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Old 21st June 2014, 11:23 AM   #1
Iain
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Default Double disc pommel kaskara

I think this could make for an interesting topic. To start it off, a sword from the MET. I'd seen poor quality images of this piece before but it seems since I last looked very clear images have been made available online. I am attaching them here.

The blade is wootz with the fuller taking the form of snakes with the heads terminating hear the guard. Anyone have any idea as to the age of the blade?

The hilt is also quite unusual in form with two discs in the pommel.

These seem to be a fairly rare kaskara subtype. I would love to find one myself someday!
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Old 21st June 2014, 11:35 AM   #2
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While the hilt and double pommel discs are interesting to be sure, I am more fascinated by the superb quality of the wootz blade.

For me it is even more proof that wootz can be found even in the least likely places in the Islamic world.

Thanks so much for these pics Iain.
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Old 21st June 2014, 01:02 PM   #3
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Orez Perski shows a similar blade, figures 101a & b as 18th century...personally though I am not convinced this is that old of a blade though.

The sword appears to be fully museum conserved too...kinda would have liked to know the scabbard fittings as the pommel is real interesting.

Gavin
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Old 21st June 2014, 02:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SwordsAntiqueWeapons
Orez Perski shows a similar blade, figures 101a & b as 18th century...personally though I am not convinced this is that old of a blade though.

The sword appears to be fully museum conserved too...kinda would have liked to know the scabbard fittings as the pommel is real interesting.

Gavin
I checked through my notes on this one. According to Nickel, likely collected after the Siege of Omdurman and acquired by the MET along with several other very good swords.

It seems to be 19th century Qajar revival. The cartouche reads Ali of Shiraz the maker, on the opposite side the name and title of Sultan Nasir ad Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896).
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Old 21st June 2014, 05:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
I checked through my notes on this one. According to Nickel, likely collected after the Siege of Omdurman and acquired by the MET along with several other very good swords.

It seems to be 19th century Qajar revival. The cartouche reads Ali of Shiraz the maker, on the opposite side the name and title of Sultan Nasir ad Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896).



Iain,

Those dates and the Qajar attribution help explain both the type of wootz, and the snake motif....both more common on Qajar era pieces.

Still fascinates me that it found its way to the Sudan.

Like Gavin, I'd love to know what the original scabbard looked like.
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Old 21st June 2014, 06:10 PM   #6
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An item such as this sword blade seems perhaps most likely to have arrived into the Sudan as a diplomatic gift. Perhaps it is also within the realm of possibility that some Sudanese would have journeyed to Persia in the 19th century due to the shared religious connect of both areas being Shi'a.
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Old 21st June 2014, 09:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
An item such as this sword blade seems perhaps most likely to have arrived into the Sudan as a diplomatic gift. Perhaps it is also within the realm of possibility that some Sudanese would have journeyed to Persia in the 19th century due to the shared religious connect of both areas being Shi'a.


I am inclined to agree Iain, and going through old notes I find that there were indeed many examples of imports from Persia in arms and armour in the Sudan, I believe coming in through Suakin. I believe that profound Sufi presence in Darfur may have played important part in some of the circumstances with these arms and motif found in many cases.

I must admit I have never seen the dual headed snake, however it is tempting to think of possible allusion to the Sword Dhu'l Faqar and its dual blade theme.
The snake is often seen on the Darfur blades incorporated with the lohr (prayer board) type motif with crescent moons etc and in other notes I found that in certain aspects the snake may have associations representing a holy person. It is noted elsewhere that the snake represents either Moses himself or his staff which of course became a snake.

In addition to the remarkable quality and being a wootz blade, this carved out snake motif is most unusual, and the cartouche as well. It does seem of diplomatic stature.

The double discoid pommel seems to align with other kaskara hilts of this type known in Darfur which were carried by nobility. These usually had double spheres hollowed out to hold beans or pebbles and were rattled loudly in feigned charges toward prisoners or other situations to emphasize power or instill fear as the sword was furiously brandished.
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Old 21st June 2014, 09:45 PM   #8
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Hi Iain,

Could we say that this particular sword is indeed not a kaskara? While the blade is magnificent, it has a tapered profile and is narrower than the traditional form. Kaskarae as we know them use either trade, or local cast or forged blades not wootz. The only attribute that would point to kaskara is the cross guard, certainly not the double pommel.

So the question is "what does a kaskara make?

Ed
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Old 22nd June 2014, 12:42 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
Hi Iain,

Could we say that this particular sword is indeed not a kaskara? While the blade is magnificent, it has a tapered profile and is narrower than the traditional form. Kaskarae as we know them use either trade, or local cast or forged blades not wootz. The only attribute that would point to kaskara is the cross guard, certainly not the double pommel.

So the question is "what does a kaskara make?

Ed


I would consider this a variant form, and the hilt elements reflect good degree of similarity to kaskaras from Darfur regions (Reed, 1987). The blade itself is certainly an anomaly, but the term kaskara itself is a derivative term not used for these broadswords locally as they are termed sa'if as I understand.
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Old 22nd June 2014, 06:38 AM   #10
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I would consider the blade as a trade blade, albeit a little more special and from a region not normally though of....Persian smith umped out a lot of trade blades too...

Gavin
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Old 22nd June 2014, 10:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
Hi Iain,

Could we say that this particular sword is indeed not a kaskara? While the blade is magnificent, it has a tapered profile and is narrower than the traditional form. Kaskarae as we know them use either trade, or local cast or forged blades not wootz. The only attribute that would point to kaskara is the cross guard, certainly not the double pommel.

So the question is "what does a kaskara make?

Ed
Hi Ed,

This is quite the question! But I'll give you my take on it, which is heavily influenced by my experiences with takouba as well.

Jim and Gav have covered some excellent points already.

Firstly the term kaskara has an odd journey into the lexicon of the western collector. I've written about this in the past and won't rehash all the details, however it is central Sudanese sword derived from Kanuri and appearing as a loan word in diverse areas including Bagirmi. This in itself is interesting but not overly useful as it simply means sword. So, from a linguistic point of view kaskara means nothing specific, only the definition collectors have come to associate with the general pattern of these swords.

The blade profile of kaskara are usually quite similar, but in my view this is due to the use of trade blades, often European, than any particular local requirement. The blades were in certain general proportions and local manufacture tended to follow along the same lines.However any good piece of steel seems to have been used. Blades originally found in Ethopian saif, sabre blades and more. This particular Persian blade could also be termed a "trade" blade of sorts and follows the general proportions of a typical kaskara. It is straight, double edged of about the typical length and of a similar tip form.

The hilt as Jim notes is of a sub type that while rare, is certainly known. I'm attaching a photo from the armoury at Leeds (photo credit goes to the Akaal Arms blog).

So, what does make a kaskara? For me it's the same thing that makes a takouba. A particular style of hilting. In this case the pommel form and distinctive cross guard married to a straight, double edged blade, encompassing the most distinctive elements usually observed in a Sudanese broadsword.
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Old 22nd June 2014, 11:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SwordsAntiqueWeapons
Orez Perski shows .....
Gavin



Orez Perski is not an author: it simply means "Persian Weapons" in Polish.
The chief editor of this book was Antoni Romuald Chodynski.

The lay-out of the cover page confused many people, who used the title as the author's name.
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Old 22nd June 2014, 04:14 PM   #13
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Old 22nd June 2014, 05:11 PM   #14
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Iain you have described these circumstances as always perfectly and eloquently! I think Lee once described the use of a term to describe a type of item collectively the suffix NOS (=not otherwise specified).

Ariel thank you for the clarification on that book title, I think Gav was actually referring to the title in that sense as in discussion using vernacular we often used predominant term or authors name for brevity. I often term that reference simply 'Perski' in conversation without thinking of the literal meaning. It is good to note here however for the readers, and much appreciated.

Gav, good point on the trade blade aspect, and in that sense this one would be rather at the high end of the spectrum in that it may well be a blade intended either diplomatically or 'promotionally'. Clearly it went to a person of standing as we have noted that these unusual variant hilts were usually used by high ranking officials or nobility.

Ibrahiim, thank you very much for the link to the snake worship aspects, and indeed the snake becomes a most important icon and symbol in many of these African cultures. It is always difficult to presume meanings or purpose in the subjective nature of tradition and superstition, and good to consider the aspects collectively before dismissing certain possibilities.
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Old 22nd June 2014, 06:01 PM   #15
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I have tried twice to post a reply, but neither has been accepted. Will try again on another thread in the future,

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Old 22nd June 2014, 06:11 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
I have tried twice to post a reply, but neither has been accepted. Will try again on another thread in the future,

Ed
Hi Ed,

Sometimes I have problems with the forum software timing out when I post. Also if you try and post quickly in succession it sometimes won't let you. Sounds like just a forum software glitch.
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Old 23rd June 2014, 08:28 AM   #17
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Hi Iain

A useful and interesting thread; never seen a kaskara with those double pommels before...

Regards.
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Old 26th June 2014, 02:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Hi Iain

A useful and interesting thread; never seen a kaskara with those double pommels before...

Regards.


There don't seem to be many about. The one in Leeds and the one in the MET are the only two off the top of my head I recall seeing... I'd be quite curious to see any others around!
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Old 4th July 2014, 11:46 AM   #19
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Engraving from the book "Ethiopia Engraved" (Orig. Lefebvre Atlas, l. 44 and 45): "Early 19th-Century Weapons)
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Old 4th July 2014, 02:54 PM   #20
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Hi Martin, thanks for the image, I've seen that engraving of the kaskara before but never the full page.
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Old 4th July 2014, 06:11 PM   #21
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This engraving is fascinating in many regards, the kaskara certainly one of them.

I was also drawn to the sword hilts opposite each other at the bottom of the page. The one to the left looks faceted and appears rounded...a form very typical of Ottoman daggers. The one to the right looks more Arabic in origin than typically Ethiopian. Neither of these outside influences would be particularly shocking, but I am fascinated by the cross-cultural sharing of styles, as many of you know.
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Old 4th July 2014, 09:02 PM   #22
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[QUOTE=CharlesS]This engraving is fascinating in many regards, the kaskara certainly one of them.

I was also drawn to the sword hilts opposite each other at the bottom of the page. The one to the left looks faceted and appears rounded...a form very typical of Ottoman daggers. The one to the right looks more Arabic in origin than typically Ethiopian. Neither of these outside influences would be particularly shocking, but I am fascinated by the cross-cultural sharing of styles, as many of you know.[/QUO

As always well observed Charles! and you are always astute at noticing these nuances of cross pollination of cultural influences. I have often wondered as well about the similarity of many Arabian dagger hilts to those of the Abyssinian shotels, and the importation of these swords into Arabia for use of the rhino horn in the hilts.
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Old 7th July 2014, 07:34 AM   #23
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Hi,
Sorry that I did not enclose the copy of the whole page, the handles are from "Afar style" daggers.
There is no doubt about influence comming from Arab and Ottoman world to Ethiopia that time.

Ethiopia that time was sorrouned with muslim countries and small kingdoms. Now it is landlocked, but look at e.g. Rashida peaple (Eritrea was part of the Abyssinian Kingdom). This influence was not only the question of the 19th century, but of the thousands of years ("colonization" of the African Horn from Arabic peninsula allegedly min in 2 big wawes - ancient Kingdom of Sheba - common part of Yemanite and Ethiopean history, fights of Abyssinian kings against Harar Kingdom, Somals, also against Mahdi´s Army - I think they knew Arabic and Ottoman weaponry very well). I think also this dagger is the result of such or similar influence: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14202

I eclose lower part of the page and another two pictures from the nice book "Ethiopia Engraved".
Regards,
Martin
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Old 7th July 2014, 10:14 PM   #24
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I would guess that the wootz blade on this kaskara comes from Persia: a ( much) better-than-average Qajar "Revival sword".
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Old 8th July 2014, 06:50 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I would guess that the wootz blade on this kaskara comes from Persia: a ( much) better-than-average Qajar "Revival sword".


Indeed, if you see the 4th post in this thread (http://vikingsword.com/vb/showpost....758&postcount=4) I posted the translation of the cartouche which seems to confirm this.
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