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Old 24th October 2011, 08:31 PM   #1
stephen wood
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Default Kaskara with Arabic "seal" stamp

This is something of a first: a kaskara with a Arabic "seal" stamped on both sides of the blade.

It's quite an old piece - a heavy, stiff, trade blade that has seen a lot of use - it has a lot of old, deep scratches in the fuller. It has a forged fuller from the hilt to about a third down the blade and has a well-made iron crossguard with an X. All the leather has gone and the scabbard is not original. The missing grip binding allows an insight into the hit-and-miss nature of lining up the holes in the grip and the tang. The blade is very tight in the hilt - cloth padding is visible.

The hexagonal stamped marking is the same on both sides: unfortunately it has not been done evenly but fortunately the whole may be read from the two parts. I have no idea what its says or even if I have shown it the right way up. Perhaps there is a date.

As always your comments are most welcome.
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Old 25th October 2011, 07:57 PM   #2
Norman McCormick
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Hi Stephen,
One has to wonder if someone has gone to the time and trouble to manufacture a stamp where are the other items bearing the same indents? A stamp is generally made to facilitate multiple strikings but whether a makers mark, sign of quality or an acceptance mark we will only know when a translation comes forth. Nice blade.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 25th October 2011, 08:18 PM   #3
A.alnakkas
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Very nice. Iain, do you think this is a local blade or a european one stamped with maybe an armory stamp? the stamp reminds me of indian/afghani ones.

It says Dawud Ali, btw.
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Old 25th October 2011, 08:42 PM   #4
Iain
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Someone call me?

Honestly Stephen has a lot more experience with kaskara than I do, so if he says it's a European trade blade I believe him. The style of cross guard certainly matches with an old sword.

Wood is in surprisingly good shape.

About the stamp, I was half hoping the translation would give a place rather than a name. The name I assume has nothing to give a regional clue? As I understand it Dawud is the Arabic version of David, so probably quite common, Ali of course is a very common name as well in the Sudan.

So, I don't think it's an armoury stamp. I'm wondering if some enterprising merchant stamped a batch of blades he imported or bought up? Would be a decent marketing trick perhaps, as in "I have a Dawud Ali blade and it works great! You should go get one as well!".

That's about the only thing I can think of. As Norman points out, I really doubt this was a one off.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 25th October 2011, 09:36 PM   #5
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Oh haha, sorry I somehow thought you have made this topic!

Valid opinion, I'd wait for Stephen's assessment. A very interesting piece non the less!
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Old 26th October 2011, 12:41 AM   #6
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...thank you for your interest in this one.

Did I post them upside down? I can't find a Sultan of Darfur or a King of Sennar with that name - the merchant idea is quite plausible. It does seem to be a first in that while engraved or etched inscriptions abound, I have never come across an Arabic stamp on one of these swords. Is it a tughra?
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Old 26th October 2011, 12:54 AM   #7
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Not a tughra as far as I've seen them if you mean the classical definition of an Ottaman ruler's stamp...

I also think it's odd this is only a name, not a phrase, a verse or anything else.

Glad the merchant idea seems plausible, because beyond that I'm out of ideas.
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Old 26th October 2011, 04:37 PM   #8
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wood
This is something of a first: a kaskara with a Arabic "seal" stamped on both sides of the blade.

It's quite an old piece - a heavy, stiff, trade blade that has seen a lot of use - it has a lot of old, deep scratches in the fuller. It has a forged fuller from the hilt to about a third down the blade and has a well-made iron crossguard with an X. All the leather has gone and the scabbard is not original. The missing grip binding allows an insight into the hit-and-miss nature of lining up the holes in the grip and the tang. The blade is very tight in the hilt - cloth padding is visible.

The hexagonal stamped marking is the same on both sides: unfortunately it has not been done evenly but fortunately the whole may be read from the two parts. I have no idea what its says or even if I have shown it the right way up. Perhaps there is a date.

As always your comments are most welcome.
Salaams, Is there any Arabic stamped on the blade... I see something about one foot down the fuller? The stamp is upside down but no problem it is perfectly translated by A.alnakkas. I see no date. Ibrahiim.






Yesterday 10:18 PM
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Old 27th October 2011, 06:50 AM   #9
Jim McDougall
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While it is of course difficult to accurately assess a blade in kaskaras asto being European or native by photos rather than actual handling, it does seem this one reflects possibly being a European trade blade. The fuller profile compares to examples described and illustrated in line drawings in Reed (1987, plate LII, p.168) and Briggs (1965, T8, p.52). Apparantly these each have running wolf on one side and the cross and orb on the other. It is suggested these are German 17th century and a reference to Wallace A524 is cited by Briggs.
While these authors do not unequivocably claim these blades are European, they imply they probably are, and note that native makers did imitate these markings among many others.

The stamp is most interesting and certainly unusual for a kaskara blade, the absence of European markings or copies in the fullers notwithstanding. It is known that stamps with Arabic characters en cartouche were used in Algeria on the blade of a nimcha (Briggs, p.78, plate XVII, b) in one example and of course likely others. The use of stamps by native armourers there and in many of the centers seems to have existed from earlier times and of course into modern times. As these stamps became worn the character of the devices being stamped of course less distinctive, and the depth decreased with quality of definition. In some cases of courses, simple chiseled marks are used, but this rather crude definition is sometimes on old European blades as well, especially with the running wolf.

I think Iains idea is well placed that in one location an industrious trader may have stamped this and blades received by him with a mark, which like most such devices would likely be perceived as talismanic and imbuing the blade with power. In the Reed article, (op.cit. plate LII) he notes that the individual he was interviewing (in 1987) indicated the blade was 'before Kasalla'....that is, a very old blade. Kasalla, as described in Ed Hunley's excellent article , became the heart of modern edged weapons production in the Sudan. These old blades, many indeed quite early European trade blades, were refurbished countless times as they changed hands or were handed down, much as this example clearly exhibits.
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Old 28th October 2011, 09:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wood
...thank you for your interest in this one.

Did I post them upside down? I can't find a Sultan of Darfur or a King of Sennar with that name - the merchant idea is quite plausible. It does seem to be a first in that while engraved or etched inscriptions abound, I have never come across an Arabic stamp on one of these swords. Is it a tughra?
this is a tughra
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Old 1st November 2011, 04:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
Very nice. Iain, do you think this is a local blade or a european one stamped with maybe an armory stamp? the stamp reminds me of indian/afghani ones.


It says Dawud Ali, btw.

You have presented an interesting observation here which I missed entirely, the stamp is very much like those seen on Indian/Afghani blades though these cartouches are typically in the upper part of the blade. It does seem that is certain instances blades which were likely from Indian trade have been found in kaskaras (i.e. backsword blades).
It is an interesting consideration that this could be a stamp from Indian regions which may have found its way to an intermediary involved in Red Sea trade and perhaps was applied in that medium.

Iain, I think this presents well regarding your merchant suggestion. In the trade centers where blades were received from arriving ships and dispersed to caravans and other merchants this seems very plausible.
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Old 1st November 2011, 01:05 PM   #12
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Hi Jim,

The more I think about it, the less likely I think this was a local Sudanese application.

If we look at why and how local marks were applied it was usually for talismanic reasons or to imply European levels of quality.

As the name on this stamp does not seem to be a known local ruler or religious figure, I think we can rule out any such properties. Additionally names and religious inscriptions tended to be etched or carved in, not stamped.

I agree with A. Alnakkas that there is a resemblance to armoury stamps from India. I lack the expertise to know if this example is in that style or not though? Perhaps one of the Indian experts can weigh in on the issue?

All in all an intriguing sword, I love these odd pieces that do not confirm to the textbook examples!

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 2nd November 2011, 12:25 AM   #13
Jim McDougall
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Thanks very much Iain, perhaps Stephen might bring in his expertise to help with these thoughts. Seems like the posting over on the other forum is at a bit of a standstill as well.
It seems like most of the Indian/Afghan stamps were either in square or circular cartouche, and the ones I have seen were in Urdu..but the configuration of the characters in this seem quite similar.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 2nd November 2011, 12:49 AM   #14
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hmm, well the stamp has a common name through out the muslim world. Be it urdu, arabic or persian.. it will still be written all the same.
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Old 2nd November 2011, 03:42 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
hmm, well the stamp has a common name through out the muslim world. Be it urdu, arabic or persian.. it will still be written all the same.
Thanks very much, that is good to know and thus the possibility of a stamp being used by an intermediary in the trade complex with a stamp which could be from many locations. With the Indian swords I have seen with these stamped cartouches (typically square) they were tulwars stamped nearest the blade edge at the ricasso...these blades typically also had a stamped 'trisula' at blade center. (see Rawson, "The Indian Sword", #44; V&A 3459).

With the other instance I have seen a circular stamp on Algerian 'nimcha' sabres, as described in "European Blades in Tuareg Swords and Daggers", Dr. Lloyd Cabot Briggs ( JAAS, Vol.V, #2, p.78-79). noted as follows,"...the ricasso is stamped on one side only with a circular stamp containing an illegible combination of Arabic characters in high relief". There are line drawings with this shown (pl.XVII, b) and it is noted there are two swords, both Algerian with nearly identical blades. The first with the cartouche has sickle mark as well; the second has no cartouche, but ANDREA FERARA.

I do not agree with the assessment of 16th-17th c. Italian or German for the two blades, they appear to be of 18th century Solingen production as the triple fuller configuration on sabre blade suggests, as does the Andrea Ferara stamped name.

The point is that the stamp occurring on one side only of the blade of one of two sabres imported from Germany in either beginning to perhaps mid 19th c.
suggests it may have been a worn stamp being used by a trader or merchant on one of these. The fact that the stamp on this blade is apparantly from the same stamp with varied quality is to the application by the user.

Briggs notes that the cartouche was likely added later in the region received of course than at production, and that various marks including the sickles are known to be added as such, apparantly in Sudan (kaskara H2, op.cit.)as well as other regions, in this case Algeria.

Naturally the nature of the blade itself must be considered, and this is of course a broadsword blade of the type used on kaskaras, and not used as far as I know on Indian swords, nor on Algerian nimchas. Also the stamped location does not correspond to the other instances noted, so this stands as an amomaly in kaskara blades until others are found.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 02:42 PM   #16
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I have read that during the Mahdiyya and the Khalifate that more swords began to be produced locally. Might the import of blades via Suakim or The Nile have been reduced during that time?

Most of the blades that I have seen which seem to date from the period are clearly trade blades - does anyone know of examples from the time (in Museum collections, for example) which are likely to be local?

Could this be one?
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Old 22nd March 2013, 01:46 PM   #17
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I wanted to return to this topic after some time because I think there remain some very good questions here, in particular Stephen's queries regarding trade during the Mahdiyya.

I just happened to have been doing some reading on the topic recently. According to Zeleza's A Modern Economic History of Africa: The Nineteenth Century trade was considerably disrupted during the Mahdiyya.

The British and Egyptian administration had declared a complete prohibition on trading with the new state for fairly obvious reasons. Meanwhile two wars with Ethiopia had greatly diminished trade via that route - which had been an important route to Massawa, the great port city on what is now the Eritrean coast.

The Mahdiyya's administration also restricted what goods could be traded, such as tobacco and restricted trade and traders from countries considered to be inhabited by unbelievers.

It would certainly seem plausible to say then that the traffic in blades was likely greatly reduced by the normal routes. Effecting the flow of German trade blades into the region. Of course the routes to the west would still have been open via Kano through Bornu.

However I believe the greatest number of blades passed through Egypt via Cairo. Burckhardt in Travels in Nubia in 1822 gives a figure of 3000 Solingen blades annually passing through Cairo and being sold south by traders (as a side note, this is certainly a more reasonable figure than Barth's 50,000 estimate in Kano!).

This would have been cut off during the Mahdiyya and alternative sources would doubtless have been sought as the new state was in desperate need of fresh warriors, evidenced by the fact that the previously lucrative slave trade was curtailed for males over the age of 7.

There is nothing to indicate this sword is different because of the above circumstances, but it is an interesting thought.
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