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Old 6th December 2012, 07:06 AM   #1
Iliad
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Default African Three-Dagger sets

Hi all,
Here are two more of the 15 items I bought 2 days ago. The seller's father, now deceased, visited northern Africa in 1920 and obtained this and other edged weapons. They have remained in the family for 92 years.
The seller thought, but was not sure, that these dagger sets were part of a chief's regalia and were worn on the chest. Can anyone provide more information about them?
Best,
Brian
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Old 6th December 2012, 07:09 AM   #2
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More photos
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Old 6th December 2012, 07:10 AM   #3
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A few more
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Old 6th December 2012, 11:44 AM   #4
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Hi Brian



These daggers IMO do not look 92 yrs old to me? The hilts are poorly carved with no patina. The blade incisions are crude I would place these around 1950 or so not 1920. Anyway these sets of three daggers were geared towards the tourist trade back in the day. I never saw a photo with a warrior wearing this set of daggers

Last edited by Lew : 6th December 2012 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 6th December 2012, 01:30 PM   #5
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Hi Brian,

have to agree with Lou, not as old as suggested by the seller.
I have a set of these which I believe are early 20th C ...maybe late 19th ?

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...hlight=sudanese

Regards David
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Old 6th December 2012, 02:36 PM   #6
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(picture below) These three knives with sheath probably date to the time of Mohammed Ahmed (1848-85) and the (Mahdi) revolutionary insurrection against colonial rule in Sudan. The double-edged blades are engraved on both sides with Arabic calligraphy. The use of crocodile hide on the sheath may have offered powerful warrior energy to the owner.

Source:
http://searchcollections.brighton-h...e+skin&record=0

some more:
http://atkinson-swords.com/SwordsAn...ase_Knives.html

http://www.19thcenturyweapons.com/207/arab/sud3.html
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Old 6th December 2012, 03:35 PM   #7
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Hi Congoblades,
thank you for the links. The picture of the knives and sheath are almost identical to mine

I read that the 3 knife set was worn around the neck (as shown in your picture) or tied to the upper arm. These apparently were a "badge of command" ...I will try and find the reference

Kind Regards David

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Old 6th December 2012, 06:20 PM   #8
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I am inclined to find dismal assessments of ethnographic weapons tossed into the 'tourist' category both discouraging and disappointing. Discouraging for the collector and disappointing in that these proclamations tend to be judgemental and poorly qualified.
It seems that these weapons are from a grouping which seems to include other Sudanese items, and it is clearly stated these are from an estate which notes these were collected in about 1920 from there. With this as a terminus post quem, it seems reasonable to consider these from between the Mahdist period and until then.

It was interesting reviewing those old threads, especially from 2005, when I had thought this thuluth acid etching, not engraving, was done at Omdurman presumably by armourers for the Mahdist forces. I have since realigned my thoughts in discovering that this type of decorative motif was associated profoundly with the Mamluks, who remained in somewhat nominal power among the Ottoman rule in Egypt. Many of them due to the strained relations there had relocated in regions in Dongola and Sennar in trade activity, particularly slaving. Here many weapons came in through Suakin and other avenues, and I believe the Mamluk style thuluth was applied to them for dispersion via trade routes. The Mamluks were routed in 1821, however thier influences remained influential it would seem.

In my opinion these weapons in circulation were undoubtedly used during the Mahdist campaigns, and heavily collected in the subsequent occupation and events through WWI , probably in degree as seen here until the 1920s.
Tribal interaction and warfare continued in rural and remote regions much as always well through the 1920s and later. There was dramatic cessation of arms production, especially swords, after the Caliphate, but daggers were still made. I believe the thuluth covered examples are among the earlier,probably late 19th c. items.

The lack of patination, as was recently pointed out to me in discussion, with these kinds of situations with items out of early collections, is to be somewhat expected in pieces that have remained static in reasonably unthreatened conditions for many years.

The early photo of Sudanese warriors with one wearing this dagger pouch around the neck is telling, and I think the idea that these are tribally significant as badges of rank or authority (as noted by David) is well placed. The use of various weapons and implements etc. seems to explain the variations such as ivory grips on haladies and the alem heavily covered in thuluth as a standard.

The other pouch with less significant, but traditional designs on the blades seems in context but not as highly placed. It is interesting to see the horned pommel which is remarkably similar to those seen on the Black Sea yataghans, which likely led to the suggestion these originated in North Africa. Plausibly, examples of the BSY entered the Ottoman and Red Sea trade from Turkish ports and perhaps influenced hilts in Sudan via Egypt.

Again, very nice examples Brian!

All the best,
Jim

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Old 6th December 2012, 07:17 PM   #9
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I have two daggers Mahdists. If they are exposed without protection are taken completely by rust.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=15063

I am sure there is a market for copies (In the swaille coast? India?) of these weapons Mahdists somewhere in Africa.
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Old 6th December 2012, 08:08 PM   #10
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Hi all,
As regards the date of 1920, my friend from whom I bought the daggers is now 70 years old, and has lived with these daggers (and other items) for his whole life. His father fought in the WW1 Gallipoli campaign, stayed on in the area for some years before returning home to New Zealand. (Incidentally, also served in WW2, collecting weapons from SE Asia, some of which I have and will post photos of). If he said that he acquired them in 1920, then I believe him. As regards patination, if held in a private collection for 92 years, then surely it is logical that there would be no wear and tear on them?
Jim, thank you for your support.
Best to all,
Brian
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Old 6th December 2012, 09:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iliad
Hi all,
As regards the date of 1920, my friend from whom I bought the daggers is now 70 years old, and has lived with these daggers (and other items) for his whole life. His father fought in the WW1 Gallipoli campaign, stayed on in the area for some years before returning home to New Zealand. (Incidentally, also served in WW2, collecting weapons from SE Asia, some of which I have and will post photos of). If he said that he acquired them in 1920, then I believe him. As regards patination, if held in a private collection for 92 years, then surely it is logical that there would be no wear and tear on them?
Jim, thank you for your support.
Best to all,
Brian



You bet Brian! I think the 'tourist' syndrome is a bit cavalierly thrown around with too many ethnographic weapons, and it sounds like your provenance was sound. I had seen examples very much like yours in an extremely comprehensive collection of Mahdist items which was assembled with also well provenanced items. I recall some discussions years ago claiming that crocodile hide items were also 'tourist' pieces to which I disagreed, again citing examples from these and others I had seen with good provenance.

All the best,
Jim

PS, just found this in notes,
Some of the venerable sages of arms and armour collecting had a remarkable dignity and gentlemanly grace which has noticeably diminished in todays demeanor. Claude Blair had remarked on Sir Guy Laking, "...I was told that it was said of Laking that he would always find something kind to say about a fellow collectors object".

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 6th December 2012 at 11:27 PM.
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Old 7th December 2012, 03:15 AM   #12
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Default For Comparison

Just to compare what I meant about patina. Below a several examples dating from the 1890s-1940s Top photo lower dagger is circa 1890-1898 from Dafur the other one is circa 1920-30s. The next one down has an Arabic inscription on the reverse side Omdurman 1898. The one with the medium brown hilt and X's on the blade is circa 1940-45. The long bladed with the finely detailed engraved blade is circa 1900-20. All were tribally used and developed a smooth rich patina.
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Old 7th December 2012, 05:35 AM   #13
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HERE ARE A FEW PICTURES OF EXAMPLES OF AFRICAN 3 WEAPON SETS. THE MOST COMMON ARE THE ONES WITH 3 DAGGERS. THOSE WITH SWORD AND 2 DAGGERS OR MACE AND TWO DAGGERS ARE MORE RARE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE SEEN MORE EXAMPLES OF THESE DAGGER SETS IN POOR SHAPE THAN IN GOOD SHAPE BUT AS MENTIONED IF COLLECTED IN GOOD SHAPE EARLY AND KEPT AND MAINTAINED WELL IN A COLLECTION THEY CAN LOOK AS GOOD AS NEW. LOOK FOR DRYED OUT OR BLEACHED OUT SKIN AS WELL AS NOTE THE SMELL IF THE SKIN OR WOOD SMELLS FRESH OR STINKY BEWARE. BUT OF COURSE IT COULD BE OIL OR WAX PRESERVITIVE AND SOME ETHINOGRAPHIC ITEMS CAN BE STINKY EVEN MANY YEARS LATER.
ONE MACE HAS A HEAD THAT LOOKS LIKE A POTTERY GERNADE AND IS SAID TO BE MAMALUKE AND IS 21 IN LONG.
THE 3 DAGGERS SAID TO BE 19 CENTURY SUDANESE,18.5IN. LONG, NILE CROC.
ALL ARE SUPOSSED TO BE FROM MAHADIST PERIOD.

THE HORNS ON YOUR EXAMPLE ARE LIKELY FROM THE TOMPSONS GAZELLE WHICH IS ABOUT THE RIGHT SIZE AND QUITE COMMON. THE SKIN ON THAT SCABBARD IS CROCODILE AND YOUR OTHER SET IS COVERED IN MONITIOR LIZZARD SKIN.
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Old 7th December 2012, 06:32 AM   #14
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Vandoo,
Thank you so much for the great photos! Absolutely marvellous!
Best,
Brian
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Old 7th December 2012, 12:28 PM   #15
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Vandoo the set with the cows head mace that mace is Indo Persian even though it is old. I just find these sets to be ceremonial rather than for combat the blades are very thin with no discernible edge. You often see Kaskara with this type on thuluth writing on the blade and they have dull edges also. There were a lot of British soldiers in the Sudan at the turn of the 19th-20th century. I just think some savvy locals found ways of supplying them with battle field keepsakes. It's amazing how many of these sets I have seen over the years.

Lew
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Old 7th December 2012, 06:23 PM   #16
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Nothing in relation to the presented weapons. Everybody has personal tastes and preferences. I have mine.
Personally, I cringe when I see such scabbards, especially kaskaras with the scabbards made from a whole croc. Will never buy a dagger with a deer foot for a handle. Even worse, I shudder when I see powder flasks made out of dried camel or other mammal ( ) scrotum. Ascribe it to male solidarity or to Ziggy Freud.
NB: I am a dedicated carnivorous. But those examples revolt me. Never discussed it with a psychologist. Never had a psychologist. This is just my private quirk, and I am happy to live with it.
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Old 7th December 2012, 07:47 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Never had a psychologist.


This explains quite alot...
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Old 7th December 2012, 07:54 PM   #18
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But then... no malpractice lawyer either:-)
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Old 8th December 2012, 12:29 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lew
Vandoo the set with the cows head mace that mace is Indo Persian even though it is old. I just find these sets to be ceremonial rather than for combat the blades are very thin with no discernible edge. You often see Kaskara with this type on thuluth writing on the blade and they have dull edges also. There were a lot of British soldiers in the Sudan at the turn of the 19th-20th century. I just think some savvy locals found ways of supplying them with battle field keepsakes. It's amazing how many of these sets I have seen over the years.

Lew


What Lew said. There are a lot of thin bladed kaskara and daggers with no edge. Almost always with thuluth - that is not to say all thuluth items are perhaps not intended for use. But I would be very hard pressed to imagine that some these examples were not made for those who travel, although that is not to say all were. We have seen in the past some very odd kaskara that seem to have originated from Egypt, this may be the case with some of these items as well.

The post card in this thread showing one of these sets, looks to be a staged scene. A popular practice I believe at the time, from the range of items scattered around I have to wonder if the photographer supplied the "props" or if the men in the photo brought their own... The former possibility would unfortunately cast some doubt on using this photo as a solid reference for the tribal use of these dagger sets.

On the other hand, as badges of office and command these would make sense. Did you have any luck digging up a reference on that David? I'm intrigued - it's been a while since we had a good discussion on here about thuluth stuff!

Last edited by Iain : 8th December 2012 at 01:12 PM. Reason: Grammar!
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Old 8th December 2012, 12:45 PM   #20
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It is nice to see this thread take a turn for the better, some interesting aspects have been shown.

Lew, your collection, the images are present but not identified for readers...with all being in a cleaned state and patina as such being all pretty much the same, what image relates to what time period?

With regards to non sharpened weapons, ceremonial context could be considered... but as for a sword not being effective because it is not sharpened, go grab a 3mm thick x 40mm wide piece of flat bar a metre long and give your self a gentle tap on the head and you'll see how soft the human body really it... now put some for in to it and see what happens to your head....with this region in particular where armour was rarely seen even a ceremonial sword could become offensive if required.
Very fine provenanced examples I have had with very fine trade blades of a combat nature, whilst having edges, they were never really sharp at all...which leads me to ask to what degree were they ever sharpened?

As for these dagger, tourist, ceremonial or real, if swiped with force across the skin with these curved points, you better be looking for a doctor because humans are soft.

Gav
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Old 8th December 2012, 02:23 PM   #21
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Gav

I updated the description on my pics in my previous post. As to your comment on non sharpened blades on Kaskara I own about five and all but the one with were made for combat and exhibit sharp edges even the boys kaskara with the Ferara blade. In any warrior based society you would never find unsharpened blades unless they were for ceremony. The Samurai, Moros and Sikhs would never be caught dead without a sharp blade.

Last edited by Lew : 8th December 2012 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 8th December 2012, 02:31 PM   #22
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Well I see the suggestion that these can be a part of ceremonial use. The question is, what ceremony?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn2V_9QEmqQ

Here is a ceremonial dance. As you can see, they are using some well made kaskaras and not much thuluth sheet steel blades :-)
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Old 8th December 2012, 02:49 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
Well I see the suggestion that these can be a part of ceremonial use. The question is, what ceremony?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn2V_9QEmqQ

Here is a ceremonial dance. As you can see, they are using some well made kaskaras and not much thuluth sheet steel blades :-)


Well maybe not ceremonial per say but maybe they were used as talisman for protection in battle? Otherwise my original theory still stands that these were made as keepsakes for the British to take back home. There is one high quality dagger that Charles bought years ago maybe he still has a picture of it he can post?
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Old 9th December 2012, 09:10 AM   #24
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Hi

I've read this thread with interest. I've seen a lot of these flimsy, flat bladed Sudanese items with the acid etched "thuluth" over the years, and came to the conclusion that most if not all, were made post Anglo-Egyptian conquest of 1898, for resale to Europeans. As already noted, they are usually fairly crudely made, with blunt edges and I doubt if they were intended as real weapons.

There is a theory that within this genre, similar sheet iron "throwing knives" were made during the Mahdist era, for use by those elements of the Mahdist armies made up of black, non-Islamic warriors. So there is a possibilty these "tourist" items derived from this source - but thats only a theory... I would certainly like to see some hard documentary type of evidence to conclusively solve the origin of these objects.

Question : the sheet iron imported from Europe ??

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Old 9th December 2012, 07:19 PM   #25
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I posted this quote before..which suggests the souvenier trade was rife.....unfortunately the link no longer works ,

"....In the Sudan, Major E A De Cosson who served with Sir Gerald Graham's field force at Suakin in April 1888 noted how the local inhabitants entrepreneurially met the demand for souvenirs and war trophies. On the day the expedition was brought to a close, he 'rode into the town in the evening and found the streets thronged with officers buying souvenirs. The native population are waking up to the fact that money is to be made and the women and children offering their silver bangles for sale; shields and swords have run up to ?£5 a piece, and spears to ?£2 or ?£3. There is a little Italian who keeps a curiosity shop, a sort of niche in a wall, and he had new spears manufactured every day. They say an armourer on one of the ships turned an honest penny by making a lot of spear-heads and having them mounted, and that a batch of "real Soudan spears" has already been sent out from Birmingham.'

http://www.michaelstevenson.com/africanart/essay.htm

Regards David
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Old 9th December 2012, 08:06 PM   #26
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Great reference and quote David! Many thanks for posting it, I hadn't run across it before.

The original link may be dead but the Way Back Machine has it!
http://web.archive.org/web/20080207...anart/essay.htm
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Old 13th December 2012, 11:00 PM   #27
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As promised here are two higher quality examples courtesy of Charles.
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Old 14th December 2012, 11:50 AM   #28
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The last one is dated 1125, ie 1713.
Mind if I express mild degree of disbelief? :-)
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Old 14th December 2012, 10:49 PM   #29
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Ariel

Most of these amourers or their apprentices were probably ilitarate so I'm not surprised
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