a kind of gauntlet sword, which would make it easier for the elephant to carry and use.

ariel 7th December 2018 09:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
The full citation being:
"...large scythes attached to the tusks and trunks of the elephants".
I would drop the 'trunk' part as being the author's 'flowering' the narration. But the 'scythe' term sounds not so distant to Garcia de Orta's 'plow iron'.


As a matter of fact, the original tusk sword shown here by Jens may reasonably well be called a scythe or plow iron.
What one needs for that is just some curvature or angling of the blade.
Attacking with slightly bent head would impale the opponent and raising the head back would lift or throw away the (already lifeless) body.

Jim McDougall 7th December 2018 10:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Mahratt, it is an interseting miniature you show, although I think the artist has taken over some of the details.
I have been wondering if the trunk sword was made like a kind of gauntlet sword, which would make it easier for the elephant to carry and use.



I agree the artist here in the miniature shown by Mahratt (post 42) clearly has employed certain license in the portrayal of mythological figures and the image of a sword in the elephants trunk should be regarded as inclusive in such theme. Actually in the accounts concerning the inventory of the Tanjore armoury in 1860 describes a 'puttah' (clearly a pata or 'gauntlet' sword') which the author perceives as a sword for an elephant to wield with his trunk.


With the sawing off of elephants tusks, I would consider, could it have been to render the elephant less threatening while in captivity/training by removing its natural weapons? While the thought comes to mind of using the ivory, it begs the question, was the Indian elephant ivory in the same kind of demand as that of African? are they of the same composition and quality?


The sawn tusks then may require 'covers' as noted by Pant, which might have simply been a cap of some sort, but then in certain cases having an embellishment of a blade...in the manner of a prosthetic device. It is clearly a subject that did not seem to warrant elaboration in period accounts.

All it takes is one writer to see an instance of such embellishment in a ceremony or parade, and taking off with it in perceptions, then their account becomes read by others, and it projects into lore and legend. Not that this is the case, but it is quite possible in considering various views in explaing these matters with elephant weaponry.

ariel 8th December 2018 07:01 AM

Very astute comment, Jim.
Iconographic material of ďarmedĒ elephants is extremely rare and some of it is clearly fantasy driven ( fight with monsters). Its evidentiary value is quite uncertain taking into account the well-known propensity of Indo-Persian artists to invent or simply ďmodifyĒ the reality. All it takes is one or two images to transform an artistic license into pseudo - scientific conclusion. Moreover, as we see from this discussion, eyewitness testimonies are even less reliable.

Any person dedicated to collecting a sizable number of actual elephant arms would provide valuable service to the community.

mahratt 8th December 2018 08:10 AM

I do not see the monsters in this image (post 41) ... (Maybe someone from the more astute participants of the topic will help me find them). However, I see chains on an elephant's trunk, which were clearly used as weapons. If you can tie a chain to the trunk, what prevents you from doing the same with a big sword?

fernando 8th December 2018 10:57 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
I do not see the monsters in this image (post 41) ... (Maybe someone from the more astute participants of the topic will help me find them)...

Stay focused, Dmitriy ;) . Why the challenging tone ? Any astute one would see that Ariel's expression was not connected with your post !

mahratt 8th December 2018 11:05 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Stay focused, Dmitriy ;) . Why the challenging tone ? Any astute one would see that Ariel's expression was not connected with your post !


I apologize, but in my message there was no "challenging tone." Perhaps this is the inaccuracy of Google Translator. 1) I didnít address specifically to Ariel, I turned to all participants 2) I really donít see any monsters on the first image, but maybe this is due to lack of experience 3) I donít understand why some participants see one image where the sword is clamped in the elephant trunk, and the image where chains are attached to the elephant trunk is ignored :)

fernando 8th December 2018 11:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
... Moreover, as we see from this discussion, eyewitness testimonies are even less reliable...

Perhaps should the eyewitnesses condition be worthy of interpretation; don't we read some (most) of them them saying what they 'knew' instead of what they 'saw' ?. As they relied on verbal local descriptions, certainly owners of unclipped imagination wings.

fernando 8th December 2018 12:06 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
As a matter of fact, the original tusk sword shown here by Jens may reasonably well be called a scythe or plow iron...What one needs for that is just some curvature or angling of the blade...

Good shot :cool:.


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Jens Nordlunde 8th December 2018 02:23 PM

Hmmm - interesting comparison.
Travellers in India in the 15th century mentions the many war elephants being used, armed with swords on the trusks and the trunks, but they also mention guns and canons - not to speak about the rockets, of which the elephants were very afraid.
Whether these early rockets were made of wood or maybe of lacquered paper is unknown to me, but Tipo had taken them a step further as he made them of iron, and he had several different kinds of rockets.
What we dont know is, if the elephant sword at the MET has been bend, or if it was made the way it look to day.

fernando 8th December 2018 03:15 PM

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That the evolution of weaponry was also 'shared' with elephants is an indisputable fact; Garcia de Orta, for one, was positive about that. We can read out there about Indian lords in the XVI century putting a culverin on their elephants.
But while with the previous weapons elephants were themselves the 'handlers', with the later they were only the 'carriers'.
Is this the real thing ?

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Jim McDougall 8th December 2018 03:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
I do not see the monsters in this image (post 41) ... (Maybe someone from the more astute participants of the topic will help me find them). However, I see chains on an elephant's trunk, which were clearly used as weapons. If you can tie a chain to the trunk, what prevents you from doing the same with a big sword?




Actually I think the term monsters perhaps is a sedgeway from the common practice in many references describing figures such as makara and yali on weaponry in India and other associated regions as 'grotesque'. These in iconography with the key mythological circumstances depicted are meant to be seen as 'fearsome' presumably in accord with religious dogma instances.


Here I do not beleive 'monsters' was meant in any pejorative way but as a manner of description much aligned with the 'grotesque' term often used.
What was clearly being described was the mythological figures being noted.


On the case of the chains on the elephants trunk, again we face the same dilemma as questioning why in the world chains and weights any more than swords or any weapon would be put on an elephants trunk. This is even more an effective question in the case of battle, where elephants could easily run amok and threaten anyone in their path. These are herd animals who are remarkably intelligent and if one should break lose, it would not be hard to imagine others following quickly.......regardless of human attempts to control.


I believe the notion of chains and weights used on elephant trunks presumably as flails is perhaps as much fantasy as that of a sword being wielded in that manner. The elephant was used primarily as a powerful transport for fighting men as well as a destructive shock action animal by its sheer bulk.....not as a trained fighting animal as many war horses were.

In my thinking the tusk swords are examples of Indian innovation in weaponry and used incidentally more as novelty elements in parade or ceremonial situations. As with many cases with certain weapons of unusual character, these were oftrn seen in diplomatic or embassy situations where the object was to impress the visitor....who then presumed the weapons (tusk swords in this case) to have actually been widely used in combat.


Many depictions of battles and events are artistically rendered by by artists who were not present and often years later. Typically they rely on the often embellished accounts of persons there or second to third hand information in addition to the license required to add effect to the images by the artist.

Jim McDougall 8th December 2018 03:46 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
That the evolution of weaponry was also 'shared' with elephants is an indisputable fact; Garcia de Orta, for one, was positive about that. We can read out there about Indian lords in the XVI century putting a culverin on their elephants.
But while with the previous weapons elephants were themselves the 'handlers', with the later they were only the 'carriers'.
Is this the real thing ?

.




Well noted..............elephants carrying ordnance such as cannon, rockets were extremely well suited for carrying this equipment.........however as far as I have known these were of course not discharged FROM the animals back. Elephants were terrified by fire or such loud reports involving the inevitable flashes of powder etc. However, given the fanciful (in my opinion) themes of many of these miniatures pertaining the elephant weaponry, I wonder of there are works which show cannon being fired off elephant howdahs.

fernando 8th December 2018 06:31 PM

Incognito
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
......however as far as I have known these were of course not discharged FROM the animals back. Elephants were terrified by fire or such loud reports involving the inevitable flashes of powder etc.... I wonder of there are works which show cannon being fired off elephant howdahs...

My meaning was that they didn't operate firearms but they carried them for those in the howdahs to do it, not carry them only as cargo; although it is known that such other version also took place.
But as for my previous humble mention, what we know or think we know is a grain in such ignored universe. Yes, elephants were unpredictable on what touches great noises but then, weren't they also unpredictable whilst battle contact, so much for tusk swords, chains and all other apparatuses. Remember Duarte Barbosa when he says (#32) that, during battle melee, they run over both adversary as also their own. This takes me to agree (at least partly) with some blogger when he says:

" I don't think the elephant would respond to the sound of gun firing right behind the ears too well. The military efficacy of elephants is overblown. They are slow and cumbersome.They don't bring much to the battlefield; not speed and not maneuverability. On top of other liabilities in battle they are more dangerous to soldiers around them than the enemy. I certainly would not like to be in the vicinity of one in a battlefield. If he got injured or startled he would end up trampling over his entire squad. The only positive attribute i can think of, is psychological effect on the enemy but even that would wear off very quickly.
India was invaded half a dozen times by waves of Muslim conquerors from Iran/Afghanistan/Central Asia but i can't think of once any of these waves being defeated by the elephants that the Indians had in large numbers."


Now, how's that for an approach ?


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Jim McDougall 8th December 2018 07:34 PM

What I meant regarding discharging cannon from the back of the elephant was aimed toward the artists creating these miniatures which depict elephants wielding swords in their trunks, tusk swords and weighted chains on the trunks...ÖÖ.noting I had not yet seen these CREATIVE artists showing blazing cannon from an elephants howdah.

Most of what I have been TRYING to illustrate is that given the very unpredictable nature of elephants it would be dangerous to arm them in these ways......rather like given a loaded shotgun to a three year old child in effect (I hope that analogy will not cause too much dismay).

Jens Nordlunde 8th December 2018 08:06 PM

I find Fernando's quote very interesting.


" I don't think the elephant would respond to the sound of gun firing right behind the ears too well. The military efficacy of elephants is overblown. They are slow and cumbersome.They don't bring much to the battlefield; not speed and not maneuverability. On top of other liabilities in battle they are more dangerous to soldiers around them than the enemy. I certainly would not like to be in the vicinity of one in a battlefield. If he got injured or startled he would end up trampling over his entire squad. The only positive attribute i can think of, is psychological effect on the enemy but even that would wear off very quickly.
India was invaded half a dozen times by waves of Muslim conquerors from Iran/Afghanistan/Central Asia but i can't think of once any of these waves being defeated by the elephants that the Indians had in large numbers."


I also think this could have been the reason why theystopped using elephantsfor war, and only the generals who needed an overview sat on the elephants.

ariel 9th December 2018 12:36 AM

I have to make an admission: I like Wikipedia ( some snobbish dog whistles notwithstanding:-))).
Most articles were written by people who carefully researched the subjects and supported them by references and illustrations.

So, Wiki to the rescue!

Entry " Mughal artillery"

"Elephants carried two pieces of "elephant barrel" (gajnal and hathnal) artillery and two soldiers to fire them. The elephants served only to transport the weapons and their crew, however; they dismounted before firing. "Camel guns" (Shutarnal) and "swivel guns" zamburak, on the other hand, were carried on camel-back and were fired while mounted.[14]" ( Irvine W. (1903). The Army Of The Indian Moghuls: Its Organization And Administration. Luzac. pp. 113Ė159.)

Entry " War elephant" provides exhaustive review of the topic from Carthage to WWII with multiple contemporaneous iconographic sources.
Interestingly, none of them ( except for the picture of the the Met example) show any trunk or tusk implements.

On the other hand, entry " Camel artillery" ( in addition to Mr. Irvine's book) reviews old and new ( WW I and II) participation of camel-mounted artillery. Obviously, camels were not as skittish as elephants.

So were elephants "armed"? Yes. Was this practice even modestly wide spread? No. It might have been tried early on, but the skittishness of the animals and the development of successful countermeasures, including guns, arrows, spears, torches and even squealing pigs, often leading to turning the animals around and squishing their own forces quickly convinced the Rajahs to use these giant creatures only as monstrously impressive transportation vehicles with ( often) lavishly decorated howdahs to sit in well behind the battle lines.

fernando 9th December 2018 12:59 AM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Ö.noting I had not yet seen these CREATIVE artists showing blazing cannon from an elephants howdah...

Just say the word ;) :D .


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