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Old 3rd July 2019, 08:42 AM   #1
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Default Kaskara Collecting

Hi all,

I have puddled around with the idea of collecting kaskara for a couple of years and since my interest has not diminished, I decided to purchase a third sword recently.

I'm under no illusions that these were produced by masters of the craft, but I like them so that's what matters.

I'm hoping the very knowledgeable base here may be able to assist me with some beginner questions:
- What is the best method of preserving the leather scabbards and crocodile skin used in construction?
- Are there any books dedicated to kaskara's? (I like to read)
- What should you look out for when collecting? (good or bad)

I like the indigenous blades and 'arsenal' quality kaskara just as much as the examples displaying fine craftsmanship. I'd like a diverse collection ultimately; whatever tickles me each time.
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Old 3rd July 2019, 03:42 PM   #2
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Hello Shansy,

Welcome to the World of the Kaskara. The best way to learn about the type is to read forum entries and discussions on the subject by searching on the EAA forum. Over the years the forum members have discussed most aspects of the type. Their knowledge and collected examples cover most all types and variations.

There are no books on the kaskara. However, there are several pdf articles and essays available on-line that you would be well served to print them out for ready reference.

Reed's Kaskara of Northern Darfur, Sudan, 1987 is excellent.
file:///Users/edhunley/Downloads/Kaskara%20from%20Northern%20Darfur%20(2)_Kwon%20Co mpressed%20(6).pdf

EAA's Geographical Index has some seminal texts. First was Lee Jones's "Kaskara-Broadswords of Sudanic Africa". Also, see Julie Anderson's piece of Ali Dinar's swords. I wrote a couple linked therein. Also, one on cross-guards has been converted to .pdf by Lee. and the third, on Silver Dress is in press. It's basic thread is available via an EAA search.

Iain Norman is the expert on the Takouba. While this sword is from a different ethnic base, they often share common blades, marks and other attributes. He has also written on the Kaskara. Check out his Essays. They are outstanding.

Your third sword is Thuluth decorated and with a characteristic cross-guard. Lots of info is available via Forum threads.

Good luck in digesting all this material. Kaskara is within a pretty broad field that got its cachet via Sudanese history mostly the Mahdist Revolution 1882-1885 and the British Reconquest 1998. Actually, the history places the sword within its ethnographic context.

Best regards,
Ed Hunley
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Old 3rd July 2019, 08:43 PM   #3
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Don't forget the first publication on the subject. It is the seminal piece and includes several examples of kaskara even though he calls them of Hausa origin.

Briggs, Lloyd Cabot. "European Blades in Tuareg Swords and Daggers." The Journal of the Arms & Armour Society (June 1965), pp. 53–54.

I don't know where to get a copy other than via inter-library loan or perhaps via on-line sale. Maybe JAAS has a reprint.

Also, on Kaskara Terminology by Iain Norman:

I've no doubt missed some important sources, but you get the idea of the scope of valuable references.

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Old 4th July 2019, 01:14 PM   #4
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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On the subject of this weapon and focused upon the Mahdist Revolt there is probably no finer specialist on Forum than Jim McDougall who has the uncanny common sense to not only explain the situation but precisely how the weapon was used...where they were made.... and how the blade inscriptions actually evolved.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 4th July 2019, 04:57 PM   #5
Jim McDougall
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Thank you very much for those kind words Ibrahiim!!
Like Shamsy, I 'caught the bug' on kaskara which continued to escalate, and that was back in the early 80s!!!
As Ed has pointed out, there were no books or references published with focus on the kaskara, and the only real reference was Briggs (1965).
The Reed article (1987)came out (to my delight) a number of years after my initiation into the kaskara mysteries.

Ed's brilliant work on the work of Sudanese bladesmiths was done even before Reed, and while focused on economic factors in this industry, included many salient details on the character of the elements of these swords. His continued research and works published here by Lee have been extremely informative.

Most of my personal attention in the study of the kaskara has been with kaskaras has been investigation of blades and markings found on them as well as decoration, with thuluth in particular. In that case I was contacted by a professor of anthropology who was studying native metalwork and had seen some writing I had done on the topic. The resulting study that we completed remains unpublished.

As with many ethnographic edged weapon forms, some such as the takouba and kaskara are inexorably connected. With these as Ed has pointed out, the imported trade blades and influences are sometimes shared.

While I do not have any published material on the kaskara, I have been fascinated by them for nearly 40 years, and have been grateful for many discussions on these pages. I have learned so much from many extremely knowledgeable members here in addition to Iain and Ed in those, and had the opportunity to share my own research findings.

Thus Shamsy…..USE that search function here, incessantly!!! and you will find the things you need to know.
Still, the Briggs article, now pretty tattered I still use constantly as it is so loaded with data, pertinent details continue arising depending on what angle I am approaching. Briggs was a brilliant official who was based in Algeria for years, and his ethnographic research and connections with arms and armor figures in England and others brought powerful perspective to these North African swords.
With his seminal work, and thanks to specialized researchers such as Lee, Iain and Ed, along with other participants in discussions here, we have come along remarkably!
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