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Old 28th June 2019, 08:41 PM   #1
ariel
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Default Old Kaskara

For a long time I wanted to have an old Sudanese kaskara.. Finally, I got one.
Thanks to Edster's outstanding work ( See Classics) I can imagine some names and dates describing it, but I still have questions.
I copied some pics provided by the seller, because I cannot do a better job.
Here they are.
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Old 28th June 2019, 08:55 PM   #2
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Now to the questions.
To me this seems to be a Dukkeri abu Dubban blade with all 3 marks: standing cat, fly and orb and cross.

Question #1: are we talking here about genuine blade of Peter or Samuel Kull from Solingen (1830-1870) or is it a locally made blade with " imitation" marks?

Question #2: The crossguard is Sammaniya with (?) smaller flare. Does it in conjunction with Q#1 suggest earlier origin?

Question #3: As a rule, kaskara handles had a pommel looking like a flattened cylinder. Here, however, the top of the hilt is already covered with leather. To me it may suggest that this particular handle had no pommel. Am I correct?

Question #4: The hilt is wrapped in leather and over-wrapped with some kind of pitch-impregnated twine. If I want to restore the binding using authentic materials, does anybody here know of a source where I can get it?

I have contacted Ed through PM and asked him to express his opinions. Please pitch in even if his responses are delayed.
Also, if at the judgement of the Moderators my posts might be adding something to the overall knowledge about Kaskaras, please feel free to add them to the general discussion in the classics section and remove my superfluous posts.

Last edited by ariel : 28th June 2019 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 28th June 2019, 09:57 PM   #3
David R
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In my experience, on some of these the leather pommel is like a ring doughnut around the end of the grip, so not contraindicated by the leather remaining on the end.
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Old 28th June 2019, 11:42 PM   #4
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Ariel,

At first blush I'd say authentic Kull, but. While the marks look factory struck, other knowledgeable members may know if Kull put copper/gold inlays ion their marked trade blades. The inlays could have been added beyond Solingen. The cross & orb looks upside down. I'm not aware of the short fat fullers on Kassala blades. They were common on European blades for hundreds of years. But the blade has a relatively sharp point which I'm beginning to think is a more local attribute than Solingen. But the blade could have been sharpened later. If I had to say yea or nay, I'd go with Kull at this point.

The cross guard looks fine and not one of the one-piece, post-1940-something. You might check for an incomplete forge weld on the bottom just to be sure. It's hard to date crossguards due to the various skill of their makers, but is likely at least early 20th C., perhaps older.

I agree with DavidR on the leather covered pommel disk. Very common to have such when a new sword leaves the souk. I think the string cover is a later addition, but often seen. I would think you can get goat skin twine from an on-line leather supply. The finish is likely lanolin, dirt and hand sweat.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 29th June 2019, 12:22 PM   #5
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Thanks to all.
Imitation of European markings on “Oriental” blades is a bane of sword collectors. Some of them are indistinguishable from the originals and some were used so widely that the very attribution of a blade becomes problematic. For now, and as per Ed’s reluctant opinion I will assume that it is a genuine trade Solingen blade of mid-19 century. If unequivocal proof to the contrary becomes available, I shall be content with the designation of it as a local copy. I did find Kull’s blades with markings inlayed with some copper alloy, so it is good. Tentatively, this kaskara might have been created before “Mahdi rebellion”, might have even taken part in it and might have even beheaded Charlton Heston:-)

The idea of a “ doughnut” pommel may well be applicable to my example.

I looked long and hard for “goat skin twine”, found a source for hemp twine. The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan takes enormous weight off my shoulders: I am unlikely to be arrested for ordering controlled substance on the Internet:-) I shall contribute lanolin from the drug store and add dirt and sweat as per doctors orders.

Again, thanks to David and Ed!
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Old 29th June 2019, 01:23 PM   #6
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Yes, its a genuine Kull, the copper fills I think were done locally as I've seen the same blade in takouba mounts without the fills but usually kaskara have them.
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Old 29th June 2019, 01:30 PM   #7
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Thanks Iain!
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Old 29th June 2019, 04:28 PM   #8
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Iain, thanks for the confirmation.

Ariel, here's a link to goatskin cord. The 0.5mm may be a good match, but they have others.
http://www.rings-things.com/Product...n-Leather-Cord/

Without hands-on experience, I would think that maker's marks, at least deep ones, were made after the blade has been finish forged, but before hardening quench and temper. That way the material is still rather soft and will accept a die with a strong whack. Marks made after hardening would be more like engraving, scratching or acid etch. It seems very unlikely that local smiths would have a Solingen-style die of known design in their tool kits.

Regards,
Ed
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Old 29th June 2019, 05:22 PM   #9
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Again, tons of thanks!

This Forum is blessed with people knowing things that 99.9999% of general population have no idea about and who are willing to share their knowledge.

By far the best decision of my collector’s life was to join it. People here cannot even imagine how much I have learned from them.
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Old 29th June 2019, 05:23 PM   #10
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Ed, you are right, in this case as in many other cases, but many does not recognice this.
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Old 30th June 2019, 07:24 AM   #11
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As Iain has noted, this does appear to be a European blade, and the mark is convincingly like those used by Samuel Kull, 1847-60 Solingen, placed at the forte as in European practice ("European Makers of Edged Weapons and Their Marks" Staffan Kinman, 2015, p.48).

However these markings do seem to be locally applied, but what is curious is just 'where' in the North African range this might have been done. We know that these copper filled markings are imitating early European marks of the cross and orb and the standing lion(?) (perhaps the 'perillo' mark from Spain 17th c. which in fact was supposed to be a 'little dog' from a quip by Cervantes noting it). .
However the instances of these marks are from takouba (as Iain noted) and from the blades of two Tuareg chiefs from the Kaocen Revolt (1916-17). These chiefs were from the Air mountains in Niger.

Apparently Henri Lhote (1954) considered the inlaying of copper or brass marks was proof of African application, suggesting he was well aware of the practice.
Briggs (1965) cited his reference, but corrected it by noting that this was of course a European method as well. In fact, copper or brass filled marks (latten) were prevalent throughout Europe in 16th-17th c. .

Briggs (p.81) notes further that with the blade of one of these chiefs swords (with copper filled lion and cross and orb) when viewed under magnification, there were radiating cracks indicating the mark had been stamped without being sufficiently heated, so clearly not at the time of production.

While these blades may well have come into the Sahara in the period of 1860s it is curious why these spurious markings were added to them it would appear so much later (1916). As these were on takouba, it is more curious what these same type markings are doing on kaskara blades.

It seems the Hausa, with their blacksmithing skills, may have been a likely conduit with their positioning from as far west as Sudanese regions, and well into Nigerian regions. While not sure if they might have been the ones doing the markings, perhaps blades so marked from whatever point of entry might have carried the influence into both takouba and kaskara blades through them.
Part of my thinking on that is that curiously the Briggs article, which is on Tuareg sword blades, includes thuluth covered Sudanese kaskara blades, which he identifies as 'Hausa'.

While the marking at the forte on this blade has distinct resemblance to the known Kull markings, it is notably different in the forelegs of the 'fly' being filled in rather than distinguishable. In Ed's study he notes that the Sudanese were apparently intrigued by the 'fly' as a marking symbolizing a warriors agility, so it does seem possible they learned to counterfeit this mark as well.
Whatever the case, it does seem to be as noted an early 20th c. blade, if not earlier, and clearly refurbished numerous times since then, as customary with these swords.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 30th June 2019 at 06:02 PM.
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Old 30th June 2019, 11:59 PM   #12
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Jim, well argued response, but I'd like to make a counterpoint.

In a 2006 post JeffD showed a kaskara with the three Kull marks, two of which were copper filled. Images attached below.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=Cronau

The fly is of the distinctive Kull design and distinctively struck. Who would doubt that this is not Kull factory struck? Ariel's mark is the same if not identical, but dirty. The cross & orb and standing cat on both may or may not be factory. (Was all three defining marks always/mostly/often placed on Kull export blades?)

We agree that someone somewhere at some time filled the orb-cross & cats with copper, but not the fly. I would accept somewhere in the Trans-central Africa trade network in the mid to late 19th C.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 1st July 2019, 02:30 AM   #13
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Point well taken Ed. On Ariel's sword this 'fly' is configured and in the same position as the Kull shop must have consistently applied, and there is no doubt this is a European blade. If you note the area where the legs are typically distinguishable it is solid on Ariel's...…..which seemed unusual...but not a 'deal breaker'. If it is simply 'dirty' then understandable, but I had not seen that possibility.

I don't think I had suggested the fly was copper filled, at least at cant see where I did, but my writing is often tangled.

In conversations some years ago, we had discussed the possibility that Solingen might have had some business producing blades specifically for the market in North Africa. In this case, it seems possible that these spurious markings copper filled could have been applied by the Kull shop. It is curious that Kull marked blades in North Africa have these lion and cross and orb marks....and why do they appear on takoubas c. 1916.
Yet here we have a kaskara…..a quite different context......with the kull mark and the same copper filled markings.

If Kull ceased in 1860, then these blades either lingered in the Saharan sphere for the next 50 years, or someone else was using the stamp and process of copper filled lion and cross and orb .

That was my idea in pondering this unusual situation with these markings. The lion was a favored symbol in the Sahara, as was the cross and orb, so these would understandably be added to blades. Such combinations were atypical in Europe, so the idea of the blades being European intended and ending up in North Africa seems unlikely.

The idea that some mysterious entrepot in North Africa was almost uniformly applying these copper filled markings and on exclusively Kull blades seems a bit far fetched......but of course not impossible.

If Solingen was indeed sending blades specifically to North Africa, that is the thing that many of us have wondered and hoped to find records of in Solingen. However thus far, there has been no success I know of in finding any such record there, and virtually the only references we have are the histories by Cronau and Weyersburg. These do not note any such record as far as I have known so we remain at square one.
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Old 1st July 2019, 09:21 AM   #14
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There is no doubt in my mind the marks were applied within Germany. Keep in mind that we are talking about a process which involved a lot of manual labor still, marks were not invariably struck to the same depth or precision.

The fly looks to be dirty to me, also, it is simply not technically possible to strike the mark after the blade had been heat-treated. This would require reheating the blade and destroying the temper. This is why native marks applied to European blades are engraved, they are not stamped.

There is no mystery why these blades turn up in kaskara and takouba, the trade in blades to both Sudan and the wider Sahel we know flowed mainly through Egypt and then, at least for many centuries, Borno was the key distribution point.

The copper fills turn up not only on Kull blades and conversely not all kull blades had them applied. Here's another http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=22651 that is very high quality but a slightly different configuration, perhaps produced a bit earlier.

I think its also imporant to remember that there will always be minor variations in the position of stamps, depth of the marks etc. The same can be observed on a multitude of munitions grade blades including schiavonas that were also mass produced.
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Old 1st July 2019, 09:57 AM   #15
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Just finished on E-Bay: a kaskara that is virtually identical to mine.
Both the " cat" and the "globus cruciger" marks were filled with molten brass and the excesses were sanded away
1. There is some residual brass outside the outline of both marks , kind of unremoved spill-overs.
2. The same is true for the "cat" mark, but in addition there are small round protrusions , like bubbles from the bottom of the mark that had risen to the surface or just pieces of dirt.
Interestingly, the same is seen on Ed's last example.

The "fly" mark was left infilled ( also just like "Ed's). I would guess that structure of the mars was too complex and crowded to guarantee good definition after sanding.

I think that strongly suggests local filling of the existing marks with molten brass rather than inlaying them with brass wire.
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Old 1st July 2019, 11:11 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Just finished on E-Bay: a kaskara that is virtually identical to mine.
Both the " cat" and the "globus cruciger" marks were filled with molten brass and the excesses were sanded away
1. There is some residual brass outside the outline of both marks , kind of unremoved spill-overs.
2. The same is true for the "cat" mark, but in addition there are small round protrusions , like bubbles from the bottom of the mark that had risen to the surface or just pieces of dirt.
Interestingly, the same is seen on Ed's last example.

The "fly" mark was left infilled ( also just like "Ed's). I would guess that structure of the mars was too complex and crowded to guarantee good definition after sanding.

I think that strongly suggests local filling of the existing marks with molten brass rather than inlaying them with brass wire.



Agreed, I have always thought these were poured, rather than using the latten method.
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