Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Ethnographic Weapons
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 3rd September 2018, 05:10 PM   #1
Ian
Vikingsword Staff
 
Ian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: The Aussie Bush
Posts: 2,498
Default Kaskara Fuller Styles and Some Blade Marks--a third essay for discussion (Part I)

---------------------------------
Moderator's Comment:
The following essay on the fullers and some blade marks of kaskara swords was prepared by Ed Hunley for discussion and comment.
As with other recent efforts by Ed regarding silver-covered hilts and quillons on kaskara, this essay is quite long and graphically rich,
and therefore needed to be divided into sections to accommodate posting limitations imposed by the Forum.
My role has been to help place the material on to the Forum pages and provide some editorial suggestions.
All substantive comments should be directed to Ed. Ian.

---------------------------------

Kaskara Fuller Styles & Some Blade Marks
Ed Hunley
August 31, 2018

Recently, I read an article in a 1938 issue of Sudan Notes and Records that provided the names of three distinct types of kaskara sword blade fullering designs. The names are descriptive, and in at least one case the Solingen sword maker's marks have been converted into native cultural relevance. With the exception of my five-channeled Suliman Makhummus, this is the first time I've encountered named fuller styles.

In case you're not familiar with a sword “fuller,” an explanation can be found in this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuller_(weapon)

There is a vast wealth of information on fullers posted by highly knowledgeable members on this site in previous EAA Forum threads. The fuller patterns of individual blades and blade families have been discussed at length—I have done some preliminary “mining” but have only scratched the surface. We have debated whether certain patterns and forming styles are from imported or native forges, but did not know their names. Hopefully, this presentation can help to better organize and guide our assessments. My goal is to identify and define Clark's typology (below), offer visual examples, and present some analysis. My knowledge is limited, and hopefully other forum members will add their comments and discussions to expand our understanding of Sudan's iconic kaskara sword.

WT Clark was a British colonial administrator who surveyed the ethnological background of the Northern Beja ethnic groups in the Atbai region of NE Sudan. He was specifically assessing the Bisharin, related to the Hadendawa. He commented on the roles that swords played in Bisharin culture and then reported:
Quote:
… Among the types of swords seen in the Atbai are:
  1. Sulimani Daud – the blade has three parallel grooves, the center one of which is prolonged to the point while the flanking grooves are cut short.
  2. Sulimani abu Shabeish – similar to 1 but the part of the blade near the handle is decorated with engraved scrolls.
  3. El Kar – a single groove running down the blade from the handle to point.
  4. Dukkeri abu Dubban – the blade has a short central groove and carries three marks known as dubbana, nugara and 'asad.”
  5. Suliman Makhummas – not part of Clark's list, but is included for identification and comment. This form has five fullers that extend down about half the length of the blade.
Clark goes on to name other components of the sword:
  • the tassel tied to the handle is el jedla [I assume this is the thick tassel of the Hadendawa and other Beja swords rather than the more stringy item often seen on high-end presentation pieces];
  • the cross piece (quillon) is el bershem;
  • the (bottom?) langet is el toma [A Kassala informant told me in 1984 this term meant “two boys walking together”]; and
  • the handle itself is el gaim.
Rampel in a 2016 thread relayed a portion of an interview by a local news service from the Upper Nile Region refugee area:
Quote:
Reporter: We have noticed that you sell swords as well as knives. Can you tell us a bit about these swords?
Merchant: The most important swords we sell are Dukari Sword and Suleimani Sword in addition to Kar Sword. It must be noted that the swords are used only in ceremonies and cultural events. (Emphasis added.)
So in 2016, 78 years after Clark’s publication in 1938, the names that define sword styles remained the same. I suspect that the interviewed merchant had commercial ties with the still-active sword makers' suq in Kassaka.

Does anyone know of additional fuller types other than those defined above? Of course there are other kaskara with different fuller configurations. These are usually one-off bespoke designs intended to enhance the intended speciality of regalia, presentation, or diplomatic gifts.

The fuller types also are sword type names and have persisted until the present. Thus, the sword is apparently defined by its fuller pattern. No longer are we limited to generic names like saif and kaskara to discuss these iconic weapons. Now we can use fuller and cross-guard types to define our investigations. For example a Dukkeri abu Dubban blade with a Senneri quillon now evokes an image and has meaning. Let's investigate each fuller treatment style in more detail and see what we can learn. Arabic speakers please chime in to correct transliteration and translation errors.

1. Sulimani Daud
Quote:
The blade has three parallel grooves, the center one of which is prolonged to the point while the flanking grooves are cut short.”
An online translator says that Daud is Malay, Dawud in Arabic for David. The Hebrew David has a place in Islamic theology. Most relevant to us is “Among the things taught to David was the ability to make armour (21:80, 34:10–11), a suggestion that David’s military exploits were the acts of God.” [Wikipedia article David in Islam: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_in_Islam]

There are apparently many three-fullered blades in collections of museums and Forum members. Talismanic marks are often associated with this type as well as native makers' marks. I have three that were made in Kassala (Figure 1). Their fullers are deep and well formed. They have maker's marks reminiscent of the moon faces of export blades. I would place their quality against any made in Europe for the export trade. The one in the center was made by Hussain Mohammad, and the other two have the mark of Hassan Shaykh Idris, although they vary in punch dimensions. I would date the ones with deeper, broader fullers to the early-20th C due to their similarity to the 1914 five-channel blade below (Figures 1,14).

It's interesting to note that the scratch-engraved half-moon and star designs on the center blade of Figure 1 (see Figure 2 for its enhanced engraving) is almost a duplicate of the blade in Reed's Plate LVb (Figure 3). While Reed's Darfur blade has only a single narrow fuller, it was likely made and engraved in Kassala by the same hands as the example in Figure 1. This Kassala example was purported to have been “a Mahdi sword” supported by the talismanic moons and text engraving suggesting a high level of religious devotion.

2. Sulimani abu Shabeish
Quote:
Similar to the Daud but the part of the blade near the handle is decorated with engraved scrollings.
Abu means “Father of” in Arabic, but not always in biological terms. No translation of shabeish was available, so I have no idea what this name means. The notion of “engraved scrollings” is vague.

One example of this type is depicted in Reed (1987) Plate LIII. The scroll work is of a flowing design and well executed. Reed estimates that the sword was “probably German, Spanish or Italian manufacture, dating from the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries” (p. 169). His attribution suggests that Kassala smiths used an early imported blade as a model for their work shown in Figure 1 above. Also, no known native-made example of this type of sophisticated scrolling technique has yet come to light. I think it is significant that the abu Shabeish design and name persisted perhaps for centuries even without local interpretation.

There apparently was a consolidation in the Sulimani-type fullers. A member from the Royal Dragoon Guard's Regiment Museum, RDGAC, presented a description of fullers:
Quote:
It exhibits three fullers, the outer two extending a little less than 11.4in (29cm) from the cross guard, while the innermost runs some 17.25in (43cm) down the blade. To either side of this central fuller sits what appears to be a depiction of a crescent moon, but with an unusually jagged "cut" to its crescent; it may be Arabic text, or perhaps a depiction of something else entirely (sunrise over mountains?).
See Figure 5 [image posted by Katana (David)].

This depiction would fit the Solingen munitions grade trade blades with three short fullers imported during the late 19th Century and replicated by Sudanese smiths. Its reasonable to assume that as market conditions changed sword merchants ordered blades with shortened center fullers and those devoid of scroll engraving. Also, it is not clear that the extension of the central fuller beyond the forte actually has structural benefit. Thus, labor saving/pricing demands and losses in popularity may have caused the Daud, abu Shabeis and Mukhammas variations to collapse into a more basic, Sulimani form.

3. El Kar
Quote:
A single groove running down the blade from the handle to point.
This style presents a fuller with a larger channel than the Suliman type. An informant in 1984 Kassala called it a Khar (channel) Hongoog (straw) for straw channel, “a wider line than Suliman.” The informant said that Ethiopian swords were blank (no lines), but had a mark. A contemporaneous blade smith, Fateh Hallak, made swords with a scooped-out blade called Khar (canal or channel)) for lighter weight and used the Ethiopian style mark. I have not seen one of his blades, but assume they are heavily fullered.

Lew had one of the few in this style that I have seen (Figures 6,7). Note the Hadendawa tassel at the top of the hilt. These blades seldom, if ever, have European makers' marks—I know of none—although others contain inscriptions.

In 2011, DaveS presented a superior El Kar fullered sword with possible links to Ali Dinar. It had no maker’s mark, but was highly engraved with Arabic text in the central channel. See on this link:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=13142

.
Attached Images
       

Last edited by Ian : 4th September 2018 at 05:25 AM.
Ian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 4th September 2018, 01:26 AM   #2
Ian
Vikingsword Staff
 
Ian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: The Aussie Bush
Posts: 2,498
Default Kaskara Fuller Styles and Some Blade Marks--a third essay for discussion (Part II)

4. Dukkeri abu Dubban
Quote:
The blade has a short central groove and carries three marks known as dubbana, nugara, and 'asad.
The interpretation of this style addresses several issues we have long debated. Its name and descriptions correspond to the Solingen maker's marks for Peter Kull's Standing Cat, Orb & Cross (1830–1870, Bezdek) and Samuel Kulls' Fly (1847–1860, Bezdek) (Figure 8). The Dukkeri abu Dubban incorporates these three symbols (Cronau, 1885) and may suggest a mid-19th C origin of the type. Cronau's work, in German, can be accessed from this link: http://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/cd...8coll4/id/29401

An example is shown in Figure 8.

Dukkeri. This may be Brigg's dukeri for crescent moon with man's face in profile. A Kassala informant said it meant “for men”. Swordsmiths there describe a sword called a duk'ri (my transliteration) and is decorated with an Orb & Cross and a Rampant Cat/Lion.

Dubbana or Duban. Fly. Likely signifies the biting fly that appears with the rains and is very harmful to camels. It's arrival prompts camel herding pastorialists to take their animals north out of its range. Dubban also means “thousands” in Hausa, maybe signifying the number of flies that swarm about. It also may indicate Hausa smiths possible role in applying this fuller type to Sudanese blades. The informant said it encourages “jumping like a fly when fighting.” (See fly symbol on Jeff D's sword, Figure 9. His sword also has a lion and orb & cross on it.)

Nugara means “drumming”. Informants used daluka for drum and (perhaps hearing the drum beat) say that it “builds courage”. The drum symbol they presented was the famous Orb & Cross. Among most northern Sudanese ethnicities the large copper kettle drum is central to their culture. According to Clark, p.13, it may only be beaten in mourning of a death in the chief's family, to summon the tribe to war, and at a festive occasion for the tribe. The tribal drum also is used in Darfur, of the Medieval Funj Kingdom, and may be universal in Northern Sudanese culture.

The Funj Kingdom (1504–1821) had its capital at Senner on the Blue Nile River. Its lands were mainly on the east side of the White Nile north into the Gezira and included the Butana Plain. Arkell (1932) reports that the Funj had a brand put on their beasts and slaves called Noggara wa Asiaiya. This means “drum and stick” and the symbol is O+, rotated 90 degrees clockwise (in other words, resembling the symbol used by biologists to denote “female”). This symbol looks the same as Peter Kull's Cross & Orb. It is conceivable that the Kull sword mark culturally replaced the Funj symbolism that had been abolished by the Egyptian conquest of the Funj, and it became highly valued on the kaskara blades. One culture often borrows from another. If a cultural feature persists for generations it has continued relevance. If not, it no longer has meaning. Steven Wood's sword has a properly oriented Funj “Drum & Stick” mark (Figure 10).

Asad means “lion”. The informant said it is for “brave men”. A full-bodied lion is often lightly engraved, maybe etched, on native blades, but the Rampant Lion/Cat in #73 above is sometimes seen. The informant said that the lion is placed on the front of the blade and the drum and fly placed on the back.

In a 2010 post, Steven Wood commented on the orb, the lion and the fly and, based on references to Burckhardt and Cabot-Briggs, concluded that dukare affring means “frankish mark”. My field notes written under a sketch of the same three symbols records the local understanding of the terms: dukare = “for men”, al fringe = sharp, and then the note that the swords were “made in Europe – brought to Ethiopia by Italian soldiers”. Thus, the interpretation may be drawn that when Italian troops occupied Kassala (1894–97) during the Mahdiya, they presented some German made blades with the Kull marks and moon faces saying in Italian “these are German marks.” The local bladesmiths understood the blades are “for men” and are “sharp”. This scenario would indicate that this type of Solingen blades were introduced to the Kassala sword-making community about 1895. They then became part of the culture of sword making there and expanded broadly. My notes may be a thin reed on which to hang this narrative, but it does have the elements of a factual encounter. The Italian military also did occupy Kassala in 1940 for six months, but that situation doesn't really support the delivery of German sword blades to local blacksmiths, and 1940 post-dates Clark's 1938 report.

Plate LII of Reed has what is likely an original European blade prototype of this type. It is marked with an early version of the Orb & Cross and a Passau works running wolf. (Reed reports that the sword's owner thought the symbol was a tree.) Note that the end of the fuller appears circular and not sloped to the blade surface as are the examples shown by Katana and Chris. Reed dates it “between the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.” The sword's owner says it's before the time of Kassala exports. My research in Kassala confirms that Sudan-wide export of Kassala made swords dates from 1960. There are many examples of this type in collections, including the Royal Armouries collection (Cat. Nos. XXIVS 165 and 166) and others.

Several posts on the EAA Forum have exhibited swords with the three symbols apparently originally struck by Solingen makers as well as those etched on locally made swords. Katana/David's W. Clauberg marked (Standing Knight) Dukkeri is datable. Bezdek's German makers' marks book shows that the Standing Knight was used after 1847. David's sword is shown in Figure 11a, and the Standing Knight example in Figure 11b.

Mefidk/Chris blade with the crocodile skin grip has a W. Claberg Standing Knight (hidden) and the “enigmatic” mark (shown) (Figure 12).

Steven Wood has a single fuller sword with a Lion mark on a single groove blade (Figure 13). It looks more European than native-made and does not resemble the Kull mark to me.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a kaskara (Cat. No. 1977.162.4) with a Dukkeri fuller. It is classified as late 19th C Sudanese with a late 15th–16th C Italian or South German blade. They show a Passaua wolf and a maker's mark of a seven-pointed star. If the attribution is accurate, this blade would date the fuller from a century earlier than Reed's LII.

Unfortunately, the MMA web site does not have a photo of this sword. However, it can be viewed via an illustration in an article available through JSTOR: Author(s): Helmut Nickel and Stuart W. Pyhrr, Source: Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art), No. 1975/1979 (1975 - 1979), pp. 27–29.

However, I am skeptical about the dates. Both Mefidk/Chris and Katana/David Dukkeri blades have Clauberg Standing Knight marks on each that date from circa 1850. It is hard to believe that this single deep fuller design would persist for 250 years, although it is structurally efficient and easy to forge. Also, the apparent long life of the Sulimani abu Shabeish design mentioned above augurs well for the long term persistence of European fuller designs in Sudanese sword culture. While some heirloom blades may be long lived, apparently a crudely chiseled wolf on a blade is good for 200 more years of attribution.

I offer an alternative explanation without documentation, but it makes an interesting, even believable, story. (I vaguely remember reading of the cleaning out of armories part, but can't recall the source.) The Passau marked blades may in fact be 200–300 years old as attributed. But rather than have them circulating around North Africa for 200 years, they spent most of that time as obsolete weapons in European armories. (Remember that European armies of this period were transiting to narrower and curved swords for cavalry and firearms for infantry.) Spears and small javelins were the main weapons of agriculturally-based North African infantry and only the elite used swords as symbols of authority, and light cavalry composed mostly of Arabic pastoralists used swords as well as javalins. Those kingdoms that had relatively few firearms armed their slave troops with them. Even Central Sahalian heavy cavalry used mainly spears. Once the West-Central African jihads began in the late 17th & early 18th C, enterprising European arms merchants scoured the European armories and bought up large amounts of obsolete broadswords, some highly engraved, removed the hilts, reduced most of them to raw blades, and introduced them into the North African long distance trade networks. These blades were then fitted with native hilts in centers like Kano, as was done in the 19th Century, and distributed throughout the region. Imports via the Red Sea ports may have supplied the Northern Bega's conversion from spears to swords in the mid-1700s. Thus, the Sudanese heirloom blades may have begun their lives in Africa mainly in the early-mid 1800s rather than 200 years before. Continuing conflicts prompted the Solingen blade houses to enter the export trade in time for Clauberg's and Kulls' marks to appear in the 1850s on their now familiar kaskara swords. Period travelers’ narratives did not mention whether the European sword blades they saw in area markets were used, unused old stock or brand new.

In the article linked below. Ohio State University presents a short history of firearms exports to Africa, beginning circa 1698. No doubt there are certain parallels between firearms and surplus sword traffic into the Sahalian region. See: http://origins.osu.edu/article/merc...al-traffic-arms

5. Suliman Makhummas

This type has five forged fullers of graduated lengths that extend about a third of the way down the blade. (Not in Clark's topology.) Khamsa is the number “five” in Arabic.

This is a rare blade with only five examples having been revealed so far. Two have a Sun symbol at the end of the fullers. The sun does not appear to be a maker's mark, but it likely has some unknown symbolic meaning. The informant called Suliman Mukhammas abu Shammish. (Shams is Sun in Arabic, Shammish may be some grammatical variation or I misunderstood the word.) None of the other examples have apparent maker's marks either. Images of three are linked below and the fifth has no image.
• My sword has the five grooved Makhummas with a sun at the end. Made circa 1914 in Kassaka. (Figure 14).
• Lew's post on “Makhumas with Sun”, virtually identical to mine.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showp...07&postcount=21
• RDGAC Comments on Kaskara #3 (No image available). His description in Post #10 on this thread'. War Trophy collected circa 1882.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=11950
• Paolo's sword. See Post #1.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=15749
• Clement's sword. Is decoratedwith silver inlays. See Post # 1.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=23098
There was a rich discussion of this type back in 2012 in which Lew's and Paolo's swords were discussed. I won't replough that land too much. However, since then I have looked up Mukhammas on the web and found on Wikipedia that:
Mukhammas (Arabic ???? 'fivefold') refers to a type of Persian or Urdu cinquain or pentastich with Sufi connections based on a pentameter. And have five lines in each paragraph. More details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mukhammas

Who would have thought that a special Kassala-made sword blade (five channels are much more difficult to make than 3 fullers) would have a link to a Persian and Urdu (Muslim part of India) poetry form?

My Mukhammas was reportedly made circa 1914 by a Kassaka smith who supposedly said he saw another being made and decided to give it a try. The RDGAC example was recovered circa 1882, almost a generation before mine was made. This suggests that mine was at least a second generation example of the type. When and how did it originate, and what symbolic or other purpose prompted its fabrication? These blades were not made for the general market. Who were their clients?

Summary

There are great relevant discussions on the following thread by Jim McDougall, Iain Norman and Chris Topping: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14806
Chris' first image on Post # 20 summarizes the major contemporary types, top to bottom, first three: Dukkeri, El Kar, and Sulimani (Figure 15). We also can name and better understand the range of historic types we are likely to encounter. No doubt I have probably made errors and omissions in this discussion. I would appreciate readers’ inputs and comments.

Ed Hunley
August 31, 2018


References

Carter, WT. Manners, Customs and Beliefs of the Northern Begas, Sudan Notes and Records, Vol. XXI, 1938, p. 1-30.

Reed, GS. Kaskara from Northern Darfur, The Journal of the Arms & Armour Society, Vol. XII, No. 1, March 1987, p 165-201. (To access this article Google Search on the author and article title. Click on the result with a .pdf.)

Arkell, AJ. Funj Origins, Sudan Notes and Records, Vol. XV. 1932, p.235.


.
Attached Images
         

Last edited by Ian : 4th September 2018 at 10:09 PM.
Ian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 4th September 2018, 02:29 AM   #3
ariel
Member
 
ariel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 4,146
Default

Straight to Classics
ariel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th September 2018, 07:07 PM   #4
TVV
Member
 
TVV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Bay Area
Posts: 1,174
Default

Ed, thank you for the third installment of your research on kaskaras. You have done a great job summarizing and explaining the blade types and local terminology.

I completely agree with you that the most likely source of imported blades initially were surplus old blades from European armories, and that in the 19th century the earlier symbols were copied locally on Solingen produced blanks. I have a sword that illustrates a local copy of a running wolf:

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7376

There is one more blade type with two or three parallel fullers of medium width and equal length, such as in the threads below:

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=16092
http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=21372
http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=23900

In previous discussions these have been described as Eritrean, but the one I have is in a Sudanese dress. What is your opinion on these?

Regards,
Teodor
TVV is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th September 2018, 09:38 PM   #5
ariel
Member
 
ariel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 4,146
Default

European swordmakers flooded Ethiopia with their blades of various forms: from straight double-edged to copies of shotels.
From Ethiopia ( or directly?) some straight blades reached Sudan and were used for " kaskaras"

But the origin of those double-edged straight sword is not likely to be related to crusaders ( a theory discredited long ago) or to 19th century trade European blades.

Most likely, IMHO, Sudanese " kaskaras" are direct descendants of Mamluk swords the earliest of which date to 11-12 centuries.

There are multiple examples in Topkapi of such swords, with different fullering systems and with iron crossguards identical to the Sudanese ones. Mamluks invaded Sudan multiple times over centuries and even dominated it in the 19th century.
In turn, early Mamluk swords are virtually identical to the pre,- and early Islamic swords of Aravia.

Thus, Sudanese " kaskaras" may trace their identity straight to 7-8 (??) centuries, or even predating Muhammed.
ariel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th September 2018, 10:32 PM   #6
Ian
Vikingsword Staff
 
Ian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: The Aussie Bush
Posts: 2,498
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Straight to Classics
I completely agree ariel. This thread was put in the Classics "sticky" five minutes after it went online. Ed's three essays on the kaskara are linked there now, and I think his work is a major advance in the scholarly understanding of these swords. Taken together with the comments received to those posts, I think collectors and other s interested in these swords are well served by the hours of work that went into Ed's contributions.
Ian
Ian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th September 2018, 10:48 PM   #7
ariel
Member
 
ariel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 4,146
Default

More likely - years.
My hat is off to him.
ariel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th September 2018, 01:06 AM   #8
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default

Ariel, Teodor and Ian,

Thanks for the kind words. It was a pleasure to write these essays, but much of the knowledge and most of the illustrations are from the excellent collections of fellow Forum members. I only have four kaskara and have handled less than a dozen. And at the time I didn't know what I was seeing. I'm still learning from our experts.

Teodor, I agree those two-fuller blades are likely from Ethiopian highlands. That ancient culture no doubt produced the skilled craftsmen needed to produce the intricate work inside the fullers. This is not the work of some shade tree sword smith in Eritrea, although the port of Massaula may have had some skilled artisans from Yemen. There was a lot of traffic from the coast to Yemen, Arabia and even India going back to Roman times. Maybe we need to add another fuller category for two fullers. Need more research to further investigate them and reveal a name.

Ariel, I beginning to think the sword entered Eastern Sudan, as you say, up the Nile, but also via the Arab nomads who interacted and intermarried with the Bega. The Bega lived between the Nile and the Red Sea inland from Suakin and carried trade goods from Suakin and other Red Sea ports for hundreds of years. Andrew Paul in his "A History of the Beja Tribes of Sudan" 1950/2012 said that the Northern Beja, under Arab influence, abandoned the spear in favor of the broadsword about the first half of the 17th Century. The Southern Bega kept commonly with the spear due to Funj influence.

They likely have imported complete swords of the Arab type for some time. The cross-guards and the rest of the kaskara-look we know likely developed among the Bega and maybe Hausa smiths in the Bega regions and influenced by the Funj. Also, there were remanent Christian kingdoms in the region that survived the Funj conquest. This is of course conjecture.

Ian, I can't thank you enough for making the essays "fit to post". I haven't written this much in many years except three snarky pieces for pleasure and without online publishing expertice.

Best regards,
Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th September 2018, 03:11 PM   #9
Jim McDougall
Member
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,713
Default

I just wanted to echo the congratulations, appreciation and respect to Ed for this outstanding work on the conundrums of the kaskara, which actually preempted Reed in JAAS (1987) and held material far more detailed and relevant. Our greatest fortune has been that he shared this with us and opened the doors to the greatest advance in the study of these Sudanese weapons in decades.

His work was greatly augmented by that of Iain, whose tenacious work on the takouba provided brilliant insight into the kaskara as well. I personally will be ever grateful to these two brilliant researchers for what they helped me learn on these fascinating topics.


Ian, I thank you as well for your placing of these works and the links to the many discussions for the benefit of those with continued interest in these topics. If I may, very well done!
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th September 2018, 06:32 PM   #10
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default

Jim,

Thank you for your congratulations. I've always considered you my mentor on the kaskara, and I still sit at your knee to absorb your great wisdom and insights.

Highest regards,
Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th September 2018, 09:09 AM   #11
Ian
Vikingsword Staff
 
Ian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: The Aussie Bush
Posts: 2,498
Default

Hi Jim,

Good to see you posting again on the kaskara. Thanks for the kind words, but my contribution was purely technical and the content was the work of Ed and our other contributors. These threads are further testimony to the talent among our membership here, and the importance of scholarship to our understanding of these weapons. We tend to think of this site as "small" in comparison to some other knife discussion forums, but this little mouse can "roar" when it has a mind to. High quality contributions, including essays like Ed's, distinguish this site from many others out there. It really is a privilege to participate in some of these efforts.

Best wishes,

Ian.
Ian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th September 2018, 01:22 PM   #12
Kubur
Member
 
Kubur's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,277
Default

3. El Kar
Quote:
A single groove running down the blade from the handle to point.
This style presents a fuller with a larger channel than the Suliman type. An informant in 1984 Kassala called it a Khar (channel) Hongoog (straw) for straw channel, “a wider line than Suliman.” The informant said that Ethiopian swords were blank (no lines), but had a mark. A contemporaneous blade smith, Fateh Hallak, made swords with a scooped-out blade called Khar (canal or channel)) for lighter weight and used the Ethiopian style mark. I have not seen one of his blades, but assume they are heavily fullered.

These blades seldom, if ever, have European makers' marks—I know of none—although others contain inscriptions.

In 2011, DaveS presented a superior El Kar fullered sword with possible links to Ali Dinar. It had no maker’s mark, but was highly engraved with Arabic text in the central channel.


Just a small comment about this al-Kar blade and single groove.
It seems that you don't distinguish the imported from the local blades.

To me each group that you describe is based on an import then reproduced locally.

Did you reccord or collect any vocabulary who distinguish the local/copies from the imported ones?

Thanks
Kubur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th September 2018, 03:10 PM   #13
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default

Kubur,

Good question. I couldn't find a reference to El Kar blades of marked European origin. As in the quote, the Kassala informant said he used Ethiopian styles as a reference. I didn't ask if he thought those blades were native Ethiopian or based on a European or other foreign origin model. Italy was active in Ethiopia for several years during the 19th and 20th Centuries so they could have been an influence. Also, Ethiopia also had a native blade tradition as well. The database seems too small just now to hazard a good educated guess.

A well inscribed El Kar was presented by CharlesS in a 2008 post linked below. A good discussion led by Jim ensued. The blade was not dated or identified, but the sword had a Sennariya cross-guard and the Bega tassel indicative of Eastern Sudan. Also, the inscriptions (images and text) could indicate plus or minus Mahdiya era. I hadn't thought about it before, but the El Kar fuller could have been added to either a native or imported blade as fuller making and surface polishing processes would obliterate any maker's mark regardless of origin.

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7668

Best,
Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th September 2018, 07:40 AM   #14
Kubur
Member
 
Kubur's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,277
Default

Thank you Ed it's very informative.
About Charles sword I think the blade is local.
To me the most important is not to be local or imported but a blade that was used (and sharpened).
Kubur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th September 2018, 01:57 PM   #15
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default 1882 Suliman Makhummas

The images attached are of the Suliman Makhummas kaskara collected by the 4th Irish Dragoon Guards in 1882 as referenced in the RDGAC text linked above. They were provided recently for use by permission of the York Army Museum who requested notice of images copyright by the Museum.

This before 1882 sword is significant as it is at least a generation before the c.1914 Makhummas the example in Fig. 14 above. Also the quillon is similar to the 1914 example. There appears to be a blade reinforcing piece under the langet.

Special thanks to Aline Staes, Collections Manager, York Army Museum.

Ed
Attached Images
   

Last edited by Edster : 10th September 2018 at 02:17 PM. Reason: Delete this post. Another one with attached images to follow.
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th September 2018, 04:48 PM   #16
Will M
Member
 
Will M's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: In the wee woods north of Napanee Ontario
Posts: 128
Default

I own a Kaskara very similar to fig.1 lower sword. What I find interesting is the two indents in the blade nearest the cross guard. They are only on the one side opposite each other and remind me of blacksmiths tong marks.
The blade is fairly thin and tapers evenly in thickness. Moon faces on both sides of blade appear to be stamped in. A very narrow leather strip like a thread or thin string winds over the grip.
Will M is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th September 2018, 09:37 PM   #17
Ian
Vikingsword Staff
 
Ian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: The Aussie Bush
Posts: 2,498
Default

Hi Ed.
I wonder if the added piece under the langet may be a repair. Perhaps a broken tang. I’ve seen similar additions on Moro swords for repairing damaged tangs.
Ian

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
The images attached are of the Suliman Makhummas kaskara collected by the 4th Irish Dragoon Guards in 1882 as referenced in the RDGAC text linked above. They were provided recently for use by permission of the York Army Museum who requested notice of images copyright by the Museum.

This before 1882 sword is significant as it is at least a generation before the c.1914 Makhummas the example in Fig. 14 above. Also the quillon is similar to the 1914 example. There appears to be a blade reinforcing piece under the langet.

Special thanks to Aline Staes, Collections Manager, York Army Museum.

Ed
Ian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th September 2018, 02:22 AM   #18
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default

Ian,

Yes, that was my thought as well. I have requested an oblique pic of that section and further assessment. A repair would be testimony to the common breakage of native blades during the Mahdiya period.

Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th September 2018, 08:09 AM   #19
Kubur
Member
 
Kubur's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,277
Default

Broken or sometimes just too short

I've seen the same on Persian dagger tangs, two pieces of metal to hold firmly the blade.

Is it the same with the tabouka, you've sometimes two pieces of metal at the forte with rivets?
Kubur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th September 2018, 12:47 PM   #20
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default

Kubur, you could well be correct. RDGAC's assessment of the tabs on sword #3 are:

Quote: "At said base are a pair of large tabs, seemingly forge-welded or similar to the flats of the blade, and presumably intended to broaden it a little and allow the cross-guard and grip a firmer attachment to the base and tang, though that's probably an erroneous presumption."

Regards,
Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17th September 2018, 03:12 PM   #21
CharlesS
Member
 
CharlesS's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Greenville, NC
Posts: 1,583
Default

The best and the most info I have ever seen on the kaskara in one place. Thanks, contributors!
CharlesS is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17th September 2018, 09:16 PM   #22
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 152
Default

Thanks Charles. The piece would have been very bland without the sword image postings and discussions by fellow Forum members. My thanks to them as well.

Best regards,
Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 12:26 PM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.