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Old 1st January 2008, 07:45 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Marking of weapons: Anthropologically and Sociologically

On the thread on early makers trademarks, much of the discussion was keyed on the identifying marks used by guilds and makers primarily from a commercial standpoint. However, much of the discussion revealed religious and talismanic characteristics of many of these marks as well as phrases and mottoes.

I would like to open a line of discussion that would address the origins and history of applying marks to weapons and the purposes of these applications. While this topic is clearly so close to that of the other thread, I thought this might be interesting in our deeper understanding of weapons.

I would begin with early man, who in prehistoric times did indeed apply certain markings to his tools, and weapons, which of course were often closely related and interchageably used. Clearly, the tribal shamans or similarly functioning individuals, established that depictions of animals that were prey in the hunt might imbue the hunter with equivilent totemic power. In these times, extremely stylized or temporal geometric designs evolved and often appeared in wall illustrations and eventually on implements as well. We can only imagine the intended meanings of these, however some consistancies would seem have been established in degree in locations of discovery, and most important, we see that markings on weapons became an anthropological factor.

Jumping ahead to historic times, in the ancient world, I recall reading of archaeological discoveries of arrowheads I believe in Israel or other regions of Biblical history importantance, where there were identifying marks places on the arrowhead. It seems that in the caption it was noted that the purpose of this was to enable the warrior to claim the victim as his personal victory.
I wish I recall the reference exactly, but perhaps others might be able to offer either support or dispute as to its validity.

In recent travels here in the U.S. I have visited many American Indian historical sites and regions, and have found the tribal histories fascinating, especially of course, the weaponry. While there were of course, certain characteristics of style, ornamentation and symbolism in the varied weapons, it seems the key weapon that often carried personal identification, and with that purpose, was once again, the arrow. It seems that this practice was directed to the hunt, and these arrows would identify the warrior who would own the prey. I some cases of course, the objective was more universally tribal and this specific claim was overlooked, and naturally this practice was not necessarily common to all tribes.

I just found this practice of marking weapons from the earliest times, even to the present day most interesting. In a recent visit to an air museum here in Tucson, I thought of this while viewing the 'nose art' and various symbolism applied to not only combat aircraft, but even at times to the ordnance. Many bombs were emblazoned with patriotic jingoism and combat humor as they were loaded into planes. Naturally we are all aware of the trophy 'kill' symbols seen near the cockpits of these planes.
This also brings to mind the legends of the gunfighters notching the handles of thier guns (as I am presently in Tombstone, Arizona) and recently discovering that this practice was primarily myth. As far as is known, none of the historically known and established gunfighters ever notched thier gun handles.

This is simply a topic that has been on my mind for a while and just thought I would share it with all of you in hopes that you might join me with your thoughts, observations and examples. As always, the perspective gained by the constantly amazing core of knowledge that hallmarks the members and readers of this forum is monumental, and as always..we learn together!

Gentlemen, the lines are open!

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 1st January 2008, 08:39 PM   #2
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Default Marks other than armoury.

Jim a good subject. Here are two recent additions which I post here quite recently, two Himalayan, Nepalese short swords. What is interesting is the X like mark on the scabbard of one. They are left and right in terms of scabbard decoration, does that have any relevance? One is clearly marked after the initial manufacture. The mark obviously meant something to the owner. I did wonder if it may have been a crude attempt at a cross Kukri symbol but I doubt that as the motif has an extra mark one that could not be a slip of the knife or a mistake. Difficult to fathom but it is there?

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Old 1st January 2008, 09:39 PM   #3
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2 examples:
- diamonds marks, specific of the LAKA tribe on this throwing knife, but also simple lines engraved unexplained.
- 4 squared pieces (one missing) of metal on the handle of this SALAMPASU sword, unusual and unexplained.
The magic take a great place in Africa, and lot of weapons have magic symbol attached or engraved.
Unfortunately we have a few or no explanations of these symbols.
Luc
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Old 2nd January 2008, 04:22 PM   #4
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Hi Tim,
Thank you for posting these Nepal swords, and interesting thoughts on this indeed crudely carved starlike mark that clearly is not part of the intricate carving of the scabbard motif. As you note, it would be difficult to imagine what the purpose of what such an almost defacing mark would be intended to mean, but its deliberate appearance suggests it had some purpose. This is the kind of thing I wanted to address in scope, and though we probably will not be able to determine actual meanings in many examples, it does seem possible we will might find some consistancies, and perhaps even possible explanations.

Thank you for posting the excellent African examples Luc! Here are examples of clearly intended geometric motif that probably did have distinct meaning to the tribesman or his group, and most likely may have had either folk magic or tribal traditional symbolism. I think Tim had an African stick posted not long ago that had geometric squares or diamonds on it, and there was some relation to numerics with such symbolism.
Tim, do you recall?

Thank you for posting these Tim and Luc, and especially for helping me get this thread going.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 2nd January 2008, 07:08 PM   #5
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Hi Jim,
As a matter of fact, i love marks in weapons as much as i hate not to be able to decipher them
Many a times i see marks that do not actually exist, being simply casting flaws or, in the best, innocent decoration motifs.
These are two lance heads from North Cameroon, which bear nice engraving details on the blades.
I also include a drawing of a similar weapon, illustrated in Waffen aus Zentral-Afrika, with a detail within the same philosophy.
I wonder if these are simply free style decorations, following the taste of each blade smith, whether equally repeated in all their pieces or with timely variations, or if they instead follow patterns of a more comited purpose, like symbols of each ( family ) smith, or tribal "crests", etc.
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Old 2nd January 2008, 08:52 PM   #6
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Hi Fernando,
Great example! and I completely agree...I'm often fascinated to the point of obsession in studying markings and symbolism, and admit that often my imagination runs away a bit. However, sometimes marks are done crudely by individuals who are not artisans and unskilled with tools or items used as tools. No matter how crude, something added deliberately most likely had a meaning or purpose for the individual applying it.

In looking at the marks on this piece, I can see certain similarity, though obviously interpretive, of some European blade markings. In one case, the semicircle and dots, as we have discussed, look like the smith was recalling these marks from some trade or European blade he had seen. With heavy trade, colonial and slaving activity in these regions, it would not be surprising, but added in motif this way, what might the meaning be?

It seems to me that in Africa, symbolism and totems applied to tribal groups as a whole rather than to specific individuals, unless of course a tribal leader or ranking individual and obviously royalty. I realize that there are likely various exceptions to this of which I am unaware at this point, and I always look forward to hearing more from those with more detailed information.

I am inclined to think that even free styled motif, in the African tribal culture, would likely carry inherent symbolism or meaning, otherwise why would it be applied. Every day weapons were intended for practical use, and the ceremonial or symbolic weapons were obviously for that purpose and decorated accordingly. Perhaps, in his own simplistic way, even the most rank and file warrior must have wanted to imbue his own weapon with the power and meanings of those of his leaders, and did so crudely by his own hand.

With very best regards,
Jim
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Old 5th January 2008, 02:06 AM   #7
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Old 5th January 2008, 04:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew


Wow!! Thank you so much Andrew
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Old 5th January 2008, 04:34 AM   #10
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Those are some excellent examples you have posted Andrew.
The beautiful dha has a most interesting image that I cant quite make out, and you Mark, and Ian would have most of the insight on what it might represent. I'd sure like to hear more on the possibilities.

The second weapon's interesting line of piercings seem like they might be placed there for attaching something? or might these be like the holes seen in some mandaus, kampilans? It seems there was once some discussion suggesting these were filled with brass to signify 'victories'. I think that might have been in Cato?

With that, those deliberately placed transverse lines on the back of the blade with some diagonal and some straight seem like they are typically in numeric groupings. I recall trying to find out about these on a Laotian kamoong once, and there was some mention of tribal identity, or to that effect. It seems like these 'hashmark' like lines occur on the backs of blades of many SE Asian weapons with examples found elsewhere also, but cannot recall other specifics.

Thank you for posting these Andrew!

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 5th January 2008, 06:27 AM   #11
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Default More Blade Marks on Dha

I see that Andrew has added a couple of marks on Dha blades to this thread, so here are a few more, also from Dha to add to the mix. These are all on Dha in my collection.
I can not throw any light on who or what they signify, except to say that the one which includes what looks like Burmese script, is in fact Mon script which is the language from which Burmese was derived. There are other symbals incorporated in this one also beside the script, and the round "hatched" mark also appears on this sword. The Chinese character mark is on a Dha from Yunnan.
Hope these are of interest.
Stuart
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Old 6th January 2008, 06:39 PM   #12
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Thank you so much for those great illustrations Stuart. Again,these are deliberate and seem strategically placed at key locations on the blades, some as if to associate with makers marks seen on both European and native blades. In some cases of course, the markings duplicated might be arsenal marks but that seems to a more limited instance.

On the 6th illustration, the ovoid , but broken, mark on the blade of the dha reminds me again of a discussion investigating such marks on the blade of a Laotian 'kamoong'. It was relayed to me that a tribal elder of the Hmong had looked at photos of the markings and suggested that this open oval meant something to the effect, 'the sword will return to its owner'. Naturally, this third hand 'evidence' must be regarded with caution, but I thought it worthy of note.
In China, there were often characters on the blades that carried mottos or action names for the weapon itself. One early ring pommeled dadao that I researched had such characters that said 'kill demons'. The sword also carried the ba gwa or 'eight trigrams' (if memory serves) which suggested the swords association to the Eight Trigram Rebellion c.1815 in China.

The squiggle marks seem quite elusive, and they do appear often in groupings in linear pattern and motif on SE Asian blades. I have not heard any constructive observations on these, and hope to hear anything more on them.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 4th February 2008, 09:59 PM   #13
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Fascinating thread, Jim!

I hope the King of Khuks, aka Spiral will comment also.

I would suspect that many "traditional" blade markings were made for a purpose. Metalwork is not easy and the makers had to work at some of the designs. This would indicate, to me, that they put strong significance in making these designs.

Re the following Khukri with the traditional cut in the blade.

I have heard that the "Cho" could be a tantric symbol of penis and vagina. Male and female energies in balance. The more mundane say it is merely a place for blood drain off and not get on the grip.

This is a Janawar or really big kuhuri. Used in beheading big animals in sacrifical rituals. I have long wondered what the other designs (particular to this blade) signify?
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Old 4th February 2008, 10:04 PM   #14
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The wooden carved scabbard for the preceding Khukri shows lines of force. These were used by many societies for a variety of purposes. Some to protect the article enclosed in the scabbard.

Others to gather and focus energies.

And yet other societies made maze-like patterns to trap evil or destructive spirits.

Animistic societies feared the spirits of the animals they killed much more than they feared the animal when it was alive. They could deal with a living animal easier than a vengeful spirit.
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Old 4th February 2008, 10:06 PM   #15
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The Dayak liked to carve leeches in their mandau, to give it a taste for blood.

Like most of the symbolic possibilities, all this is open to interpretation. But what do you see here?
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Old 4th February 2008, 11:32 PM   #16
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Fernando, thank you so much for posting this beautiful and eloquent description of the symbolism applied by Scottish Highlanders to the basket hilt sword hilts ! I have heard of Mr. MacDonald before in research I was doing on the Scottish basket hilt, and I can see now why he was so highly recommended for answers to my questions.
If ever a toast of Drambuie was in order....it is to him for writing this .

Bill, thank you for coming in on the thread. You have great insight into this perspective so it is good to have your observations. I agree that in many societies, there was profound fear of malevolent spirits that were released when a weapon killed, and as you note, the markings certainly had meaning.

The cho on the kukri has been the subject of debate for decades that I can remember. It is a consistantly applied feature on the blade of virtually every true ethnographic kukri, and there are of course symbolic suggestions and as always, those who try to find practical application. The same is true in the so called 'Spanish notch' in Meditteranean knives and the curious notched tips in Austrian cavalry swords of the 18th century. Many suggestions that have been discussed have been compelling, however there are as far as I know, none that can be proven.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 6th February 2008, 02:26 PM   #17
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Default Slainte!

Mr. MacDougall,

It seems that you already know our hearts if you like a Drambuie

Thankyou for your comments and thankyou Fernando for pointing me towards this forum. I look forward to more interesting topics in future.

Yours Very Truly,

Paul Macdonald,
Macdonald Armouries,
Macdonald Academy of Arms
http://www.historicalfencing.org/Ma...rmory/index.htm
www.historicalfencing.org/Macdonaldacademy
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Old 14th March 2013, 02:23 PM   #18
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Default Tamgas and Runes, Magic Numbers and Magic Symbols

Hello!

Resurrecting this old thread as it seems the right place to note an interesting article on the subject of "Tamgas and Runes, Magic Numbers and Magic Symbols" by Helmut Nickel, Curator of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can download a PDF of the article here

There are many figures included and these may help in identification, interpretation and other study.

Best Regards,

Dave A.
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Old 16th March 2013, 02:51 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
On the thread on early makers trademarks, much of the discussion was keyed on the identifying marks used by guilds and makers primarily from a commercial standpoint. However, much of the discussion revealed religious and talismanic characteristics of many of these marks as well as phrases and mottoes.

I would like to open a line of discussion that would address the origins and history of applying marks to weapons and the purposes of these applications. While this topic is clearly so close to that of the other thread, I thought this might be interesting in our deeper understanding of weapons.

I would begin with early man, who in prehistoric times did indeed apply certain markings to his tools, and weapons, which of course were often closely related and interchageably used. Clearly, the tribal shamans or similarly functioning individuals, established that depictions of animals that were prey in the hunt might imbue the hunter with equivilent totemic power. In these times, extremely stylized or temporal geometric designs evolved and often appeared in wall illustrations and eventually on implements as well. We can only imagine the intended meanings of these, however some consistancies would seem have been established in degree in locations of discovery, and most important, we see that markings on weapons became an anthropological factor.

Jumping ahead to historic times, in the ancient world, I recall reading of archaeological discoveries of arrowheads I believe in Israel or other regions of Biblical history importantance, where there were identifying marks places on the arrowhead. It seems that in the caption it was noted that the purpose of this was to enable the warrior to claim the victim as his personal victory.
I wish I recall the reference exactly, but perhaps others might be able to offer either support or dispute as to its validity.

In recent travels here in the U.S. I have visited many American Indian historical sites and regions, and have found the tribal histories fascinating, especially of course, the weaponry. While there were of course, certain characteristics of style, ornamentation and symbolism in the varied weapons, it seems the key weapon that often carried personal identification, and with that purpose, was once again, the arrow. It seems that this practice was directed to the hunt, and these arrows would identify the warrior who would own the prey. I some cases of course, the objective was more universally tribal and this specific claim was overlooked, and naturally this practice was not necessarily common to all tribes.

I just found this practice of marking weapons from the earliest times, even to the present day most interesting. In a recent visit to an air museum here in Tucson, I thought of this while viewing the 'nose art' and various symbolism applied to not only combat aircraft, but even at times to the ordnance. Many bombs were emblazoned with patriotic jingoism and combat humor as they were loaded into planes. Naturally we are all aware of the trophy 'kill' symbols seen near the cockpits of these planes.
This also brings to mind the legends of the gunfighters notching the handles of thier guns (as I am presently in Tombstone, Arizona) and recently discovering that this practice was primarily myth. As far as is known, none of the historically known and established gunfighters ever notched thier gun handles.

This is simply a topic that has been on my mind for a while and just thought I would share it with all of you in hopes that you might join me with your thoughts, observations and examples. As always, the perspective gained by the constantly amazing core of knowledge that hallmarks the members and readers of this forum is monumental, and as always..we learn together!

Gentlemen, the lines are open!

All very best regards,
Jim



Salaams Jim and Dave A, I posted this a while back~ but it fits well the line of research on the subject.

Quote "Biography.
Schuyler Van Rensselaer Cammann was born in New York city in 1912 and attended St. Paul's School (Long Island) and Kent School (Connecticut). He received his B.A. from Yale (1935), M.A from Harvard (1941), and Ph.D. (1949) from John Hopkins, where he studied under Owen Lattimore. Both the M.A. and Ph.D. were in Asian History. From 1935 to 1941 he taught English in the Yale-in-China program, and served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II stationed in Washington D. C., western China and Mongolia. In 1948 Cammann joined the faculty of the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania where he remained until his retirement in 1982. From 1948 till 1955 he was Associate Curator of the East Asian Collections for the University Museum. During his tenure at the museum he was a member of excavation teams at Gordion (Turkey) and Kunduz (Afghanistan). Also during that time he was a member of the panel for the popular T.V. program "What in the World" (1951 – 55). Important professional organization positions included Vice-President of the American Oriental Society and editor of its journal; President of the Philadelphia Anthropological Society and Philadelphia Oriental Club; fellow of the American Learned Societies and the American Anthropological Association.

Professor Cammann wrote, lectured, taught, and consulted in several geographic areas (including China, Tibet, Mongolia, Japan) on such topics as textiles, carpets, art, ivory, snuff bottles, magic squares, and symbolism. He authored four books and numerous articles and reviews, and presented considerable number of lectures to various meetings, organizations and conferences. After his retirement he continued to write as well as conduct several tours in Asia.

Schuyler Van Rensselaer Cammann died in an auto accident near his summer home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire on September 10, 1991." Unquote.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Notes; In 1977 he made a visit and observations of Yemeni Daggers ~ see The Cult of The Jambiyyahttp://www.penn.museum/documents/pu...9-2/Cammann.pdf
(What is not so often known are his treatise upon Islamic and Indian squares.)


I am currently on research in Muscat and will try to include some details of swordblade marks. Talismanic marks are very common here.
What are also interesting are the dots on the blade marks which I simply couldnt find though I had seen them on one or two Omani Battle Swords years ago, however, I found one the other day and will photograph that later. Of these I have seen single and triple dots on the throat and the rarer dot (copper brass gold?) at the tip also seen on Abasiids in the Topkapi.
I have even chased hatched marks and compared those to marks of ownership on camels but have drawn no conclusions yet as to a link~ so there may not be one !
The treatise noted above by the late Schuyler Van Rensselaer Cammann on Indian and Islamic squares, numbers and talismanic shapes would be interesting and may well be cross linked to blade marks here.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Notes; See;
1. http://www.kunstpedia.com/articles/...iddle-east.html

2. Type into web search Schuyler Van Rensselaer Cammann for an array of associated detail.

3. The above quote comes from http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...sselaer+Cammann post # 40.

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Old 16th March 2013, 06:36 PM   #20
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Dave and Ibrahiim,
Thank you so much guys for reviving this thread. It is a remarkably under researched and discussed aspect of arms study, which has gratefully received some modicum of attention, as indicated in the article by the esteemed Helmut Nickel (Thank you Dave for the link).
Ibrahiim as you have well noted, there does seem to be certain connections in at least some degree between symbology from camel marks, various talismanic and apotropaic signs and others. The tamga is an important form of early identifying symbols which actually did develop into many aspects of heraldic use, and certainly seems likely to have found some use on weapons.

Excellent information, and look forward to further entries!

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 19th March 2013, 01:04 PM   #21
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Hi Jim,
Interesting subject and I will be keeping it in the back of my mind while doing research. On this note, I asked a Tuareg what the marks on his sword meant. He explained it was a map with cities and water.
Ann
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Old 19th March 2013, 01:22 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann Feuerbach
Hi Jim,
Interesting subject and I will be keeping it in the back of my mind while doing research. On this note, I asked a Tuareg what the marks on his sword meant. He explained it was a map with cities and water.
Ann


Very interesting - can I ask what form the marks were? I assume not the typically observed twin crescent moons or derivatives of European marks as typically seen?
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Old 19th March 2013, 03:53 PM   #23
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Hi Ann,
Thank you so much for your note, and it will truly be great to have your input concerning markings found on sword blades, and your comments on the Tuareg explanation of markings on a blade described personally and in context is outstanding.
I think what is remarkable on markings found on blades, especially in native context, is that they often are likely to be perceived in personal interpretation rather than a widely held meaning in larger sense. I would add here for the readers some of my own thoughts on these kinds of circumstances in native blade markings.

When European markings entered native cultural spheres on trade blades, the makers marks and often cabalistic or talismanic symbols seem to have typically been construed into thier own cultural meanings. For example the cross and orb familiar on many European blades centuries ago have developed into holding the general meaning as symbols of the drum and sticks in Sudanese regions. Other marks typically associated with Kull are determined to be a fly, significant as representing the prowess of a warrior in combat in quick movements.

Perhaps aligned with this explanation of markings representing a map, the cross is often used in native parlance to signify the four cardinal directions, key to native description toward universality or similarly connotated concepts.

Ann, would it be possible to add more on the nature of the markings you have seen?

Thank you again,

Jim
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Old 20th March 2013, 04:00 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
[snip] The treatise noted above by the late Schuyler Van Rensselaer Cammann on Indian and Islamic squares, numbers and talismanic shapes would be interesting and may well be cross linked to blade marks here. [snip]


I have Cammann's two articles but they do not cover anything else than magic (i.e. mathematical, wafq etc.) squares.

Michael
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Old 22nd March 2013, 04:07 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
I have Cammann's two articles but they do not cover anything else than magic (i.e. mathematical, wafq etc.) squares.

Michael


Salaams VVV and thank you for that note. I think that is all the gentleman focussed upon and wonder if it can be published to Forum please?
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 22nd March 2013, 05:50 PM   #26
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Salaam Ibrahiim,

The articles are still under copyright but you can find them in JStor, for instance.

Michael


Cammann, Schuyler, "Islamic and Indian Magic Squares. Part I," History of Religions, 8/3 (1969), 181-209.
Cammann, Schuyler, "Islamic and Indian Magic Squares. Part II," History of Religions, 8/4 (1969), 271-299.
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Old 29th March 2013, 03:12 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
Salaam Ibrahiim,

The articles are still under copyright but you can find them in JStor, for instance.

Michael


Cammann, Schuyler, "Islamic and Indian Magic Squares. Part I," History of Religions, 8/3 (1969), 181-209.
Cammann, Schuyler, "Islamic and Indian Magic Squares. Part II," History of Religions, 8/4 (1969), 271-299.



Salaams VVV,
Apologies for the delay in replying ~ Thank you very much for the Jstor references to the works of Cammann Schuyler.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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