EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
As I have continued researching, and having posted a concurrent thread in hopes of more information on the VOC blades, there are a number of ideas which come to mind regarding the disposition of these varying examples of the kastane.
I can recall over years reading of the renowned production of fine steel in Ceylon in which the wind fueled smelters date into ancient times. I always wondered why more Sinhalese blades were not known, did they not have bladesmiths to forge blades? Apparantly there were in Kandy, according t the records of the Royal Workshops.
It seems that the kastane produced in these workshops were relatively small in number, to the variations which in so many cases were mounted with Dutch VOC blades. It would seem perhaps that these blades coming into the ports controlled by the Dutch may well account for local production in those cities, and these blades naturally would not have been considered in the Royal Workshops for obvious reasons.
While the Hasekura example is considered in our discussion very much contextually as a provenanced example of the lionhead form hilt, the Popham example serves as an interesting example of the influences of these hilts in foreign settings. It seems that by the middle of the 17th century the lionhead hilt of the kastane had profound influence on the hilts of many Dutch cutlasses and hangers. There are apparently substantial numbers of versions of these lionheads as well as the fingerstalls and general look of the kastane known.
By around the end of the century numbers of these kinds of hilts were being adopted by the English on their cutlasses and hangers, with the interest in these forms already established in the prototype occurrence with Popham.
These beasthead pommels were termed doghead or lionhead apparently, and of course show interesting variation in form, though essentially of 'kastane' form.
It would seem, to elaborate further on what has already been suggested, that perhaps the port cities, and local armourers there, may account for the apparent sundry versions of the kastane and varying interpretation of the decoration. While these often have equally varying blade forms of the same cutlass or hanger type, it would seem that many were either Solingen or Liege products. As noted, by around the 1730s it appears that the VOC blades begin to be seen with the boldly emblazoned dates, and these last until 1770s .
The VOC was of course a private company, not military, and perhaps the popularity of these exotic lionhead hangers and cutlasses eventually led to these men seeking these kinds of hilts on their issued swords. It is tempting to consider this scenario along with the circumstances of trade blades being in place as well. It is of course known that in many colonial situations, there are cottage industries of local artisans supplying soldiers and colonists with these kinds of exotica .
Naturally the high end kastane which would have remained in the perview of the Royal Workshops and in Kandyan regions would have remained true to form and without trade or issue blades.
Meanwhile, the locally produced versions of kastane in the port cities in the Sinhalese littoral would possibly have reflected other ethnic or demographic variation in degree in their interpretations, and accordingly been mounted with these trade or issue blades .
I hope to hear the views of others toward these thoughts as always, and look forward to continuing these discussions with these perspectives in mind and their plausibility.