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Old 17th October 2017, 03:03 PM   #1
thinreadline
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Picked this up recently purely on the grounds that it was so decorative . It is quite small being a total length of only 76 cm , though the blade is a normal width at 4 cm. There is no sign that the blade has ever been sharpened and perhaps unusually the entire hilt including the crossguard is covered with reptile skin. I was wondering what I have here . Ideas that crossed my mind were ... a child's sword , or one of those pieces meant for sale to Europeans in the immediate post Battle of Omdurman period , or perhaps something much more modern .
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Old 17th October 2017, 04:34 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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In my opinion this is a pre Omdurman but post Mahdi item, and these kaskara were likely presented to tribal chieftains of conscripted groups from regions outside Sudan. This is suggested by the more elaborate thuluth and other motif etched on the blade. These were largely intended as symbols of rank and status and not intended as weapons.

Despite the claims that so much 'souvenier' stuff was produced after Omdurman for occupying forces, and often noting these crocodile covered scabbards etc. ...swords with this attention were not among them. We know that many thuluth etched weapons and crocodile hide elements were found on battlefields in these campaigns.

The smaller size it seems was for the convenience of wear as these were often worn in mounts over the shoulder and under the arm. Mounted chiefs often had larger kaskara attached to the saddle and under their leg, much as the traditional 'tuck' in earlier European times, and as British cavalry often had their swords in the latter 19th c.
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Old 17th October 2017, 05:40 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
In my opinion this is a pre Omdurman but post Mahdi item, and these kaskara were likely presented to tribal chieftains of conscripted groups from regions outside Sudan. This is suggested by the more elaborate thuluth and other motif etched on the blade. These were largely intended as symbols of rank and status and not intended as weapons.

Despite the claims that so much 'souvenier' stuff was produced after Omdurman for occupying forces, and often noting these crocodile covered scabbards etc. ...swords with this attention were not among them. We know that many thuluth etched weapons and crocodile hide elements were found on battlefields in these campaigns.

The smaller size it seems was for the convenience of wear as these were often worn in mounts over the shoulder and under the arm. Mounted chiefs often had larger kaskara attached to the saddle and under their leg, much as the traditional 'tuck' in earlier European times, and as British cavalry often had their swords in the latter 19th c.


Well Jim .... I am pleased you have said that , I had always been led to believe the same since my earliest days of collecting in the late 1960s ... but ones confidence can take a battering from the storm of info engulfing us from the net . I have owned ( and still do ) several swords of this type , but I thought this was a particularly nice example of its type. I do agree as well that it was never intended as a fighting sword , and is akin to the elaborately decorated status symbol weapons that were seen throughout Islamic Africa in the 19th C . I attach a picture of an example of onesuch from my collection .... sorry about the poor pictures the light is tricky in my hall .
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Old 18th October 2017, 05:48 PM   #4
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Redline, it appears our collecting and enthusiasm in these endeavors pretty much parallel chronologically!!! For me it was early 60s, and full bore by the 80s. I have been involved in North African swords for about the past 35 years but only loosely. In fact I think most I have learned has been here on these pages, as well as some independent research as recently as last summer.
Most of what I have discovered in the true history of these arms is quite different than what is generally held in the cursory attention of far too much literature. The truth is pretty much buried in obscure narratives and records which have been overlooked for far too long.

Thank you for sharing these excellent examples!!!
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Old 18th October 2017, 06:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Redline, it appears our collecting and enthusiasm in these endeavors pretty much parallel chronologically!!! For me it was early 60s, and full bore by the 80s. I have been involved in North African swords for about the past 35 years but only loosely. In fact I think most I have learned has been here on these pages, as well as some independent research as recently as last summer.
Most of what I have discovered in the true history of these arms is quite different than what is generally held in the cursory attention of far too much literature. The truth is pretty much buried in obscure narratives and records which have been overlooked for far too long.

Thank you for sharing these excellent examples!!!


Thanks Jim , always appreciate your opinion .
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Old 18th October 2017, 10:27 PM   #6
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You bet!
In my opinion most of these thuluth covered weapons were either produced or imported and decorated at Omdurman during the Khalifa's time (1885-98). These thuluth (script) etchings were essentially couplets which were repetitive into an almost Arabesque motif as an invocation/imbuement.
There are accounts of the considerable weaponry retrieved at Omdurman, many with such decoration as well as crocodile and lizard skin (as on your hilt) mounts.

In many cases these weapons were to the chiefs or key figures in the many slave oriented elements of these forces, conscripted in other regions and often using their favored weapon forms. The throwing knives and other unusual forms not indigenous to Sudan are often among these.

The polearms with huge (almost ace of spades looking) blade covered in thuluth were often used by these key figures in units for formation of troops, much like a unit guidon, and termed 'alem'.
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