EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Great kattara Teodor! I've always found these so interesting, as a sword which seemed quintessently based on simplicity, they represent profound historical interest, especially concerning trade and the Arabs.
Naturally these are instantly recognized as the sword of Oman, who had the Sultanate on the island of Zanzibar, one of the most bustling trade centers of the 19th century. From there slaving caravans would advance into the depths of Africa, in the commerce of slaves, gold and ivory. It is my understanding that in regions beyond Kenya they likely interfaced with other traders and caravans coming in from regions in Ethiopia and westward on trans Saharan caravans.
I have always considered it intriguing that the well known sabres of the Manding in Mali have simple cylindrical hilts of similar form to the Omani kattara. One of the key points in trade routes from the Sahara was of course another familiar term in high adventure, Timbuktu, in Mali.
Also, note the spatulate rounded tip on the kattara, and compare with the blades almost unequivacably found on the takouba of the Tuareg, it is also rounded. Trade blades moved from ports of arrival in the east off the Red Sea as well as possibly via the Zanzibar trade, and to the east. Other points of entry are of course from the north, but it is interesting to note this feature's presence.
I would think this is likely a trade blade, which I believe often arrived blank from various centers, and the markings are of course native interpretations typically thought of as quality indicators, but in native parlance, suggested power in the blade. The 'gurda' marks are imitating the well known 'eyelash' or 'sickle' marks of Genoa and Styria, often on many German and of course Caucasian blades (from which the term gurda is derived).
Probably end of the 19th, into the 20th, and these were always a proud possession of Arab traders and merchants. Interesting detail in "Book of the Sword" under 'Zanzibar swords' and the swordplay of the Arabs, describing the leaps and slashes,
All the best,