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Old 11th March 2012, 02:31 PM   #1
Iain
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Default Takouba form presentation

I've decided to share a PDF presentation with our forum members entitled "The Takouba Form - With a Focus on Range and Distribution".

This combines many of the areas I have been studying with regards to takouba. I am making this available for our members, who's discussions and inputs on the various takouba threads in the last year have been invaluable. It is not a final work and includes images and maps cobbled together from various sources.

http://takouba.org/the_takouba_form...trib ution.pdf

All the best,

Iain
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Old 11th March 2012, 02:50 PM   #2
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Excelent stuff.
Thank you so much for sharing
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Old 11th March 2012, 02:53 PM   #3
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Well done mate, I enjoyed reading the PDF and knowing more about this part of the world. Sadly I dont have much to add as I dont have any knowledge about the region.
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Old 11th March 2012, 03:09 PM   #4
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Thank you very much!! great job !!
best regards
carlos
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Old 11th March 2012, 03:23 PM   #5
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Also when this swords are not my area of collecting: Great page and very interesting! Thank you very much for sharing!

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 11th March 2012, 03:41 PM   #6
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Great work and very interesting, thank you very much
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Old 11th March 2012, 06:29 PM   #7
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Thank you all for your kind comments. I am maybe a little bit too obsessed with this sword type, but I find myself continuously fascinated by how wide a range the form covers. I'm glad my little presentation made for a good read.

Any and all feedback gratefully accepted.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 11th March 2012, 06:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Thank you all for your kind comments. I am maybe a little bit too obsessed with this sword type, but I find myself continuously fascinated by how wide a range the form covers. I'm glad my little presentation made for a good read.

Any and all feedback gratefully accepted.

Cheers,

Iain


Is that how am going to be with the saif soon? xD

Your research is a treasure mate, no shame in being obsessed !
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Old 11th March 2012, 06:55 PM   #9
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Iain,
Thank for summarising all the info on the takouba that you have been gathering. Your focus on this form is inspirational.
Teodor
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Old 11th March 2012, 11:10 PM   #10
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Iain,

Excellent job of research and analysis!! I hadn't realized that the takouba was so wide spread and had such a long history. I'm impressed. A couple of observations/questions.

1. The takouba and kaskara have significantly different profiles. Would European trade blades have been made in the differing profiles to serve the individual markets of the Western Sahel and the Nile Valley? Those Sahelian kingdoms were much more sophisticated than those of the Sudan, and I would expect that more native blades would have been in the takouba form.

2. As you noted, the establishment of provenance is difficult based on a limited database of attribution and stylistic variability. Is there a place for "forensic metallurgy" in further identification? Native ore content and forging, quenching, processing techniques would different from say Solingen as well as native forging from imported steel stock like lorry springs. I wonder if this type of investigation could be done non-invasively? And if so, are enough examples are available to provide a suitable database?

An excellent contribution to the field.
Best regards,
Ed
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Old 12th March 2012, 07:40 AM   #11
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
I've decided to share a PDF presentation with our forum members entitled "The Takouba Form - With a Focus on Range and Distribution".

This combines many of the areas I have been studying with regards to takouba. I am making this available for our members, who's discussions and inputs on the various takouba threads in the last year have been invaluable. It is not a final work and includes images and maps cobbled together from various sources.

http://takouba.org/the_takouba_form...trib ution.pdf

All the best,

Iain



Salaams Iain ~ I have really enjoyed going over your fine work which is brilliantly presented and shines a beam of light on the mysteries of your chosen subject ... It was a great pleasure reading through the entire thesis and thank you for allowing it to be read even though you consider it not complete it was an inspiring document. May I make a small comment on one aspect which I may suggest is worth reviewing and that is the relationship with the Old Omani Battle Sword which I think may be an unrelated linkage. Rather like the links in a cycle chain I find this one an extra link that isn't (may not be) actually there but without it, the chain is simply tighter...In my view the Omani Battle Sword "Sayf Yamaani" is linked directly to the Abbassiid design, after which, it froze in Oman and until relatively speaking; today. The form was not exported and did not, I suggest, influence African weapons. It was held within a very tight Omani Ibathi grouping and though there is a sect link to a small part of North Africa I am not certain it extended to there. That is not to say that Abbasiid weaponry may not be responsible from an influential standpoint but simply to say that the link to the Omani Short Battle Sword is, to me at least, not in the equation. What I do see is a parallel looking development in a tribal sword although unconnected and unrelated as often happened. I think the time frame on the Omani weapon is worth noting in that regard having been designed around the 751ad date point.
This in no way detracts from what is a splendid document and I reinforce my appreciation of how well you have tackled the difficult subject. Thank you.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; I have read your treatise several times and note in fact that though you do have a plate with two Omani Battle Swords there is not yet an actual conclusion on the influence though I wonder if that was the case...or that it was part of the thesis still under consideration?

Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 12th March 2012 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 12th March 2012, 08:14 AM   #12
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Hi Ibrahiim,

The saifs were depicted in the PDF mainly to show a possible shared heritage in early Islamic swords. The old Omani saifs are a great window into early Islamic swords and there are elements of the form and construction shared with takouba.

However a direct link I also consider unlikely.

Cheers,

Iain

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams Iain ~ I have really enjoyed going over your fine work which is brilliantly presented and shines a beam of light on the mysteries of your chosen subject ... It was a great pleasure reading through the entire thesis and thank you for allowing it to be read even though you consider it not complete it was an inspiring document. May I make a small comment on one aspect which I may suggest is worth reviewing and that is the relationship with the Old Omani Battle Sword which I think may be an unrelated linkage. Rather like the links in a cycle chain I find this one an extra link that isn't (may not be) actually there but without it, the chain is simply tighter...In my view the Omani Battle Sword "Sayf Yamaani" is linked directly to the Abbassiid design, after which, it froze in Oman and until relatively speaking; today. The form was not exported and did not, I suggest, influence African weapons. It was held within a very tight Omani Ibathi grouping and though there is a sect link to a small part of North Africa I am not certain it extended to there. That is not to say that Abbasiid weaponry may not be responsible from an influential standpoint but simply to say that the link to the Omani Short Battle Sword is, to me at least, not in the equation. What I do see is a parallel looking development in a tribal sword although unconnected and unrelated as often happened. I think the time frame on the Omani weapon is worth noting in that regard having been designed around the 751ad date point.
This in no way detracts from what is a splendid document and I reinforce my appreciation of how well you have tackled the difficult subject. Thank you.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; I have read your treatise several times and note in fact that though you do have a plate with two Omani Battle Swords there is not yet an actual conclusion on the influence though I wonder if that was the case...or that it was part of the thesis still under consideration?
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Old 12th March 2012, 08:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
Iain,

Excellent job of research and analysis!! I hadn't realized that the takouba was so wide spread and had such a long history. I'm impressed. A couple of observations/questions.

1. The takouba and kaskara have significantly different profiles. Would European trade blades have been made in the differing profiles to serve the individual markets of the Western Sahel and the Nile Valley? Those Sahelian kingdoms were much more sophisticated than those of the Sudan, and I would expect that more native blades would have been in the takouba form.

2. As you noted, the establishment of provenance is difficult based on a limited database of attribution and stylistic variability. Is there a place for "forensic metallurgy" in further identification? Native ore content and forging, quenching, processing techniques would different from say Solingen as well as native forging from imported steel stock like lorry springs. I wonder if this type of investigation could be done non-invasively? And if so, are enough examples are available to provide a suitable database?

An excellent contribution to the field.
Best regards,
Ed


Hi Ed,

Excellent questions which deserve a bit of a longish answer.

1. I think not, I have seen the exact same pattern blades in both swords, with the kaskara seeming to leave the blade relatively unchanged, while the takouba shows massive reprofiling of the tip.

Here is a kaskara with a Kull blade, here is a takouba with the same pattern but reprofiled.

My impression has been that there was much more of a homegrown weapons industry in the western Sahel compared to the Sudan proper. This is not to say a large number of imported blades were not used in takouba, but I think particularly on the fringes of the takouba range, like Cameroon, you see a lot more native blades.

2. I think there is a place for metallurgical analysis. Unfortunately its not something I have any experience in and I'm not sure of the methods needed and how invasive that might be.

I have noticed quite a variety in the visual appearance of the steels on native takouba blades, unfortunately no good imperical data to back up my instincts regarding some of these.

Swords ground from springs and other scrap steel are somewhat easy to pick out I think. The texture is quite different and you do not see delamination and other factors of a less than perfect ore and forging process.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 14th March 2012, 10:00 PM   #14
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Thank you for sharing this. Would you be interested in photo's of a couple of dismounted blades that I believe are from Takouba?
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Old 14th March 2012, 11:00 PM   #15
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Dear Iain,
Thank you very much for this research, I also enjoyed going through it a lot !
I would have two points:
As far as the map of the range of Takouba is concerned, I think we should go a little bit further to the north. The map should also involve the southern border of Tunisia (the point where tunisia borders with Algeria and Libia - the town of Ghadames - there used to be important camp of Azjer Tuaregs in front of this town in 19th century, it was, I think, considered as northern border of their natural habitat...,). Then - when we take into consideration the simmilarity of Takouba and Mandara swords, why not to mention the simmilarity of Tokouba and relativly rare Berber broadswords - I think from Tunisia, but I am not 100% sure, maybe also Ageria. They used to have handles completely made of wood or horn, but the profile was simmilar.
Thank you once mor for your good work.
Regards,
Martin
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Old 15th March 2012, 09:22 PM   #16
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Hi Martin,

Thanks for the kind words. You are of course right on the map, it is very approximate at best and should for sure push a bit further north and probably further east as well.

You have another good point about the wood and horn handled Berber swords, while most are found with saber blades somewhere I have photos of a really interesting example with horn and brass covered hilt with a straight trade blade.

There is always more information to add I guess and I will keep trying to do my best to learn and present more information.

Iain
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Old 19th March 2012, 12:10 AM   #17
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Thanks Iain. I enjoyed your booklet and your efforts and I hope that some of the problems that you evidenced so clearly now will be solved in the next years. However, as any good paper it generated some questions.

Pag.9 : Origin : Early Islamic swords :
There are many similarities between these swords and the European medieval swords so that it will be difficult to establish if the influence came from the Islamic or from the European sword.

Pag. 10 Origin : Omani saif. : difficult to establish. The only similarity is the form of the blade
Pag. 13: Origins European Blades examples
2 “Second sword from Jean-Paul Cazes, wolf appears to be a locally imitation. Other mark appears genuine. Likely Solingen.” I suggest you to add the details of the marks and the reason of your statement because otherwise it is difficult to confirm it. I do not want to be misunderstood. Most probably you are right but I would like to understand which is the reason of your attribution.
3. “Third sword from Chris Topping, formerly in my own collection. Possibly a European blade but the half moons almost certainly applied locally. Likely Solingen”. Why you says the half moon was applied locally. Which evidence ? Half moon symbols are also found in European blades and , according to many authors, also copied locally but I would be able to distinguish. Do you have a key ?
Pag.14: “Similarly marked swords were held in the arsenal in Alexandria.”. Please add a reference to the arsenal. This sword is also very peculiar and much different from that more commonly found because it has a oval flattened pommel and a quite smaller guard.
Pag.14: Origins: Basic Indigenous forms.
I have never seen a Takouba without the brass handle. Is there a unique piece that connect the blade to the pommel or there are rivets ? The manufacture of the Chamba short sword, especially how the guard is blocked look more similar to the Medieval sword than the Takouba. However, this example has a curved blade and a point two characteristics difficult to encounter in takouba. I know that there are Chamba examples with straight blade but in any case it is difficult to establish who influence who.
Pag.16: Pommel Evolution.
Most probably you are right tracing this evolution looking at the characteristic of the pommel. However, because the area of diffusion of the Takouba is so large and there are many tribes is it possible that local variations of the pommel, at least in the past, were associated with different tribal groups ? At pag 40 you show a series of takouba from different tribes with different pommels and I think that also you do not dismiss this hypothesis.

Thanks again.
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Old 19th March 2012, 08:55 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mauro
Thanks Iain. I enjoyed your booklet and your efforts and I hope that some of the problems that you evidenced so clearly now will be solved in the next years. However, as any good paper it generated some questions.

Pag.9 : Origin : Early Islamic swords :
There are many similarities between these swords and the European medieval swords so that it will be difficult to establish if the influence came from the Islamic or from the European sword.


The hilt form of a takouba is much closer to early Islamic forms, with hollow plate form guards and flatter, thinner pommels. Well that is at least how I see it.

Quote:

Pag. 10 Origin : Omani saif. : difficult to establish. The only similarity is the form of the blade


I was not making a particular comparison, only showing the Omani sword as an example of another descendant of early Islamic swords. However there are some similarities with wide bladed takouba. The flat wide blades, the hilts are follow a similar segmented construction of all metal.

Quote:
Pag. 13: Origins European Blades examples
2 “Second sword from Jean-Paul Cazes, wolf appears to be a locally imitation. Other mark appears genuine. Likely Solingen.” I suggest you to add the details of the marks and the reason of your statement because otherwise it is difficult to confirm it. I do not want to be misunderstood. Most probably you are right but I would like to understand which is the reason of your attribution.

3. “Third sword from Chris Topping, formerly in my own collection. Possibly a European blade but the half moons almost certainly applied locally. Likely Solingen”. Why you says the half moon was applied locally. Which evidence ? Half moon symbols are also found in European blades and , according to many authors, also copied locally but I would be able to distinguish. Do you have a key ?


The attribution for the sword with the wolf and the wolf being a local imitation is based on a few factors. Usually the wolf is not off center in the fuller, this one is. The depth of the mark is much different than the maker's stamp at the base of the blade. Compare to the first sword on that page and you will see just how poorly done that wolf is. But it is always tricky trying to tell with these blades and I could be wrong! However in this case the sword owner agreed with me and had similar feelings.

With the number of fake stamps applied in these regions, it will always be a bit of a guessing game I think.

The second sword, it may be an entirely native blade, but the steel quality is well above average. The reason I think the half moons are local is for a couple reasons, the depth of the stamp is uneven, the mark was applied to almost everything locally and Briggs if I recall correctly suspected that most if not all of these half moon stamps were applied locally. But I'd need to dig up Briggs' paper again to be sure. I would say there is no real key to distinguish, I wish there was! I am very cynical with any sword from the Sahel and usually assume its a fake.

Quote:
Pag.14: “Similarly marked swords were held in the arsenal in Alexandria.”. Please add a reference to the arsenal. This sword is also very peculiar and much different from that more commonly found because it has a oval flattened pommel and a quite smaller guard.


The mounts are old and correspond to other older oval pommel takouba although it is a bit different in style. That is why I think these mounts are probably the oldest I have seen. They are also much better made! Please see the attached image for one sword that was previously in Alexandria now in Istanbul I believe.

Quote:
Pag.14: Origins: Basic Indigenous forms.
I have never seen a Takouba without the brass handle. Is there a unique piece that connect the blade to the pommel or there are rivets ? The manufacture of the Chamba short sword, especially how the guard is blocked look more similar to the Medieval sword than the Takouba. However, this example has a curved blade and a point two characteristics difficult to encounter in takouba. I know that there are Chamba examples with straight blade but in any case it is difficult to establish who influence who.


Takouba hilts are invariably constructed in the following way:

  • Grip: Metal tube, may have small metal tubes inside to reinforce it.

    Guard: Usually one or two piece steel frame wrapped around the blade. Then over top can be leather or the box like brass decorative plates.

    Pommel: Usually at least two pieces (not counting stacks).

    Solder: everything is soldered except on some old pieces where it's more of a compression fit.

The Chamba comparison was not about construction however, but about the pommel form and how a basic short sword with that kind of pommel is very practical for a smith to make and how that might give some clues into why that pommel shape is then found on other weapons.

Quote:
Pag.16: Pommel Evolution.
Most probably you are right tracing this evolution looking at the characteristic of the pommel. However, because the area of diffusion of the Takouba is so large and there are many tribes is it possible that local variations of the pommel, at least in the past, were associated with different tribal groups ? At pag 40 you show a series of takouba from different tribes with different pommels and I think that also you do not dismiss this hypothesis.


I have looked long and hard for tribal variation in pommels. I would say there is some for sure, some Tuareg regions preferred flatter pommels (parts of Air I believe), Bornu pommels seem to be large and oval mostly. Hausa pommels a little different. But in general there is a shift into the 20th century into using the pommels with stacks - everywhere. This can be seen in period photos.

Quote:
Thanks again.


Thank you! Really great comments and it pushes me to try and solve these little puzzles and publish a new version.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 11:39 PM   #19
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The classic pommel of the takouba, according to Morel (1943) that collected data in the field, has the form of a shield, a miniature shield-amulet, called darôr, that indicates a magic metal created to protect the owner. The use of copper as talisman is also well known and again confirmed by Morel. To the talisman effect of the copper in the pommel, copper or brass is frequently used in the pommel and the scabbard. Morel also explain that the symbols decorated on the visible face of the guard and scabbard are all talismanic used to protect the owner and to reflect the bad eyes and the evil spirits. He also specify that the maâllermin (the Tuareg smiths) usually repair and model the blades that came with the caravans from abroad. May be you will like to know that before to choose a good steel (elhend) it is a common practice to keep the blade in water for 40 consecutive days in order that a series of small reddish dots appear. They will be removed in a later time, The Tuareg also have a classific of the blades according to their properties and I enclose my translation from French.
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Old 23rd March 2012, 09:00 AM   #20
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Hi Mauro, thanks for posting the translations.

I've read a bit of Morel before, it is of course an important work but entirely Tuareg centric while the takouba form is not. The Tuareg beliefs regarding the need for talismanic brass and copper elements were obviously not shared by all the other takouba using peoples although many of the designs found on leather were.

Yes, the vast majority of blades used by the Tuareg were imported, mainly from Hausa cities like Kano.

The note on the idea behind the pommel for the Tuareg is interesting. I wonder which pommel form it refers to though? The stacks? Or the earlier flatter pommels? Or the oval pommels? I think you have seen them before but the earliest Tuareg swords I am aware of, where we have true dates for the hilts, are these http://blade.japet.com/takouba.htm (scroll down the page).
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Old 24th March 2012, 02:47 PM   #21
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Hi Iain, regarding the pommel I suppose he refers to the stack but I am not sure. Unfortunately I am not a French mather language and I miss some details. I agree with you that Morel is entirely Tuareg centric while the takouba form is not. However, the information he provided are very important in my opinion because unless we should have eyewitnesses and chronicle this is a fact that we could have never unravelled. In any case I think that you did a great job.
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Old 24th March 2012, 04:14 PM   #22
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Hi Mauro,

Compared to my abilities in French, you would seem like a professor of the language. I am really grateful for the translations.

I agree Morel's work is very important, it is precise and contains the necessary information about why the design is the way it is for the Tuareg. I have to admit I spent less time studying Tuareg swords, mostly because I wanted to promote the fact that the takouba belongs to a lot of other people groups as well.
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