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Old 16th November 2021, 09:40 AM   #1
Ian
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Default Kaskara with gold and silver decoration

This is the second of my purchases from the Australian Arms Auction this past weekend. The kaskara was said to have been brought back by an Australian army contingent around 1900. It has a dark, patinated blade with interesting gold and silver inlays. I have not seen similar on a kaskara previously. Has anyone else seen similar decorations on a kaskara?

I'm wondering if these may actually be decorative elements added by a prior Australian owner--snakes, flowers, leaves, etc. are common motifs in Australian Aboriginal culture.

I bought this one because it struck me as being very unusual. I would like to hear what our kaskara experts think. This is the only picture from the auction and I don't yet have the sword.
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Old 16th November 2021, 12:13 PM   #2
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_So...les_Contingent

I believe it was attributed to being a "bring back" from the New South Wales Contingent.

"The New South Wales Contingent served in Sudan with British forces as part of the Suakin Expedition in 1885. Consisting of an infantry battalion, an artillery battery, and a small field ambulance detachment, it departed from Sydney on 3 March 1885. Arriving at Suakin on 29 March it ultimately saw little action, being involved in a minor action at Tamai on 3 April, and another at Takdul on 6 May. However, with the British deciding to abandon the campaign it re-embarked on 17 May and returned to Sydney on 19 June 1885, where it was disbanded. The New South Wales Contingent was the first military contingent to be raised and deployed overseas by an Australian colony."

I have attached an image of a "1885 N.S.W Soudan Contingent Lapel Badge."

https://www.1rar.asn.au/1-rar-history/1885-sudan/

Hard to tell but the blade decoration does look to have a "Gumnut" look to it.
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Old 16th November 2021, 01:29 PM   #3
Ian
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Thanks Ramba. Yes, you are correct that it was a NSW Contingent. The Australian Army did not exist—we were still a British colony at that time. I guess we can say the sword is likely 19th C, probably from the 1880s or earlier.
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Old 16th November 2021, 02:05 PM   #4
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While no kaskara 'expert', I have been fascinated by the kaskara for more years than I can say exactly.
The snakes you see here are remarkably similar to those seen on a good number of kaskara of this period, and hardly likely to have been added in Australia. The peacocks or whatever birds those are also resemble other Sufi decorative elements, which prevailed on Persian swords. There was of course profound Persian and Sufi influence in the Sudan. as seen with much of their weaponry.

This is one of the most profusely decorated examples I have seen for some time and truly appears to be an outstanding piece which may well have been a bring back as suggested. I had not ever heard of the Australian involvement (thank you Ramba) ,in this unfortunate campaign in 1885, which failed to get support to Gordon at Khartoum. It has been held that there were political issues at hand , which strategically delayed the support he needed, so the abandonment of the campaign and disbandment of this unit.

I think this is outstanding in military tradition exemplifying the ever ready support always at hand from Australia for its allies..
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Old 16th November 2021, 02:36 PM   #5
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VERY nice kaskara, Ian. I agree with Jim's assessment. I might add that it has similar elements to the famed Snake kaskara now in the MET. See attached link. The gold cartouche is striking and may have been inspired by the MET example. I'm eager to see better pics once you receive it.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/27262

The Suakin-Berber railroad the NSW Contingent began through Bega country was ultimately abandoned in place and provided much of the high quality steel used to make weapons by Bega smiths.

Best,
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Old 16th November 2021, 05:27 PM   #6
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Better pics of the Snake Fuller Kaskara at the MET.
https://victoriansword.tumblr.com/po...th-century/amp
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Old 16th November 2021, 08:05 PM   #7
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Jim and Ed,

Thank you for your excellent information about this sword and the observations on the conflict in the Sudan during the 1880s. The Met example is a superb piece of swordmaking.

Ed, after reading your excellent essays on the kaskara I have been looking for a nice one at a somewhat reasonable price. The few higher end examples that have come on the market in recent times have not received budgetary approval from my lovely (and patient) wife. This one snuck under the wire.
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Old 17th November 2021, 07:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster View Post
VERY nice kaskara, Ian. I agree with Jim's assessment. I might add that it has similar elements to the famed Snake kaskara now in the MET. See attached link. The gold cartouche is striking and may have been inspired by the MET example. I'm eager to see better pics once you receive it.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/27262

The Suakin-Berber railroad the NSW Contingent began through Bega country was ultimately abandoned in place and provided much of the high quality steel used to make weapons by Bega smiths.

Best,
Ed
Fascinating and there are clear common design elements in these examples. It may well be as it was when it arrived in Australia. It would seem a lot of work and quite difficult to execute after its move to Australia.
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Old 18th November 2021, 07:57 PM   #9
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Ian,

Kaskaras are iconic swords worthy to grace any collection. You did well to snag such a mysterious piece.

The blade looks imported from the pic (deep central fuller and blade not sharpened in top 1/3). I doubt that many proper locally made blades were available at the time. It seems that most local blades then were wrought iron and hardly battle worthy. However, exceptions are always possible. The grip doesn't have the Beja signature tassel so I doubt it was a battlefield pick-up by the NSWC since the Osman Digna's Beja were their adversaries during their brief deployment out of Suakin. Ironically, other Beja were in charge of Suakin at the time and a NSWC officer could have purchased it in the market in 1885.

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