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Old 16th December 2013, 01:32 AM   #1
blue lander
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Default Noth African sword

The seller described it as an Asian saber, but it looks too much like a Takouba style blade to be anything but North African. It's going to be awhile before it arrives here but I thought I'd post a few pictures from the auction.

Judging from the odd shape of the end of the blade and the way the fullers look truncated at the tip, I'm guessing this was cut down from a larger blade. The handle looks like it's riveted on, which is odd. Since the fullers look forged and the moon and crosses on the blade look stamped, is it safe to assume this was a European blade made for export to North Africa?

The maker's mark is a man in the moon with three crosses on each side. I found a Nimcha with similar markings, 4 crosses instead of three though, here

There's no sheath with it, so I'm not sure If it's possible to determine exactly where it came from. Any ideas? Or what I should call it? Was it a Nimcha at some point? Is it possible to tell where the blade was manufactured or how old it is? I got a pretty good price on it and nobody bid against me, so I hope I didn't get another dud.
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Old 16th December 2013, 12:39 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue lander
The seller described it as an Asian saber, but it looks too much like a Takouba style blade to be anything but North African. It's going to be awhile before it arrives here but I thought I'd post a few pictures from the auction.

Judging from the odd shape of the end of the blade and the way the fullers look truncated at the tip, I'm guessing this was cut down from a larger blade. The handle looks like it's riveted on, which is odd. Since the fullers look forged and the moon and crosses on the blade look stamped, is it safe to assume this was a European blade made for export to North Africa?

The maker's mark is a man in the moon with three crosses on each side. I found a Nimcha with similar markings, 4 crosses instead of three though, here

There's no sheath with it, so I'm not sure If it's possible to determine exactly where it came from. Any ideas? Or what I should call it? Was it a Nimcha at some point? Is it possible to tell where the blade was manufactured or how old it is? I got a pretty good price on it and nobody bid against me, so I hope I didn't get another dud.



Salaams blue lander... Looks OK to me! Some may be forgiven for thinking this is a snapped sword ... at both ends... but have a look at http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3985 Oh I see you have already spotted that ... Nice... In particular I think #7 by Jim McDougall is worthy of note. I looked up the reference to Sandiago Cross and that was interesting.


Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; For other Cross shapes related to The Cross of St James (Santiago) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Saint_James

I have added the famous sword hilt detail of the last Emir Abu `Abdallah Muhammad XII (c. 1460 to c. 1533), known as Boabdil (a Spanish rendering of the name Abu Abdullah), was the twenty-second and last Nasrid ruler of Granada. He was also called el chico, the little, or el zogoybi, the unfortunate. Son of Abu l-Hasan Ali, he was proclaimed sultan in 1482 in place of his father, who was driven from the land. Please note the 4 crosses on the hilt. (In Islamic terms, usually, the cross was used to signify light (candlelight), although, there may be another significance attached to this design)
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Old 16th December 2013, 03:12 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams blue lander... Looks OK to me! Some may be forgiven for thinking this is a snapped sword ... at both ends... but have a look at http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3985 Oh I see you have already spotted that ... Nice... In particular I think #7 by Jim McDougall is worthy of note. I looked up the reference to Sandiago Cross and that was interesting.


It's so interesting that both of these swords have very similar markings, both were cut down in virtually the same configuration, and then his ends up heavily worn but in a beautiful nimcha and mine ends up lightly used but in a very crude mounting. I wonder how long that Nimcha is. Mine is 69cm OAL.

Thanks for the link on the Cross of St. James. In the Moorish application are there always 4 crosses? Mine has only 3. The half moon on his nimcha is a little different than mine too, it's facing a different direction.

Speaking of the half moon, I think I saw a picture of a Takouba with a nearly identical half moon on, but now I can't find the link.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
This does indeed look like a European blade with good age to it. The hilt style is from Berber north Africa, Tunis if I recall correctly.


I'm glad it's an "official" hilt style, to me it looked more like somebody tried to duplicate a machete handle. I haven't had any luck searching for Tunisian hilts on google, but I'll keep looking. I'm glad you decided not to bid on this one
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Old 16th December 2013, 09:43 PM   #4
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Blue Lander, far from a dud!!!!
While of course 'rough' it is a sound example of a blade which has probably been in circulation for a considerable time, and as noted, has been rather radically reprofiled. The hilt corresponds to certain Maghrebi forms, loosely of the type often seen on s'bula from Moroccan regions, and which have ranged in diffusion all the way to Zanzibar on trade routes. The use of wood brings to mind certain Tunisian hilt forms as Iain has mentioned.

Returning to the blade, these distinct cross forms, particularly in the quadriform configuration seem to correspond to other examples seen occasionally on koummya if I recall correctly . The blade I would take for probably an 18th century German trade product and I suspect many of these to have ended up in the Maghreb. It seems that 'nimcha' sometimes have similar and on European origin blades of these forms which continued in production well into the 19th c.

Often trying to definitively classify ethnographic weapons by a typological term is pure folly, as these blades not only were recycled and remounted from one generation to the next. The term 'Berber' of course covers an immense scope across Saharan regions, but may be considered broadly in descriptions while remaining correctly applied .

I would consider this to be a Saharan knife with radically re profiled heavy sabre or cutlass blade of German import and probably as now mounted with tribal origins along Berber inhabited regions from Maghreb to Tunis. The blade likely latter 18th into 19th.
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Old 16th December 2013, 11:25 PM   #5
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Well I think that answers all of my questions. Thank you! I'm glad I finally got a blade with some significant age to it.
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Old 16th December 2013, 11:38 PM   #6
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Whoops, thought of a couple more questions: do you think the blade is crucible steel or blister steel? Should I etch the blade or should I just coat it in museum wax and call it a day?
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Old 17th December 2013, 01:49 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by blue lander
Whoops, thought of a couple more questions: do you think the blade is crucible steel or blister steel? Should I etch the blade or should I just coat it in museum wax and call it a day?



It is a trade blade from Solingen which has nothing to do with those kinds of steel or forging, and a true antique with probably an amazing history. It is not a museum showpiece, but that blade has well earned that dark patination.
In my opinion, out of respect, I would suggest stabilizing and only light cleaning with WD40 or comparable. It is terrible to see the garish, over cleaned items often seen these days which have been stripped of the valuable patina and its inherent charm.
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Old 17th December 2013, 08:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue lander
It's so interesting that both of these swords have very similar markings, both were cut down in virtually the same configuration, and then his ends up heavily worn but in a beautiful nimcha and mine ends up lightly used but in a very crude mounting. I wonder how long that Nimcha is. Mine is 69cm OAL.

Thanks for the link on the Cross of St. James. In the Moorish application are there always 4 crosses? Mine has only 3. The half moon on his nimcha is a little different than mine too, it's facing a different direction.

Speaking of the half moon, I think I saw a picture of a Takouba with a nearly identical half moon on, but now I can't find the link.

I'm glad it's an "official" hilt style, to me it looked more like somebody tried to duplicate a machete handle. I haven't had any luck searching for Tunisian hilts on google, but I'll keep looking. I'm glad you decided not to bid on this one


Salaams blue lander .. I'm not sure about the moon being a half moon nor of it being a man in the moon face though clearly the European style inscribed on Toledo blades by Juan Martinez and Peter Munch(Peter Munich) were "man in the moon faces"...I think the later inscriptions copied onto Islamic region swords were of the new moon. Your moon comprises a moon (presumably new) and 3 new moons and possibly a sun..Peter Munch used moons as Talismans it is thought...see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=MOONS
The reason for 3 crosses not 4 is probably because of the fullers preventing a 4th stamp being put. Three is a very powerful talismanic construct...in different regions including the Fleur de Lys 'Trio in Juncta' and Islamic forms.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 17th December 2013, 09:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams blue lander .. I'm not sure about the moon being a half moon nor of it being a man in the moon face though clearly the European style inscribed on Toledo blades by Juan Martinez and Peter Munch(Peter Munich) were "man in the moon faces"...I think the later inscriptions copied onto Islamic region swords were of the new moon. Your moon comprises a moon (presumably new) and 3 new moons and possibly a sun..Peter Munch used moons as Talismans it is thought...see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=MOONS
The reason for 3 crosses not 4 is probably because of the fullers preventing a 4th stamp being put. Three is a very powerful talismanic construct...in different regions including the Fleur de Lys 'Trio in Juncta' and Islamic forms.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.



It is a man in the moon, or half moon. These are very common in the region and consist of the curved back of the crescent, the face, often with a pronounced nose and the eye. This particular one is a little more rudimentary than some, but still of the general form.
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Old 18th December 2013, 05:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
It is a man in the moon, or half moon. These are very common in the region and consist of the curved back of the crescent, the face, often with a pronounced nose and the eye. This particular one is a little more rudimentary than some, but still of the general form.



Salaams Iain, I am aware of the numerous moon inscriptions generally seen on swords in the region but wish to point out that there are two distinct versions (generally).

The first is the Peter Munch full obvious moon face and the second what I describe as the new moon basically struck. The moon in #1 is clearly struck with 3 inner new moon shapes. I think this became the style on African and Arabian(mainly Red Sea) blades copied from Europeans. I also think that although Peter Munch is considered to have struck the moons as some sort of majic association it was without the realization that this could indeed be a strong Talisman in other regions.

The full faced man in the moon are struck at source whereas the more rudimentary forms are done in local workshops.

My main point is that these may not be considered as half moons in Islamic areas since the half moon has little significance whereas the new moon is an entirely different subject.

For a couple of examples of copied moons see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...attara+comments #326.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 16th December 2013, 12:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue lander
The seller described it as an Asian saber, but it looks too much like a Takouba style blade to be anything but North African. It's going to be awhile before it arrives here but I thought I'd post a few pictures from the auction.

Judging from the odd shape of the end of the blade and the way the fullers look truncated at the tip, I'm guessing this was cut down from a larger blade. The handle looks like it's riveted on, which is odd. Since the fullers look forged and the moon and crosses on the blade look stamped, is it safe to assume this was a European blade made for export to North Africa?


This does indeed look like a European blade with good age to it. The hilt style is from Berber north Africa, Tunis if I recall correctly.

Quote:
The maker's mark is a man in the moon with three crosses on each side. I found a Nimcha with similar markings, 4 crosses instead of three though, here

There's no sheath with it, so I'm not sure If it's possible to determine exactly where it came from. Any ideas? Or what I should call it? Was it a Nimcha at some point? Is it possible to tell where the blade was manufactured or how old it is? I got a pretty good price on it and nobody bid against me, so I hope I didn't get another dud.


I don't think this is a dud. I'd actually watched this piece for a few months as something of interest, particularly given the price. However it's outside my usual collecting area.
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Old 18th December 2013, 05:32 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue lander
The seller described it as an Asian saber, but it looks too much like a Takouba style blade to be anything but North African. It's going to be awhile before it arrives here but I thought I'd post a few pictures from the auction.

Judging from the odd shape of the end of the blade and the way the fullers look truncated at the tip, I'm guessing this was cut down from a larger blade. The handle looks like it's riveted on, which is odd. Since the fullers look forged and the moon and crosses on the blade look stamped, is it safe to assume this was a European blade made for export to North Africa?

The maker's mark is a man in the moon with three crosses on each side. I found a Nimcha with similar markings, 4 crosses instead of three though, here

There's no sheath with it, so I'm not sure If it's possible to determine exactly where it came from. Any ideas? Or what I should call it? Was it a Nimcha at some point? Is it possible to tell where the blade was manufactured or how old it is? I got a pretty good price on it and nobody bid against me, so I hope I didn't get another dud.



Salaams blue lander,
Very interesting blade form. Clearly a reworked European blade but from where I wondered may it have originated. I thought Falchion.

Metropolitan Museum Quote."Falchion refers to a type of curved sword that was used in Europe from about 1200. This one BELOW is one of the few to survive from the late fifteenth century. Its long narrow blade and interlaced decoration on the hilt suggest the Middle Eastern influence that was an important feature in Venetian and Spanish art''.Unquote.


Transmission of Nimcha and associated weapons throughout the Mediterranean is well known.. I see this as possibly the potential design origin of your weapon at #1.

Any ideas anyone?

The crosses look similar to those at http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3996 on #3. Perhaps it is attributable to that specific tribal group?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Old 18th December 2013, 08:32 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams blue lander,
Very interesting blade form. Clearly a reworked European blade but from where I wondered may it have originated. I thought Falchion.

Metropolitan Museum Quote."Falchion refers to a type of curved sword that was used in Europe from about 1200. This one BELOW is one of the few to survive from the late fifteenth century. Its long narrow blade and interlaced decoration on the hilt suggest the Middle Eastern influence that was an important feature in Venetian and Spanish art''.Unquote.


Transmission of Nimcha and associated weapons throughout the Mediterranean is well known.. I see this as possibly the potential design origin of your weapon at #1.

Any ideas anyone?

The crosses look similar to those at http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3996 on #3. Perhaps it is attributable to that specific tribal group?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi



An astute assessment Ibrahiim, and it is well established that many of the weapon forms in North Africa indeed have certain distant ancestry from a number of Italian forms. These of course filtered into the indigenous forms over long progression and long standing trade and colonial contact. The form seen here is also termed 'storta' and beyond the blade features note the guard system on the hilt. This configuration is believed to be loosely the ancestor of the Moroccan sa'if ('nimcha') via Arab trade sources as well as trade routes to the east and the Ceylonese 'kastane'.
Other weapon features are considered often to plausibly have Italian infuences such as the lunette pommel on many koummya, and other dagger blades referred to as 'janawi' or derivative (=Genoa).

Fascinating detail on the potential association between Raisuli and the crosses and that is indeed an intriguing historical perspective. I recall a great movie on the Raisuli , "The Wind and the Lion" with Sean Connery.
I often defer from referencing movies in illustrating in discussion but some, like this one, seems reasonably well researched and interesting perspective.
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Old 19th December 2013, 08:14 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
An astute assessment Ibrahiim, and it is well established that many of the weapon forms in North Africa indeed have certain distant ancestry from a number of Italian forms. These of course filtered into the indigenous forms over long progression and long standing trade and colonial contact. The form seen here is also termed 'storta' and beyond the blade features note the guard system on the hilt. This configuration is believed to be loosely the ancestor of the Moroccan sa'if ('nimcha') via Arab trade sources as well as trade routes to the east and the Ceylonese 'kastane'.
Other weapon features are considered often to plausibly have Italian infuences such as the lunette pommel on many koummya, and other dagger blades referred to as 'janawi' or derivative (=Genoa).

Fascinating detail on the potential association between Raisuli and the crosses and that is indeed an intriguing historical perspective. I recall a great movie on the Raisuli , "The Wind and the Lion" with Sean Connery.
I often defer from referencing movies in illustrating in discussion but some, like this one, seems reasonably well researched and interesting perspective.



Salaams Jim... This is one of those moments when suddenly the thick cloud lifts and for a while everything seems clear... links into and from European East Mediterranean to West and to Arabian and far eastern weaponry is sitting there staring off the page. Here are the magnetic attractions caused by war, trade, slavery and exploration between West and East. Not surprising that the great conduit Genoa is in the mix. I see now the potential for the Kastane link, the Nimchas, the east west Mediterranean hands of the Genoans, Italians, East Roman Empire, Arabia et al !! I am learning such a lot from this one... Shukran Jim...

On with the show !!!!

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

P.S. A couple of pictures~VARIOUSLY JANAWI(GENOA DAGGER), SBOULA AND STORTA DAGGERS.
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Old 19th December 2013, 02:42 PM   #15
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I can see a family resemblance to those Storta, as well as the Falchion you posted earlier. I have to say it's been fun watching you guys piece together the history of this blade form.
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Old 20th December 2013, 07:04 AM   #16
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Old 20th December 2013, 07:10 AM   #17
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I can see a family resemblance to those Storta, as well as the Falchion you posted earlier. I have to say it's been fun watching you guys piece together the history of this blade form.



Salaams blue lander ~ Well much of it has been done before. For example just put into search Storta and heaps of stuff comes up... same with Nimcha, S'boula and the rest.

This thread can run and run.. but it needs input and constructive criticism...Lots of authors have had a go at these linkages some like Burton and Tirri have perhaps been less accurate than others like Buttin.

It is a broad subject reaching across the desert to the Indian Ocean and by sea the long way round as well as desert caravan (the same route that Ibn Battuta took) Transition of sword style and influence is clear on \Zanzibari Nimcha as well as the tantalizing link to the Sri Lankan Kastane. Reverse engineering the designs leads to the city states of Rome, Venice, Constantinople and Genoa...Pressing the button marked slavery, trade and war exposes these swords to international travel to and via South America with the Spanish and into the Indian Ocean aboard Portuguese men of war...

I think for the uninitiated here is a superb place to commence their study...and for me too long perhaps in the blinkered look at Arabian style it is a staggering eye opener.

Here is an idea I had about crosses which have obviously different meanings depending on where you're from..

This one depicts a huge cross( http://m.skinnerinc.com/m/auctions/2680B/lots/642 )and is on a Tekke tribal rug in west Turkmenestan used as a door hanging..The cross signifying a welcome light..The flickering light (if you like) of a candle.

The second smaller picture is the clincher with the St. James Cross form clearly depicted on a Moroccan rug.

This raises another important question... Is what we are looking at the famous Cross of St James/Sandiago (like the necklace shown) or something quite different?


Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 20th December 2013, 06:24 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue lander
The seller described it as an Asian saber, but it looks too much like a Takouba style blade to be anything but North African. It's going to be awhile before it arrives here but I thought I'd post a few pictures from the auction.

Judging from the odd shape of the end of the blade and the way the fullers look truncated at the tip, I'm guessing this was cut down from a larger blade. The handle looks like it's riveted on, which is odd. Since the fullers look forged and the moon and crosses on the blade look stamped, is it safe to assume this was a European blade made for export to North Africa?

The maker's mark is a man in the moon with three crosses on each side. I found a Nimcha with similar markings, 4 crosses instead of three though, here

There's no sheath with it, so I'm not sure If it's possible to determine exactly where it came from. Any ideas? Or what I should call it? Was it a Nimcha at some point? Is it possible to tell where the blade was manufactured or how old it is? I got a pretty good price on it and nobody bid against me, so I hope I didn't get another dud.


Salaams Blue lander... How are we doing?... Perhaps you would like to chose a direction to spearhead our approach ... pick a sword please ? Its your thread...
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 20th December 2013, 06:52 PM   #19
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My head's still spinning from all the cultural context you've been providing Ibrahiim! Hopefully I should have the blade in my grubby little hands within the next week or so, and I can take more detailed pictures that might provide more clues. As it is, I've learned immensely from following this discussion and I thank you all for sharing your knowledge.

As a side note - I bought another African sword that looks to have a European blade. This one doesn't look cut down, I assume it's some sort of 18th or 19th century cuttoe or hanger. There appears to be a maker's mark near the hilt but you can't quite make it out from the pictures. Some sort of triangle? There may be some writing there too. I don't know if it's interesting enough to warrant discussion like the s'boula, but I thought I'd throw it out there anyways. If I can make out any details on the blade that look interesting I'll of course start another thread.
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Old 20th December 2013, 08:57 PM   #20
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Probably should start a new thread with a different sword.

Looks to me like a variation of a western Sahara "Manding" sword, and if those are hammer marks I think I see, you are likely right that this one is not cut down, but a native made blade.
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Old 20th December 2013, 09:07 PM   #21
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True - I'll start a new thread when it arrives. Doesn't really pertain to the matter and hand, I was just eager to show it off
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Old 21st December 2013, 06:54 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue lander
True - I'll start a new thread when it arrives. Doesn't really pertain to the matter and hand, I was just eager to show it off



Salaams blue lander~ If you feel it has the slightest relationship to Moroccan Berber or Tuareg weapons then give it an airing and see where it goes... Its an African sword after all but...how did it develop and from where?..

The first place to look is Forum Library where you will find two full pages on Mandingo...( Just type in Mandingo )Whilst it appears that the development of the hilt was an African tribal thing it certainly has similarities across the whole vast region but in terms of blades where they have been commonly imported Manding blades are predominantly French but some are German...as well as the home grown variety; Simply reflecting the dominant French presence in the region and the effects of the massive German trade in blades in the 19th C. into Africa ~

So lets have a look at the web where I just found a nice article at http://art-of-swords.tumblr.com/pos...-a-sword-common

Quote." The Mandingo Sword. The Mandingo is a sword common for the region of Africa. African swords were developed in different countries and different ethnic groups in Africa as war, hunting, cultural and ethical weapon and used. The actual name of the weapon is a expression of this type of weapon, with a particular ethnic group is assigned.

The Mandingo sword has a curved, single edged blade with and overall length of about 78 cm. The blade does not have a central ridge or hollow ground. This part of the sword is narrower in the middle and is slightly rounded. The booklet has no parry while the hilt is covered with wood and copper. The knob is designed as a ball.

These weapons are well known for their leather-work and the work applied to the scabbards. The iron work skills are less well developed. Many blades are taken from European weapons such as sabers and cutlasses. The beautiful leather work and the distinct discs and the guardless hilt, it is quite possible these may have diffused of course to other regions to the west.

While the Baule are a distinct tribal group to the west, it is important to observe that ‘Malinke’ is a variant term applied to the ‘Mandingo’ (also Manding, Mandin, Mande). In Fulani these weapons are called ‘kota’, this being the apparent term in Fulani for sword (probably generally applied).

In general, these remain primarily considered Mandingo weapons, and from regions in Mali. These were of course invariably mounted with European sabre blades of 19th century, and most typically French with the colonial presence there. Also, the Mandingo sword used by the ethnic groups of the Malinke and Mandingo".Unquote.

I suggest that this combined with Forum libraries superb details on Mandingo wraps this one up... Next ?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 21st December 2013 at 07:54 AM.
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