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Old 29th October 2020, 10:27 PM   #1
Robski55
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Default Scottish Sword with Engraving?

Greetings

Picked up this sword and I need some help in identifying it. It came out of a big collection of Scottish swords and daggers. Someone had written "Scottish 1500" on the blade at one point. I do not think it is that old but it does show a fair amount of use wear. Feels like it has been sharpened a lot in its history.

Its total length is 45" and the hexagonal section blade measures a little over 37". The sword has a heavy pommel and a carved stag horn grip. The Pommel and the Cross-Guard are rusted as is the area directly below the Guard.

There is the same worn engraving on both sides of the blade. Does anyone have any idea what the engraving means??

Whatever this sword turns out to be I am still be very happy with my purchase.

Any Help would be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards
Rob
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Old 29th October 2020, 11:54 PM   #2
Lee
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Please refer to page 11 of Dr. Edward Hunley's kaskara monograph to see a similar engraved mark. As to whether this came with a European-made trade blade centuries ago or suggests a previous 'life' for this blade as a kaskara I am fearful.
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Old 30th October 2020, 02:54 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
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I am totally in accord with Lee's observations.
This marking is one that seems to be appropriately called 'the enigma' and is described in Briggs (1965) as having been found on Tuareg swords during the Kaocen revolt in N. Niger 1916-17 .
It has remained unclear whether these were imitating certain European makers marks seen on trade blades, or whether it had some symbolic value in the tribal folk religions.

Regardless, it seems to have occurred as well on kaskara of the period as well in some degree.

The late Ewart Oakeshott described in his "Records of the Medieval Sword" how numbers of souvenir kaskara were often dismantled for the blades, and then remounted with either reproduced or sometimes genuine medieval hilts.
This hilt seems a very convincing likeness of the famed Scottish two hander (claymore) but these were much larger and with trefoils at quillon ends usually.

It does seem the 37" length is well known on kaskara (I just measured one being catalogued).

While perhaps not the venerable Scottish broadsword hoped for, this is a most attractive example, and I really cannot say for sure on the hilt, it could be authentically old made in the manner of the old claymores. The Scots have a fondness for carrying forth tradition, and old basket hilts and their blades had long working lives in later incarnations.

It would be good to read through the work by Ed Hunley as Lee suggested, this blade alone has its own intrinsic value being from the Sudan.
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Old 30th October 2020, 11:25 AM   #4
Will M
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Cross hatching on the engraving has been used to give gilt something more to adhere to.
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Old 30th October 2020, 06:53 PM   #5
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Default Thanks for the info

Thanks Everyone

I figured there would be a story and now I know. Didn't pay a whole bunch for it so I will enjoy it as it is. I am still happy with my purchase.

How can you determine if it is an old blade?

Best Regards
Rob
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Old 30th October 2020, 11:52 PM   #6
Jim McDougall
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This engraved mark is just that, an engraved design which back in 2009, an effort was made to associate this with a comet in Sudanese religious lore.
The mark was never meant to be 'gilt', in which cross hatching (as in the application of precious metal was pounded into the furrows) was termed koftgari.

These marks seem consistent with the 'shaded' sections of the device.

Attached are photos of kaskara blades with the mark, and Briggs' analysis from "European blades in Tuareg swords and Daggers" (JAAS, 1965).
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Old 1st November 2020, 01:26 PM   #7
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I can't say anything about the blade, but I am afraid the hilt is definitely replica, or to be more blunt, fake. The pommel is a brazil-nut shape, used in the 12th century in Germany and N. Europe but not in Scotland. The guard is of a 14th-15th century style very common in Scotland at this period. Exact representations can be seen on the famous West Highland gravestones, both in situ around the village churches in Argyll and the islands and also in museums. I dare say that is where the maker of your sword got his inspiration from.
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Old 1st November 2020, 04:15 PM   #8
Jim McDougall
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Good call Neil!
That is the hilt style I was thinking of, and occurred on the Scottish broadsword seen on the tomb effigies as well as on the large two hander 'claymores' as well.
The 'brazil nut' was as you point out , not part of this hilt form in Scottish context of these periods.

This again bolsters the case for the clandestine use of 'bring back' kaskara blades to fashion 'medieval' style swords for Victorian parlors, as described by Ewart Oakeshott. It sounds as if this was a well established practice, and this must have been the end of many kaskaras from the Sudan.

I recall some years ago in a museum in Canada, the story of one of their acquisitions which was claimed to be a medieval sword from the Crusades which had been found in a local basement in the 1920s.
Naturally, when images of the sword were seen it was revealed it was actually a Sudanese kaskara from the campaigns there, but in this case still in Sudanese mounts.

It had been a long held notion that the armies in North Africa were steadily armed with arms and armor (including mail armor) from the Crusades.
Ironically, in many cases, old European blades from that period and more commonly later, were indeed mounted in many takouba and kaskara.
The irony is wondering how many of these Sudanese used European blades were inadvertantly the subject of this sort of remounting.

Weapons often have unusual and even strange stories to tell of their own,
and this one seems to have its own history of antiquity as perhaps one of these unusual Victorian composites.
To be clear, this is NOT one of the European blades I mention, but a clearly Sudanese blade of probably at least early 20th century, if not contemporary to Omdurman (1898). While Briggs (1965) shows these markings in use on the examples c. 1917, typically such cases suggest such markings or examples were in use for at least some period prior to observation noted.
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