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Old 13th July 2009, 11:50 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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Hi Teodor,
Absolutely my pleasure as always. Good on noting the term sa'if used for the kaskara, which recalls the years I have spent trying to discover where in the world the term kaskara came from. Nobody in the Sudan, or Eritrea for that matter has ever heard the word, and I have had this researched all the way to the University of Khartoum!

What has always fascinated me is that the takouba and the kaskara, both North African broadsword cousins, have remained independant forms despite the constant traverse of caravans, nomadic tribal interaction and the entrance of trade blades from varying points of entry from varying directions.

The Tuareg swords have the rounded tip, the kaskaras typically have a spear point. The hilts remain simple yet quite different. The Hausas, from the farthest western regions in Nigeria and the prevalent trade center of Kano, were known for thier kaskara work.

The question of cross cultural diffusion and in which direction did influence move is a tough one and well placed. In the study of anthropology and archaeology these kinds of questions are resolved with dated and provenanced remains. With the movement of portable trade items such as weapons, it is hard unless soundly provenanced and dated examples are avialable. In general, one can follow the development of trade and colonial development by period in examining such examples.

The earlier Omani hilts may well have developed in Baluchistan as Elgood notes, and I of course subscribe heavily to his always well researched observations. These hilts are of the Muslim drooping quillon type hilt that seem to be evolved from these types of Hispano Moresque forms of the medieval period. It is also essentially a hilt with such features well emplaced in Central Asia (the paluaor from Afghanistan) to similar types in the Deccan (see Elgood, "Hindu Arms and Ritual").

In my opinion, Africa, particularly North Africa is what I would call 'reflective' in most situations. That is the weapons seem to reflect styles from foreign cultures, rather than their styles influencing others. This does not hold true necessarily in the obvious influence of ancient Egyptian weapons which have clearly influenced weapons across many African tribal cultures, and perhaps into the Middle East in ancient times.

For the most part, I would say weapons coming into Africa have influenced the forms there, not vice versa. Kaskaras and takoubas evolved from the broadswords of early Islam, becoming prevalent as trade blades began to come into Africa. The so called 'Zanzibar' sword became the s'boula of Morocco probably from basilards from Italian trade in Tunis; the koummya probably derived its hilt from the Venetian cinqueda, again Italian traders; the 'nimcha' (Moroccan sa'if) from Arab sa'if in turn from Italian hilt configurations (storte etc.). The double blade 'haladie' of Sudan is from the madu madu of India and known also as the Syrian knife, entered via Red Sea trade. The flyssa, evolved from Ottoman yataghans and in degree via that from early Meditteranean swords.

These are the ones I can think of offhand, but I cannot think of an example of African weapon that has turned up elsewhere . Im sure somebody will think of one though

Ramblin on as usual, and just expressing thoughts.
These really are great swords, and seem to have only recently begun to turn up. When I first found one about 10 years ago I thought I'd found Excalibur!

All the best,
Jim
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