EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Interesting notes guys. I would like to clarify something first of all, that this discussion is not a debate, it is far more an investigative mission in the development and history of the kasthane in its distinct form as known.
We are reviewing known facts and establishing perspective and ideas with these and any pertinent evidence which is found to either support or dismiss the plausibility of them.
The objective of course is to establish a comprehensive understanding of how these distinct hilts developed, when, and more on the variant examples as well.
At this point, I personally do not believe that the zoomorphic hilt style developed from any European intervention, either Portuguese or others later. It is recognized however as I had mentioned in earlier posts that these hilts apparently influenced some European designs in degree as exotica appealing to mercantile interests and as cultural novelties.
Also, while of certain significance, the 1638 date with the Raja Singh III example would not establish a terminus ante quem for the hilt form, as we know that the Hasekura example predated that by at least two decades and was in Japan by 1622. The items acquired by the Dutch in 1765 by the same token do not establish a terminus post quem as these, while related in degree to design and style, do not signal the end of the kasthane as a form.
I think we have established somewhat notably that the guard system and quillons configuration does appear to have arrived in Ceylon most likely through the Moors, who in turn seem to have adopted this system from Italian swords. This influence, and associations between North Italy via trade contacts and North Africa at one extent west, and as far as Ceylon to the east, is noted by Anthony North (1975, op. cit.) and citing Charles Buttin (1933, op.cit). These hilts with this distinct guard pattern had been in Italy from the 15th century, and were actually the basis for developing the fully developed rapier style guards later in varying degree.
While we have not determined as yet, irrefutable evidence of the earliest known kasthane hilt in its more recognizable form with the zoomorphic figures, as well as the distinctly formed quillon system, we do believe that the knuckleguard was of course part of those Moorish influences quite early.
The Portuguese arrival in Ceylon in 1505 is quite contemporary with the North Italian hilts of 15th century we are describing as having probable influence on the vestigially designed Sinhalese hilts, however there is no reason to think that their arrival brought the hilt form. This would seem apparent as the diffusion of the hilt guard form extended to regions of Arab trade which did not have Portuguese influence, North Africa for example.
While there is a great deal of focus on the Royal Workshops in Kandy for the production of significant examples of the kasthane, I would like to note that the variant forms and apparently other contemporary production seems to have been present elsewhere in Ceylon as well. I think case in point here would be the numerous examples which were mounted with the VOC blades, primarily in the 18th century (in concurrent discussion on another thread) .
Obviously no kasthane produced in the Royal Workshops would be mounted with these blades, and the question remains, were these so mounted kasthane produced with these blades as novelty for VOC forces, or to supply auxiliary allied Sinhalese forces there?
As shown, it is about questions and answers, not debate. At this point any type of chronology or typology is being developed from these, and remains pending as we continue. Ideally, it would be wonderful to have these kinds of neatly placed facts and tables set in place with the arms we study, but these ideals are goals we can only strive for in hopes of some success. What is important is that we do so together, and help each other learn along the way.