EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Ibrahiim, , once again your tenacious online research amazes me!
I have been going through these old threads, notes and references, and trying to regain my footing in these discussions over the years.
It seems that the manner of investigative study into the history of many weapon forms becoming an often complex, tedious and frustrating process involving many side roads, red herrings and misconceptions. In looking back at the discussions here, we can see many losing patience with the often highly detailed presentations of support and evidence. However, it is through these kinds of discussions that so much is achieved in better understanding the history of these arms.
I had honestly forgotten the nature of the 'Sendai' example, and that it was indeed a Chinese blade with the mythical beast head situated in the blade decoration. It is clearly coupled with a hilt of Ceylonese character, and as noted was apparently acquired as a souvenier along with a keris in Manila near the end of the Keisho mission about 1619.
I think the point of these comparisons is mostly noting the widespread influence of these distinctively styled hilts, whether directly from examples actually of Sri Lankan origin, or variant interpretations which seem to have occurred in many other cultural spheres.
We know that in Holland in the 17th c, numerous hilts on hangers and other edged weapons reflect such influences with mythical beasts and figures that appear Asian , some very much like the Buddhist style lion heads. In these times the portrait of Alexander Popham wearing what appears to be a kastane in about mid 17th century suggests the favor for such exotica among merchants and as status oriented dress weapons.
It is typically difficult, at least for me, to determine exactly what most of these mythical creatures actually represent as there seems to be a degree of latitude in how they are interpreted. However it appears that the range of interpretation has resulted from the artistic perception of local artisans who are fashioning from the influence of the varied forms which have diffused into many areas.
In once again looking to the 'Benin' sword, which is a interesting example of such interpretation, it appears of course that this indirect influence may have had some part in the zoomorphic form of the hilt. As Ibrahiim has well pointed out, the Dahomean ruler Glele (1858-1898) did use the lion as one of his leitmotif. It would seem that most of the ceremonial swords would carry such symbolism on the blade rather than in zoomorphic form on the hilt. This is where I think the 'Cingalese' influence suggested by Daehnhardt
derives (interestingly the example with gold lion on the blade Ibrahiim showed has similar blade with mid rib at forte) and the openwork cross and the downturned quillons reflect Portuguese influence.
In both instances, these influences are traditionally applied as they refer to influences long since removed from Dahomean regions.