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Old 19th September 2019, 02:31 PM   #1
mross
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Default Kaskara thoughts, please.

I won this kaskara off of eprey. It had enough red flags that I did not use the buy it now option but put in a low bid with a lot of hope. I won it as the only bidder which made me even more concerned that the red flags where seen by others who decided not to bite. This is a completely new area for me so my experience is limited. This was the eprey banner, "Superb European bladed Kaskara Solingen likely 18th century North African sword" The orb and cross and standing cat had copper inlays. This worried me that they may not be inlays at but just drawn. The markings seemed to be in a differnt place then my referenece(All my reference is Ed Hunly's articles. THANKS Ed). It also had the fly markings. The crossguard seemed to be of the type; Sammaniya, small flare forged iron. WHich matched the sellers age guess. THe markings are; Fly, orb and cross, and standing cat. THe fullers really bothered me as they looked very crude. But the fullers and blade shape matched the type; Dukkeri abu Dubban.
I have this blade in hand and am still stumped. The fullers are not well done but do not seem to far off from the reference. The fly is there, twice. one is hiding under the cross piece. THe orb and cat are indeed inlaid and not painted or drawn as I feared. I cannot say what the metal is could be copper but it has a odd patina. The blade is unsharpened in the ricasso area. The sharpest area is near the tip which is still quite sharp the rest was sharpened but is not as sharp as the tip area. There seems to be some file marks on the edges, which could point to repro but... Oh, he!! I just can't tell so what are your thoughts. If it's a repro that explains me as the only bidder and it's a lesson, if it's the real deal then it was the deal of the century. Don't be afraid to be brutal or blunt. I've been collecting for years and do not offend easily.
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Old 19th September 2019, 02:33 PM   #2
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Default one more pic

I do have a pic of the sword in total but am having problems getting it uploaded. I may have to retake it tonight.
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Old 19th September 2019, 02:35 PM   #3
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Far as I can see it is exactly what it appears to be. Good quality guard and Solingen export blade. Other buyers may have been put off by the hilt condition and lack of scabbard?

Congrats on a good deal. A solid piece in terms of the surviving components.
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Old 19th September 2019, 04:06 PM   #4
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Well done MRoss!!!! This is a great example with outstanding blade and the guard! These are of course the key components and regardless of the grip condition, this acquisition is important and especially for those of us who are focused on the history of these weapons.
The poor condition of the hilt suggests that this sword has probably been static for some time, thus has avoided the clutches of crafty dealers and innovative sellers.

Iain, it has been a while since we have looked at these 'latten' (inlaid brass) markings in the Sudanese context. We had discussed the possibility that these schiavona type blades may have been produced in Solingen specifically for this North African market. Is this still a viable theory?
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Old 19th September 2019, 04:30 PM   #5
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Not my area of collecting but I think that you have well done!

Have attached some seller pictures, they are not bad so they show it well.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 19th September 2019, 04:44 PM   #6
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Mross,

I'm glad the kaskara essays were useful. I agree with both Iain and Jim. Well done. I would differ with the seller as to age. R. Cronau's book attributes all three marks to Peter Kull in 1847. Bezdek gives the cat and cross & orb to Peter Kull (1830-1870) and the fly to Samuel Kull (1847-1860).

Back in July we had a good discussion about copper filled Kull marks.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...inlayed+kaskara

Best regards,
Ed

Last edited by Edster : 19th September 2019 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 19th September 2019, 06:29 PM   #7
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Excellent! Thanks. Brass inlay makes sense it, I did not think it was copper. So it looks to be around 1847 or so?

Just followed the link above and saw my sword at the end of the discussion. Cool. One point of interest, on mine it has two flys one is under the crossguard. That would make a pretty convincing argument it was made at the time the blade was made and before the cross guard was added. So a new question; How did these sword parts come together? Was a complete sword made in Solingen or were blades shipped to Africa to be assembled from local parts there?

Last edited by mross : 19th September 2019 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 19th September 2019, 07:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mross
Excellent! Thanks. Brass inlay makes sense it, I did not think it was copper. So it looks to be around 1847 or so?

Just followed the link above and saw my sword at the end of the discussion. Cool. One point of interest, on mine it has two flys one is under the crossguard. That would make a pretty convincing argument it was made at the time the blade was made and before the cross guard was added. So a new question; How did these sword parts come together? Was a complete sword made in Solingen or were blades shipped to Africa to be assembled from local parts there?


Yes the blade is circa 1850. The guards were also exported it appears. There is a period French reference for this. The inlay is almost certainly local. So potentially the guard is European made. Very hard to say. The majority of guards seem to be locally made.
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Old 19th September 2019, 07:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Yes the blade is circa 1850. The guards were also exported it appears. There is a period French reference for this. The inlay is almost certainly local. So potentially the guard is European made. Very hard to say. The majority of guards seem to be locally made.

Cool. So it seems safe to say this is a Kull blade?
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Old 19th September 2019, 08:27 PM   #10
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I think in the included link the copper was pored rather than inlayed cold. Also, we have at least three kaskara with the same copper treatment into Kull swords, plus the takubas previously noted. This suggests to me a common source. It would have to be a shop capable of melting copper, likely a jewelry. Since we have takuba blades, maybe the shop was in Tunis, and your kaskara blade was traded into Sudan, likely Darfur. This is all speculation, but sounds reasonable.

A final question remains; WHY? Why would an importer or jeweler do this on a wholesale basis. Would potential purchasers consider them special?
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Old 19th September 2019, 08:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
I think in the included link the copper was pored rather than inlayed cold. Also, we have at least three kaskara with the same copper treatment into Kull swords, plus the takubas previously noted. This suggests to me a common source. It would have to be a shop capable of melting copper, likely a jewelry. Since we have takuba blades, maybe the shop was in Tunis, and your kaskara blade was traded into Sudan, likely Darfur. This is all speculation, but sounds reasonable.

A final question remains; WHY? Why would an importer or jeweler do this on a wholesale basis. Would potential purchasers consider them special?


Yes, it mimics European latten work on blade marks which I have detailed on various takouba before. Just two examples are attached.

I think as well it was likely done in bulk in a workshop for precisely this reason, as well as the talismanic properties
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Old 19th September 2019, 10:48 PM   #12
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I think we can safely say this is a Kull blade, and I hope Iain and Ed will agree as they are the true authorities on these swords here.
It seems that in the many years I have been fascinated by these kaskara, I have seen these latten (copper or brass filled marks) in a good number of their blades, and typically with the cross and orb, if not with the lion as well.

The fly mark is indeed for Kull (Bezdek, 72.73.74) and suggests the c. 1847+ date. It does seem that there was a distinct market for blades, and even crossguards in the third quarter + to the Sudan (Les Soudan: ses rapport aveck commerce European, 1871). I do not have more on citing this source but I know Iain has it.

In one reference which I think was Slatin (Rudolf Slatin, who was governor general in Darfur in 1882) who surrendered to Mahdist forces in 1883 and was in captivity for 11 years...….mention is made of swords, which were being brought in from Austria. There were some with double head eagle (Holy Roman insignia of Austro-Hungary) but I feel sure that mention was made of the cross and orb and the lion on numbers of these. Naturally these would be presumed of German origin.
In references such as Robb (1924,describing Masri blades with lion and cross and orb) as well as Briggs (1965) the presence of these distinctly marked blades is well established.

The cross on the cross guard center has typically been regarded as a Darfur affinity from the post Khalifa period or Ali Dinar period of early 20th but references show it was used in Sudan prior to that.

If I were to imagine the trajectory of these clearly Kull blades (so marked with fly) I would agree that an entrepot in North African port with the facilities for melting copper/brass as suggested by Ed and Iain, likely applied the talismanically oriented devices on the blades . These then entered the trade networks which clearly went to varied centers including Darfur, where seen by Slatin.

In all, a remarkable sword regardless of its hilt condition, and beautifully represents these historic times and events in the Mahdiyya period.
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Old 20th September 2019, 12:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I think we can safely say this is a Kull blade, and I hope Iain and Ed will agree as they are the true authorities on these swords here.
It seems that in the many years I have been fascinated by these kaskara, I have seen these latten (copper or brass filled marks) in a good number of their blades, and typically with the cross and orb, if not with the lion as well.

The fly mark is indeed for Kull (Bezdek, 72.73.74) and suggests the c. 1847+ date. It does seem that there was a distinct market for blades, and even crossguards in the third quarter + to the Sudan (Les Soudan: ses rapport aveck commerce European, 1871). I do not have more on citing this source but I know Iain has it.

In one reference which I think was Slatin (Rudolf Slatin, who was governor general in Darfur in 1882) who surrendered to Mahdist forces in 1883 and was in captivity for 11 years...….mention is made of swords, which were being brought in from Austria. There were some with double head eagle (Holy Roman insignia of Austro-Hungary) but I feel sure that mention was made of the cross and orb and the lion on numbers of these. Naturally these would be presumed of German origin.
In references such as Robb (1924,describing Masri blades with lion and cross and orb) as well as Briggs (1965) the presence of these distinctly marked blades is well established.

The cross on the cross guard center has typically been regarded as a Darfur affinity from the post Khalifa period or Ali Dinar period of early 20th but references show it was used in Sudan prior to that.

If I were to imagine the trajectory of these clearly Kull blades (so marked with fly) I would agree that an entrepot in North African port with the facilities for melting copper/brass as suggested by Ed and Iain, likely applied the talismanically oriented devices on the blades . These then entered the trade networks which clearly went to varied centers including Darfur, where seen by Slatin.

In all, a remarkable sword regardless of its hilt condition, and beautifully represents these historic times and events in the Mahdiyya period.


Yes Jim, I would not dispute a Kull attribution for the blade and a mid 19th century dating. The guards are still a bit of a mystery in that we know they were made locally but have the one odd reference to them being imported as well.
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Old 20th September 2019, 01:41 PM   #14
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Finally got the full length to go. I know there is a better full length shot, the photos of the seller are much better than mine, but this is next to a yard stick for size reference.
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Old 20th September 2019, 01:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mross
Finally got the full length to go. I know there is a better full length shot, the photos of the seller are much better than mine, but this is next to a yard stick for size reference.


Yep, that's the usual blade size, these are very much of a size, although the exact length of fullers etc seems to vary a little due to the hand made nature. Given the extensive use of water powered trip hammers and grind wheels, these were something that could be churned out in large numbers.
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Old 20th September 2019, 03:31 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Yes Jim, I would not dispute a Kull attribution for the blade and a mid 19th century dating. The guards are still a bit of a mystery in that we know they were made locally but have the one odd reference to them being imported as well.


Thanks very much Iain!
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Old 20th September 2019, 03:47 PM   #17
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Iain,

I concur with the Kull blade attribution, but can't agree on the notion that the guard may have been imported from Europe. Here's why.

We have only two references to imported guards; your French one and an 1871 observation by F-G Garnier that German blades and GUARDS were imported to the Suakin port from Egypt.

We don't know their design. material and appearance of these purported imports. With the exception of the copper alloy cast grips often seen on Thuluth swords (see attachment), I have never never seen a kaskara with a guard other than the traditional 4-piece forge welded design. Also, I don't know if the Thuluth guard has a slot or how the blade, guard and grip are secured together.

The kaskara's method of securing/wedging the blade, grip and guard into a unified whole seems to me to be unique; at least I'm not aware of other ethnic origin type swords secured in a similar manner.

I understand that European guards were made with a central slot that fit over the tang as shown in Oakeshott's styles. Maybe Arabic, Persian and Indian were similar as well. I just don't know.
https://myarmoury.com/feature_oakeshott4.html

The quillon flares are wide and first rate, though not as extreme and as the Ali Dinar regalia & gift swords produced apparently only in his workshops during his reign (1899-1916). I doubt that European workshops would bother to make a 4-piece forge welded design with flared quillons just as an extra export Sudanese market item when a must cheaper cast copper alloy unit may work as well. I understand the one-piece kaskara guard innovation was not developed until c.1940.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 21st September 2019, 04:12 AM   #18
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Just going through piles of notes I finally excavated here in the bookmobile, and found some interesting passim notes.

First I am inclined to agree on the lack of substantial evidence for the import of guards, that single reference (1871)does not seem adequate to be convincing. Still the
idea of Solingen producing blades specifically for export to markets in North Africa seems quite logical. In notes I found a reference Artzi appears to have made suggesting just that in 2005, but I cannot find more detail other than that note.

I. Palme ("Travels in Kordofan" ) notes that the lion and cross and orb were most popular in Darfur. I am trying to find the book that has reference to the blades seen in Darfur in 1880s which at that time the author suggested blades were coming in from Austria. I think it was Slatin, and it seems the lion and cross and orb were mentioned. Naturally these would have been Solingen blades.

The application of the cross and orb and lion were probably as Iain has suggested, talismanic versions of European marks which became perceived as power or magic . Briggs notes (p.40) that such copper marks were applied by natives, and by referencing Henri Lhote (1954, p.9-12).

While many of these notes apply to Taureg weapons, the conventions and superstitious perspectives certainly transmitted via the trade networks just as the blades into Sudanese context.
We know through Briggs that the fly, as well as standing lion and cross and orb were found on Taureg chiefs blades (Raidera and Adembar, 1917, near Agades). The Briggs reference here was Gabus (1958).

The lion and fly were also found on blades in Asmara, Eritrea.

Clearly the blades using these markings were well known and diffused through trade networks for some time. Kull's active period in Solingen ended c. 1860 so these blades circulated for generations.

Returning to the copper/brass used in application of these markings, apparently there was an apotropaic value which had to do with neutralizing the potential for the blade breaking ("Aspects of the Use of Copper in Pre Colonial West Africa", E. Herbert, Journal of African History, Vol. 14, #2, 1973, p. 179-94).
While obviously here referring to West Africa, the concepts easily spread trans Sahara.
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Old 21st September 2019, 02:41 PM   #19
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It is virtually identical to mine that was discussed 3 months ago:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/searc...earchid=1618625

Funny, but I have already mentioned at that time what appears to be the very same kaskara that was acquired by mross and shown in this thread:-)

At the end of the day, many of our objects have " six degrees of separation"
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Old 21st September 2019, 06:27 PM   #20
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Jim,

I finally found my Pallme (1837-39) notes. He mentions (p.298) the two-edge swords of Austrian manufacture with, as you observe, lion and cross & orb. Locals prefer blades with a death's head from the workshops of Peter Kull. He also lists other items of commerce from Austria. Bezdek lists Peter Kull's cat & skull active 1830-1870.

I get the impression from remembering the kaskara shared by forum members are heavily skewed toward Kull marks. This suggests that many blades were imported into Sudan in mid-19th c. (It would be interesting survey/create a database of all the forum kaskara plus museum collections, etc. (imported & presumed locally made). This may allow us to establish which makers were highly represented and that they may have purposefully manufactured for the Sudanese market.)

In my kaskara cross guard essay (.pdf version) I do a Summary with Historical Notes (p. 17ff) of travelers narratives that mention the import of sword blades and their qualities, etc.. Brown's 1792-98 appears to be the oldest reference. Burchardt (1811-12) says that 3,000/year are imported. This and the other references supports your observation that there was substantial market for European blades in the Sudanese contex.

Other research entries since that paper went to press are below. No doubt your research would add much to the chronology.

1822-1824. Dixon Denham & Hugh Clapperton's Narrative of Travels & Discoveries in Northern & Central Africa, pub. 1828. Clapperton while in Bornou reports on a body of cavalry armed with straight broad blades “formerly wielded by the knights of Malta.” They were imported via Tripoli and re-mounted in Kano for use throughout central Africa.

Edward Lane in Description of Egypt, 1828 lists among an inventory of goods exported from Asyut to Darfur: straight sword-blades of German manufacturer, a few firearms, and a little gunpowder, p. 267-268. Reference graciously provided by Terence Walz.

1859-1860. Robert Hartman reports in The Journey of Baron Adelbert von Barinim Through North East Africa. In Cairo bazaars; old & new weapons, rifles, pistols, sabres, yataghans, daggers, battle axes, maces & lances, p. 59. The annual caravan from Siut (Asyut in Upper Egypt) to Darfur shipped “some straight heavy blades, Arabian muskets, pistols and sabres, p.60.

Mross/Ariel

I found another kaskara very much like yours from Royal Armouries, XXVIS.204 with copper cat/lion and cross & orb. No fly was mentioned. As Jim observes, there seems to be a large family of these blades.
https://collections.royalarmouries....bject-9627.html

Best,
Ed
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Old 21st September 2019, 09:44 PM   #21
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Thank you so much Ed, excellent insight of course, and thank you for adding a list of resources. I cannot find my Pallme at the moment, and was relying on my scribbled notes!
It is interesting that Austria was listed as the source for these rampant lion and cross and orb blades I think the source I had which I was thinking of, but have yet to find, is the Slatin book. As he was of the Austrian contingent and in fact in official capacity in Darfur, I think the assumption was these were Austrian blades. The mention of the Mahdi's personal sword having a blade with the Holy Roman double head eagle and Vivat Carolus much added to such presumption.

It seems that while there a good number of cross and orb, rampant lion and typically stamped fly marks which are Kull blades, I have yet to see one with the deaths head. The absence of the fly stamp adds to the presumption that these copper filled lion/cross +orb blades must have been prepared at some entrepot after arrival from European trade sources. The blades without the fly or makers stamp were likely 'blanks' which may have been produced by auxiliary shops in Solingen to augment the orders of blades for export.
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