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Old 24th June 2012, 03:39 PM   #1
paolo
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Default My first kaskara

Hi,
I bought this kaskara in my city. I have some question about it . I red this thread

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ghlight=kaskara

Lew posted some pics about “An uncommon blade is the Suliman Mukhumus has five canals. The canals act as a spring and the sword can be bent severely and not break.” Mine looks similar but hasn’t the sunburst mark . Is it from Kassala ? What old do You think it is ?
I’m also interested about the meaning of the two patterns on the center of the scabbard, they looks like a number 2.
Thank You for any help.
Paolo
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Old 24th June 2012, 04:56 PM   #2
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Congratulations on your first kaskara, and what a beauty too!

This form of blade does indeed seem to be rare, and what interests me about yours is that it seems to have a ricasso, suggesting that it was European in origin. These blades seem to be heavily modified by local smiths and the ricasso is often removed totally.

Hopefully Ed will chime in with a definitive answer on Kassala or elsewhere.

I've seen this figure "2" on a few other examples, but I am rather intrigued about what it might represent - sadly I don't know

Chris
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Old 24th June 2012, 05:49 PM   #3
Battara
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What a nice piece! Love all the silver work, the chasing and the filigree.
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Old 24th June 2012, 06:19 PM   #4
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Paolo,

Very nice Kaskara, indeed. May have been made in Kassala in early part of 20th C. The date of my five channel Suliman Mukhamus was quoted in Kassala as being circa 1918. However, the blade looks smoother than locally produced blades. It could be a trade blade with the local addition of the 5 channels, but that's just unfounded speculation.

The silver grip covering could have been made anywhere and added. Swords come from the smith with grips unadorned. Don't recall that silver work grip design, but the scabbard tip looks/remembers as being similar to mine. The grip top has no design. That is consistent with the Hadendawa tassel once being attached there. The scabbard decoration is new to me.

I am assuming you are in Italy. I hadn't known that Italy fought against the Mahdists. Here's a quote from a Google Page "Kassala wаs subsequently captured by the Mahdists. Іn 1894, аfter the Battle оf Kassala the Italians captured the city. Іn 1897, the Kingdom оf Italy returned Kassala tо the Kingdom оf Egypt. Іn 1899, Kassala fell under the purview оf Anglo-Egyptian Sudan until Sudanese independence іn 1956. Іn July 1940, during the East African Campaign, Italian forces advancing frоm Italian East Africa forced а small British garrison tо withdraw frоm Kassala. The Italians then occupied the city wіth а brigade-sized unit. Іn mid-January 1941, the Italians withdrew frоm the city аnd а British garrison returned."

Your sword could have been a bring-back from either adventure, but I'm more in favor of WW2. The Italian army built the Blacksmith's Market in Kassala in the 1940s as a economic development project.

Hopefully others can add more insights.

Best regards,
Ed

Last edited by Edster : 24th June 2012 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 24th June 2012, 07:17 PM   #5
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A beautiful and rare example .

Congrats

Lew
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Old 24th June 2012, 08:23 PM   #6
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Hi Paulo,
I heartily concur with all the observations on what a fine piece this is, and cannot resist adding some notes beyond those well deserved accolades.

I am glad to see Ed add his notes here as in my opinion his field work in 1984 is likely the most relevant and powerfully detailed work on the intricacies of the kaskara since Graham Reed's work (1987). It is ironic that Ed's work actually was done prior to Reed's published work and the two now joined are outstanding resources for further study of these swords.

As Ed has noted, the five fullered blade is significant among the Sudanese blades, and while this one clearly has superior quality I cannot see why it would be European unless there is evidence of a ricasso as Chris has noted.The bladesmiths in Kassala were remarkably skilled and the more commonly seen triple or deep central fullered blades based on European imports were also well made there. I believe both of those types were based on Solingen imports as often discussed on these pages. I think the five channel types may have been based on Italian type blades which were of course likely brought into these regions due in part to Italian presence in these regions from the latter 19th century. The presence of Italian blades and weapons influence in North Africa has often been an influential denominator in thier weapons far into antiquity which should be recalled beyond the more recent here.

As Ed has noted, that this kaskara turned up in Italy is not surprising as the Italian occupation in Sudanese regions in the 1940s was during the rekindling of the swordmaking industry in Kassala at that time.

Turning to the perceived numeric '2' on the scabbard, I know also that this has come up before and I cannot recall the outcome of the notations or when they occurred. In my opinion this is of course not at all the numeral two, but I think there is a dot with what appears to me the second letter in the Arabic alphabet, 'khaa' . What is unclear is that it appears twice and singularly, as if used symbolically. I can only speculate that it is intended in some talismanic parlance as the application with many of the symbols used on these swords. Many of the European makers marks were transliterated into talismanically or superstituously charged meanings as well explained by Ed from his interviews with various informants. I would emphasize that anyone with serious interest in learning about Sudanese swords absolutely must read his outstanding paper.

While I very much look forward to entries from others regarding the meaning of the apparantly Arabic character on the scabbard, I consider that in certain occultism associated with the Sufi followings there are talismanic properties often aligned with these alphabetic characters. Without deeper understanding of the complex nature of these beliefs I cannot elaborate further but simply note that with the profound presence of the Sufi order in these regions, perhaps this solution might be viable.

All best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 25th June 2012 at 01:49 AM.
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Old 25th June 2012, 02:17 AM   #7
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In looking through search found these posted by Stephen Wood back in 2009. Apparantly these marks which resemble the numeral 2 appear on another Kasallawi kaskara scabbard, and Stephen also suggested the haa' letter , but Dom did not agree. Also another embossed marking on a crocodile hide scabbard which resembled Arabic character or letter, which Dom described as unreadable.
It is interesting that these remarkably similar to Arabic letters marks are apparantly placed on some scabbards and in the case of the '2' (?) in the same configuration. There was no resolution three years ago, perhaps readers or anyone with more information?
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Old 25th June 2012, 02:59 AM   #8
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Very beautiful Kaskara big congratulations! :-)

Interesting, Jim. I always read that as '2' but it could be the Arabic 'ha ح' which is not far fetched as the letter ha is frequent in the Qur'an as part of the letters which many surah's begin with like " ha mim" etc
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Old 25th June 2012, 02:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
In looking through search found these posted by Stephen Wood back in 2009. Apparantly these marks which resemble the numeral 2 appear on another Kasallawi kaskara scabbard, and Stephen also suggested the haa' letter , but Dom did not agree. Also another embossed marking on a crocodile hide scabbard which resembled Arabic character or letter, which Dom described as unreadable.
It is interesting that these remarkably similar to Arabic letters marks are apparantly placed on some scabbards and in the case of the '2' (?) in the same configuration. There was no resolution three years ago, perhaps readers or anyone with more information?


Jim, this one says 'Allah'
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Old 25th June 2012, 03:19 PM   #10
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Very nice kaskara. My opinion, because of the ricasso, leans towards trade blade, possibly with locally added fullers as Ed speculated.

I would also guess a later dating on the hilt since the cross guard doesn't seem to be of the older, more flared variety like this one? http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=13142

In any case a great piece.
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Old 25th June 2012, 03:56 PM   #11
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A fine and attractive looking sword. I would agree with Iain that its probably somewhat later in date. Maybe closer to mid-20th century than early-20th century.

Congrats.
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Old 25th June 2012, 04:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
Very beautiful Kaskara big congratulations! :-)

Interesting, Jim. I always read that as '2' but it could be the Arabic 'ha ح' which is not far fetched as the letter ha is frequent in the Qur'an as part of the letters which many surah's begin with like " ha mim" etc



Thank you Lofty. Why would the 'ha' be placed in singulars in a paired configuration though. While it is as you note part of the cursive script in the wording, what kind of meaning would it have standing alone?
I think you mean the Letter on the embossed crocodile scabbard is the one representing Allah, correct?

I agree Iain, but I could not see the ricasso or whats left of it, and with that this could very well be a European blade. Perhaps again this may have been of the 'blank' sort we have discussed among trade blades. I am interested in knowing more on how fullers were installed after the blade was already in a forged state.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 25th June 2012, 05:27 PM   #13
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Thank You all for the inputs.
The blade has a ricasso, the first 12,5 cm. on both side are without edge.

Ed, thank You for the valuable notes about Italians in Kassala and about the anadorned hilts . Might I find a woolen tassel somewere ?

About the like number "2" sign, this rimind to me a kind of Caucasian carpet called SILEH (pic attached)
Regards
Paolo
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Old 25th June 2012, 10:09 PM   #14
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A beautiful sword, and a very fine piece to have. Congratulations.
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Old 26th June 2012, 12:03 AM   #15
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Default Tassels

Paolo,

There are tassels and then there are tassels. The one shown on Jim's post #7 is wrapped and poked through. The one in Iain"s link to Dave's sword is a different style from Darfur with a loop.

I've tried for about an hour to resize an oversized photo and upload what shows an old Hadendawa tassel. I'll try to find another shot on another post. If you find one first, note that groups of stands are laid flat and gathered tightly and then round braided and finally fluffed at the end. There is no wrap around the grip, just gathered tightly. I picture is indeed worth 1,000 words, or at least 29. I think the string is cotton and the round part is stiff. You may be able to make a passable replica if your are handy.

Good luck.
Ed
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Old 26th June 2012, 12:48 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paolo
Thank You all for the inputs.
The blade has a ricasso, the first 12,5 cm. on both side are without edge.

Ed, thank You for the valuable notes about Italians in Kassala and about the anadorned hilts . Might I find a woolen tassel somewere ?

About the like number "2" sign, this rimind to me a kind of Caucasian carpet called SILEH (pic attached)
Regards
Paolo



Great observation Paulo! This is a perfect reminder of the importance of the motif in rugs and other material culture in identifying some of the designs and motif found in weapons decoration. While many designs are found in the motif, there are often structural features and elements relating to architectural designs as well.
These Caucasian rugs as I understand are actually thought to be abstract images of a dragon, and while I dont think pertain to this particular example the comparison is very well noted.
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Old 26th June 2012, 06:12 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Great observation Paulo! This is a perfect reminder of the importance of the motif in rugs and other material culture in identifying some of the designs and motif found in weapons decoration. While many designs are found in the motif, there are often structural features and elements relating to architectural designs as well.
These Caucasian rugs as I understand are actually thought to be abstract images of a dragon, and while I dont think pertain to this particular example the comparison is very well noted.



Salaams Jim, I am intrigued by the five fuller blade and suspect the Italian Schiavona influence... Regarding the figure 2 which is correctly identified by A.alnakkas as Ha in the Arabic alphabet... It is not related to the S or Z pattern on the Caucas rug which comes from an entirely different base design. There may well be some talismanic background to the use of this letter; paired. Nice sword and amazing as a first sword from that region!
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 26th June 2012, 11:45 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Thank you Lofty. Why would the 'ha' be placed in singulars in a paired configuration though. While it is as you note part of the cursive script in the wording, what kind of meaning would it have standing alone?
I think you mean the Letter on the embossed crocodile scabbard is the one representing Allah, correct?


Hey Jim, Yes, the one with Allah is the crocodile scabbard.

As for the letter ح ha then I cannot be sure quite frankly because it could be something else. Reason why I mentioned the Muqatta'at is because I know they have more significance in Sufism. The Muqatta'at purpose is a field of research in Quranic exegesis and am not familiar with any satisfactory answer nor do I have access to any sufi interpretation. Perhaps a field to begin searching in is the sufi sects of Sudan?
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Old 26th June 2012, 01:29 PM   #19
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Thank you Ibrahiim, and you bring up a very valid point which I had not thought of, the Italian blades associated with schiavona. In considering what sort of European blade this may have been, or modelled after I had forgotten the Italian element. Actually my focus has typically been toward the blades from Solingen which characteristically have dominated the trade blade imports into North Africa, in this case the Sudan.
With Iain and Chris' observations on the ricasso presence it seems likely this could be one of these Italian blades, however Ed's note that the blade may have had the channels added seems plausible as well. Im not too sure from a metallurgy aspect how that is done, but surely it can be.
It should be remembered that the schiavona remained in use far beyond the 17th and 18th century periods to which they are typically assigned. As a traditional weapon they were still being produced or refurbished well into the 19th century.

I agree the dress of this kaskara is very much of the Kasallawi style and probably mounted near the 1940s as suggested. The lozenge pattern and the floral style crosses are favored motif designs typically represented in the silverwork on these hilts. Many of these designs occur in the leatherwork on scabbards and especially the leather straps.

The Sufi presence was well established throughout North Africa and in the Sudan, if I recall correctly especially with the Senussi, who were in Darfur regions and certainly widespread beyond that. Its been some time since I have studied these aspects along with Ali Dinar in Darfur but I do recall the Sufi being a key element in much of this history. It would be interesting to discover more on how the 'ha' letter is used talismanically, and it is well established that this aspect is an important element of Sufi following.

These are the wonders of ethnographic weapons and the things they tell us when investigated and observed forensically, it becomes quite literally an adventure in history with the weapon in focus your guide. It is the part of historic weapons that far exceeds just collecting them, and gratefully there are so many here who share in these interests and in preserving the important history these weapons give us.

Thank you for your always motivating participation and input!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 26th June 2012, 03:07 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
With Iain and Chris' observations on the ricasso presence it seems likely this could be one of these Italian blades, however Ed's note that the blade may have had the channels added seems plausible as well. Im not too sure from a metallurgy aspect how that is done, but surely it can be.
Jim


Could be done by grinding at a later date. But I kind of doubt it as that would affect the temper. I think its more likely the fullers are original.

Five fullered blades are known on takouba as well. Don't have access to all my notes at the moment but will have to see what I can dig up on that later.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 26th June 2012, 03:15 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Could be done by grinding at a later date. But I kind of doubt it as that would affect the temper. I think its more likely the fullers are original.

Five fullered blades are known on takouba as well. Don't have access to all my notes at the moment but will have to see what I can dig up on that later.

Cheers,

Iain




Thank you for that note Iain, I am inclined to agree. I have had a hard enough time trying to grasp cold stamping of marks let alone putting in features I thought were only accomplished at original forging. I think there was something about the five fuller blades along with the note on the three channeled in Briggs perhaps, along with the other notes on 'masri' perhaps as well which were in Rodd.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 26th June 2012, 11:50 PM   #22
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Jim/Lofti,

Thanks for bring up the possible Sufi connection. The sufi brotherhoods or tariqas (turuq I think is the plural) were/are very popular in the more rural areas. Introduced into the Sudan in the 16th Century from North Africa, the Sahel and Arabia. They provided a mystical and more spiritual response to the more legalistic orientation of orthodox Islam. They have and continue contribute to the power bases and political parties in Sudan and are a major component of Popular Islam. The Mahdi was the head of the Sammaniya brotherhood, but his followers, the Ansar were not sufi in outlook. The Khatamiya were popular among the Hadendawa of Eastern Sudan. The Tijania and Birhaniya also sunk regional roots.

For good period commentaries on the ethnographic, economic and political aspects of post-Mahdist Sudan check out "Sudan Notes and Records". It was published annually from 1918 until the mid-1960s, I think. British administrators were well educated and interested in the countryside and the people who lived there. Actually, British and its off-shoot American sociocultural anthropology arguably had its origin in Sudan. SNR is often difficult to access, but some volumes are available on-line, and the Univ. of Michigan has a subscription service.

I just found this on web site for the letter Ha.

"Ha = h

The sixth letter in the Arab alphabet represents number eight and belongs to the element of earth.

This letter, which symbolizes human intuition, has an esoteric meaning for the Sufis, as it is the first letter of the verb habba (to love): “Inna Allah jameel yuhibbu al-jamaal”, which means “truly God is beautiful and loves beauty”. Thus also the saying: “Habba man habba wakariha man kariha” or “He loves whomsoever He chooses to and He hates whomsoever He wishes to”. The letter ‘ha’ denotes the Essence in terms of appearance, presence and existence.

Shaykh ad-Dabbaagh informs us that the ‘ha’ corresponds to perfect mercy, which is a part of prophecy."

There is supposedly a meaning for each letter.

Regards,
Ed

Last edited by Edster : 27th June 2012 at 12:42 AM.
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Old 27th June 2012, 03:48 AM   #23
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Absolutely fantastic information Ed! Thank you so much for sharing that in detail, which truly adds some interesting possibilities for understanding possible intended meanings on these letters on these scabbards. Your comprehensive knowledge and suggested resources on these regions is remarkable , thank you again for all you have contributed here with your paper and continued input.

All the very best,
Jim
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Old 28th June 2012, 11:41 AM   #24
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Sorry for the delay, but I'm not too familiar with English language, so I had to translate all carefully. The thread seems to me very interesting and useful. Thank You all for the great inputs !
All the best
Paolo
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Old 30th June 2012, 01:12 PM   #25
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Paulo, actually you are doing great with the language!
Actually it is us who thank you for showing us a very nice kaskara example which has given us the opportunity to learn and discuss. I hope your collection continues to grow as you clearly have a keen eye for fascinating weapons. Nicely done!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 3rd July 2012, 11:33 PM   #26
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Paolo,

Finally go access to my kaskara to show some details you asked about. The first photo shows how the Hadendowa Tassel is made. Next is the tip piece of my Suliman (5 Channel). Stylistically it is very similar to yours, though not quite as good. Probably made in the same silver shop. Third is the top of the pommel. Again very similar to yours. (Note that the silver work is done separate from the manufacture of the sword itself and the scabbard. While the silver work could have been done anywhere, why wouldn't a customer of a high-end blade go down the street to the local high-end silversmith.) The last two are details of the my sword with the sun symbol. I'd guess that our two swords were made at about the same time (circa. 1915) in Kassala.

Regards,
Ed
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Old 4th July 2012, 11:38 AM   #27
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Thank You Ed for the photos of Your kaskara. Very similar !!! In the winter I'll try to do the tassel. If it 'll be quite successfull, I'll send pics.
Paolo
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Old 4th July 2012, 06:25 PM   #28
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Your are welcome, Paolo. Good luck.
Ed
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