EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
It is excellent that this thread is moving along so well, and I especially appreciate the constructive and well observed contributions by Prasanna, Fernando and Ibrahiim. It is most helpful that along with Prasanna's well established experience in this fascinating history are the researched entries by Fernando and Ibrahiim which has enabled some great questions and perspective.
I am inclined to agree with Fernando in thinking that this late 16th century frieze was probably fashioned by a Portuguese artist there in Ceylon.
It is important to note that artists have always been inclined to a degree of latitude in 'spinning' their works toward the perception intended for their theme. I think in this case the Portuguese soldier is well depicted as is the arming sword he is wielding. With this in mind, it would seem that the sword of the Sinhalese chief would be equally accurate in its depiction, and with that I believe that the blade does remarkably correspond to heavy, single edged straight falchion type forms, indeed as seen on some storta.
In reviewing Deraniyagala, there is mention of early Sinhalese swords notably including a single edged form along with contemporary double edged forms. It is noted that these single edged forms apparently had a truncated tip recalling those of Japanese swords. I do not mention this to allude to any connection to Japanese swords, and the comment is as a point of comparison noting the attention to the blade tip. In these heavy, storta/falchion type blades there is considerable attention to a protracted radius to afford better slashing potential.
It is also noted in Deraniyagala that the kasthana which developed as a ceremonial sword of rank did differ from the less embellished combat types of course. As we have discussed, the quillons found in the more familiar guard system seen on kasthana are vestigial elements which were not in place for swordsmanship or combat purposes, so it would seem understandable that a combat version as seen here may likely have been without them. More interesting is the presence of what indeed appears a zoomorphic head on the pommel, and the suggestion that such iconic presence could be placed in the period when this frieze was carved.
Concerning the reference to the weapon termed calachurro, in going through one reference which I believe has been mentioned ('Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society' #46, 1895-1896) the author states that in the Kandyan region there is no such term, but it is unclear whether the reference might allude to another weapon. In Knox's Sinhalese vocabulary it is noted that they did carry a small, short sabre with slight curve.
In analyzing contemporary narratives or later recounting of them, there is perhaps even more danger or 'fantasy' involved in interpretation than in the visual reading of artwork. This is of course due to semantics and local parlances and colloquial use for various descriptive terms.
Such are the conundrums and issues we typically encounter as we use the resources and material at hand to investigate evidence and clues using them to formulate ideas and observations. Though sometimes seeming somewhat fanciful or 'fantastic' , these are always pertinent and valid in varying degree, and here we consider it constructive research, which indeed well describes the texture of our thread.