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Old 14th May 2010, 06:38 PM   #1
RDGAC
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Item #2: One of our four kaskara - or what seem to be kaskara, anyway. All four, I believe (at least three quite certainly) were taken by the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, during the Anglo-Egyptian of 1882, probably during the pursuit phase following the disastrous (from an Egyptian standpoint) battle at Tel-el-Kebir. Since, in the words of one Sergeant Thomas Littlejohn, 4th Dragoon Guards, "we [the 4th D.G.] received orders to kill none except those who refused to give up their weapons, which in almost every case they were only too glad to do" (J. M. Brereton, A History of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and their predecessors, 1685-1980, p. 260; Catterick, 1982), it seems likely that these were some of the many blades discarded by fleeing Egyptian infantry following their rout. It's also possible, however, that they were taken as trophies from the citadel at Cairo, which the 4th Dragoon Guards were also to take shortly afterward - if only by a splendid bluff.

In any event, we've got four of these beasts, and they seem to match the typical profile of a kaskara from my own research. Long, double-edged blade, designed for a one-handed grip, one or three fullers, and to be honest, fairly crude-looking construction. All but one are without their scabbards, and this example's scabbard is less than half intact; given the damage it's sustained over the years, I'd surmise that even if the others once had their scabbards, they have long fallen victim to time, neglect and abuse.

This particular blade is also, sadly, the worst of the lot; as well as substantial chips in its edge, the flats of the blade are badly pitted. When I removed its scabbard, in March, I found that the blade was still rusting slowly away, and immediately began trying to remedy this; so far I've been using 0000 grade steel wool and Young's "303" gun oil, with a coating of 3-in-1 to try to protect the blade from further moisture, but I'm checking regularly for activity. Advice on this matter would, as always, be very helpful.

The blade is, overall, some 34.125in (86.5cm, give or take), from the tip to the lowermost edge of the cross guard, which is of course cruciform in shape; its width varies from 1.25in (3.5cm) near the tip, to just shy of 1.7in (4.4cm) a quarter of an inch forward of the ricasso, which tapers by 0.1in toward the cross guard, presumably to accommodate said part and the grip. At a guess - for I've not had the nerve to remove the remaining sections of the grip - the blade's length, including tang, is probably around 39.5-40in (100-102cm, again give or take). The blade exhibits pitting, extensive inactive rust, and several chips along its edge - possibly battle damage, or possibly due to careless handling, I'm sorry to admit. There was also significant active rust on the lower 21in (52cm) of the blade, which had probably remained covered by the scabbard for some time. It exhibits three fullers, the outer two extending a little less than 11.4in (29cm) from the cross guard, while the innermost runs some 17.25in (43cm) down the blade. To either side of this central fuller sits what appears to be a depiction of a crescent moon, but with an unusually jagged "cut" to its crescent; it may be Arabic text, or perhaps a depiction of something else entirely (sunrise over mountains?).

The grip is in poor condition; denuded of its binding material and the leather (?) pommel present on our other three kaskara, all that remains is its wooden core and some coils of what seems to be steel or iron wire. This wire is terrible corroded and very brittle; a piece around 1/4 of an inch in length snapped off in my fingers when I attempted to unwind it. It is deteriorating and will probably do so until it has simply disintegrated; at this stage I can see no means to stabilise what is obviously almost totally destroyed metal. The grip's core has a single nail through it, which presumably passes through a hole in the tang in the manner of the Japanese mekugi/mekugi-ana method.

The scabbard is, likewise, in poor condition; 22.5in (57.2cm) in length, it is obviously missing a foot of its length, perhaps more - or am I wrong, and do kaskara scabbards (if this even is a kaskara - argh!) not extend so far as those found elsewhere? In any case, whatever lay above that 22.5in mark has been torn away, judging from the jagged edges of the damaged portion. The tip of the blade has ripped through the very tip of the scabbard, with the result that it now protrudes by around 1/3 of an inch, and the scabbard's stitching is failing badly on the reverse side. I have no idea how long it has been left without leather treatment of some sort, but any help in mitigating the damage would be most appreciated.

And now, pictures!

Weapon in scabbard:
http://img576.imageshack.us/img576/4185/img0389gl.jpg

And out of scabbard, with this alongside:
http://img22.imageshack.us/img22/8172/img0372he.jpg

Blade details, obverse:
http://img38.imageshack.us/img38/6236/img0378ws.jpg
http://img571.imageshack.us/img571/500/img0379a.jpg
http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/9711/img0380w.jpg
http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/3628/img0388sc.jpg

Blade details, reverse:
http://img412.imageshack.us/img412/9725/img0382u.jpg
http://img201.imageshack.us/img201/9394/img0383y.jpg

Grip, cross guard and wire:
http://img718.imageshack.us/img718/1305/img0381ek.jpg
http://img522.imageshack.us/img522/8186/img0384cu.jpg
http://img15.imageshack.us/img15/5012/img0393ax.jpg

Scabbard, obverse:
http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/1089/img0373el.jpg
http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/750/img0374o.jpg
http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/5611/img0377ao.jpg
http://img21.imageshack.us/img21/5930/img0375hl.jpg
http://img341.imageshack.us/img341/6500/img0376q.jpg

Obverse, with sword inside:
http://img80.imageshack.us/img80/6521/img0391r.jpg

Obverse, damage to scabbard tip:
http://img375.imageshack.us/img375/1773/img0390.jpg

Reverse, damage to scabbard tip:
http://img199.imageshack.us/img199/9353/img0392bg.jpg

View down scabbard:
http://img28.imageshack.us/img28/2976/img0387uz.jpg
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Old 14th May 2010, 10:19 PM   #2
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A KASKARA IT DEFINITELY IS .
FOR A GOOD WRITE UP ON THESE BY LEE CLICK ON THE PICTURE OF A KASKARA AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE. THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE HOME PAGE SCROLL DOWN TO THE CATEGORY AFRICA AND THEN CLICK KASKARA. THAT WILL TELL YOU JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM. THERE ARE OTHER POSTS YOU CAN SEARCH OUT OF THE DISCUSSION FORUMS AND ARCHIVES.
I WOULD KEEP THE REMAINS OF THE SCABBARD FOR AN EXAMPLE BUT NOT PUT THE SWORD BACK IN IT. LEATHER SCABBARDS ARE NORTORIOUS FOR CAUSING A BLADE TO RUST. SOMETIMES IT IS JUST BECAUSE OF THE MOSITURE THEY ATTRACT BUT THE CHEMICALS USED IN TANNING THE LEATHER ALSO CAN CAUSE EVEN WORSE RUSTING. THERE ARE MANY THINGS ONE CAN USE TO PRESERVE OR RESTORE LEATHER I PERSONALLY USE SOME MINK OIL CREAM. I ALSO USE IT ON MY SHOES WHICH IS WHAT IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED FOR. THERE ARE POSTS ON PRESERVING LEATHER IN THE ARCHIVES ALSO. I AM SURE THE KASKARA FOLKS WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE OTHER EXAMPLES PERHAPS JUST ONE OR TWO PICTURES OF EACH WOULD SATE THEIR APPETITES.
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Old 15th May 2010, 01:12 AM   #3
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sorry, wrong in put
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Old 15th May 2010, 01:40 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VANDOO
A KASKARA IT DEFINITELY IS .
FOR A GOOD WRITE UP ON THESE BY LEE CLICK ON THE PICTURE OF A KASKARA AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE. THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE HOME PAGE SCROLL DOWN TO THE CATEGORY AFRICA AND THEN CLICK KASKARA. THAT WILL TELL YOU JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM. THERE ARE OTHER POSTS YOU CAN SEARCH OUT OF THE DISCUSSION FORUMS AND ARCHIVES.
I WOULD KEEP THE REMAINS OF THE SCABBARD FOR AN EXAMPLE BUT NOT PUT THE SWORD BACK IN IT. LEATHER SCABBARDS ARE NORTORIOUS FOR CAUSING A BLADE TO RUST. SOMETIMES IT IS JUST BECAUSE OF THE MOSITURE THEY ATTRACT BUT THE CHEMICALS USED IN TANNING THE LEATHER ALSO CAN CAUSE EVEN WORSE RUSTING. THERE ARE MANY THINGS ONE CAN USE TO PRESERVE OR RESTORE LEATHER I PERSONALLY USE SOME MINK OIL CREAM. I ALSO USE IT ON MY SHOES WHICH IS WHAT IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED FOR. THERE ARE POSTS ON PRESERVING LEATHER IN THE ARCHIVES ALSO. I AM SURE THE KASKARA FOLKS WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE OTHER EXAMPLES PERHAPS JUST ONE OR TWO PICTURES OF EACH WOULD SATE THEIR APPETITES.


My only Kaskara resides outside of its scabbard permanently .
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Old 15th May 2010, 03:24 PM   #5
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...thank you, very interesting.

It's so important to see the examples of kaskara which have been in Regimental Museums for so long - they serve as dating touchstones.

I think that they might have been captured in the subsequent Campaign in the Sudan since at Tel El Kebir the Egyptians were a regular army - many of whom were later deployed with Baker and Hicks.

Notice that the "moons" are quite well defined - not the squiggles we see on later blades.

Is it possible that the "wire" is in fact very fine twisted leather?
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Old 15th May 2010, 05:17 PM   #6
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Thank you so much RDGAC for posting this fascinating example, and as Stephen has noted, it is great to see examples that have been in museums for such a long time as provenance is such an important key in the study of weapons.
I am inclined to agree also with Stephen, that these kaskaras seem more likely to have been acquired in later campaigns against Mahdist forces, as the Egyptian forces had been largely striving for more modern European type militarization since the time of Muhammed Ali. With that being the case, it would not seem that medieval style broadswords would have been concurrent with modern type arms.

However, it is noted that at the time of Muhammed Ali's invasion of the Sudan in 1819, the Sudanese tribes had no central authority and tribal infighting was carried out with primitive weaponry. By the time of the Mahdist uprisings in the 1870s the Mahdists were described as poorly clothed, and armed only with sticks and stones. Despite this, they were apparantly able to overpower assembled Egyptian forces and acquire stores of arms and ammunition. It is not made clear what these captured arms were, but the inclusion of the ammunition term obviously suggests emphasis on guns.
It appears that much of the Mahdist supply was obtained in the same way, as captured materials from previous battles are mentioned as sources.

It is known that broadsword blades began to enter the trans Saharan cultural sphere sometime long before this period, as these weapons are described in some of the early narratives of c.1830s and 40s. It is also known that the native made blades with these type fullers, as well as the crescent moons in opposed pair, were said to be 'made in the north'. Exactly what 'north' is meant is unclear, but if it was as far north as Egyptian areas, it would certainly bring interesting perspective to the kaskara. It would certainly seem plausible that in the centuries of Mamluk domain in Egypt, an armourers tradition must have been extant, we know that it was for mail.

Therefore, the questions stand....would there have been use of the kaskara among infantry ranks in the Egyptian army of c.1882? Would captured weaponry taken from Egyptian forces by the Mahdi, and used to equip his 'Ansar' have included these broadswords? Would the description of 'primitive weapons' used by Sudanese tribes mean 'ancient broadswords'?

I'd sure like to hear opinions on these.

Meanwhile, this kaskara, excels in its history as it has remained in situ for such a long time, and that it came out of campaigns in these regions in these times seems secure, regardless of exact circumstances.

I hope we might see the others also, and know if there are similar details in provenance.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 17th May 2010, 01:37 PM   #7
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Hmm. Gentlemen, you may well have a point - and I call myself an historian by training! The 4th Dragoon Guards were, indeed, involved (albeit on a small scale) in the Mahdi uprising and its attempted suppression subsequent to the events of 1882. To quote Mr. Brereton once more:



Quote:
In September 1884 the Government belatedly decided to despatch a relief force to rescue General Gordon, besieged in Khartoum by the rebellious Mahdi. Now Egypt and the Sudan were of course the lands of that "ship of the desert", the camel; ergo, the force must include a specially-raised Camel Corps of some 1,200 British officers and men, about half of whom were to be found by all the cavalry regiments at home. The cavalry contingent was divided into a "Heavy" and a "Light Regiment, the former comprising two officers and 43 other ranks from the Household Cavalry and each of the Dragoon Guards and Dragoon regiments in England, the "Light" being similarly found from the Hussars. The detachment from the 4th Dragoon Guards... sailed with the rest of the Heavies from Portsmouth on September 26th and disembarked at Alexandria on October 7th.

Having been introduced to their unaccustomed 22-hand mounts and gleaned some rudiments of "camelmanship" they learned, with some relief, that they were not actually expected to fight on the beasts as "cavalrymen", but were to be employed solely as mounted infantry. The force reached Korti, some 900 miles up the Nile on Christmas Day, and here General Sir Herbert Stewart was despatched with the Camel Corps and some infantry to establish a strongpoint at Abu Klea, near the Blue Nile. On January 17th (1889) the column of 1,800 men was attacked by a horde of 9,000 Mahdi fanatics, losing eleven officers and 77 men killed and 115 wounded, though they slew at least 1,100 of the "Fuzzy-Wuzzies" in their desperate seven-hour fight. This action cost the 4th Dragoon Guards detachment both officers - Darley and Law - and seven men killed and five others wounded. (Ibid., pp. 262-263.)


From this, it seems clear that the 4th DG were indeed sent into the Sudan, although given the small scale of the action at Abu Klea (for which they didn't receive a battle honour, incidentally, owing to being present only in detachment strength), I do wonder whether there would have been much opportunity for trophy-hunting; this is especially so in the light of comments regarding the poor state of arms in the Mahdist forces, and their subsequent augmentation with modern, captured Egyptian equipment, some 15 years earlier.

I will, naturally, remove the kaskara from its scabbard forthwith in order to avert the progress of further corrosion. With regard to the wire, I suppose that it might conceivably be fine leather, although it doesn't look, or feel, like it to my distinctly inexpert eye. If only I might send a sample.

Kaskara two en route!
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Old 17th May 2010, 03:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RDGAC
With regard to the wire, I suppose that it might conceivably be fine leather, although it doesn't look, or feel, like it to my distinctly inexpert eye. If only I might send a sample.
In the pics it LOOKS like iron wire, but pictures can be so misleading... But, if metallic, it should be cold at thouch, although that may take a bit of experience to tell. Anyway, if it's iron, it's going to be magnetic, even if corroded. If copper or brass, it shouldn't be desintegrating without some degree of an annoying green residue lying around and staining things. And, in any event, if not metallic, it should... react... to a candle's flame that would... happen... to be lying near by...
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Old 18th May 2010, 02:06 PM   #9
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Kaskara #2, similar in proportions to #1 but with a single fuller running for approximately 10in (25cm) from cross-guard to its termination, and an unusual change in the depth of the edge, for want of a better phrase, some 13in (32cm) from the blade's tip. Seemed to be sharper than the previous blade, and indeed the sharpest of all, albeit with several chips and nicks in the blade.

In moderate to good condition, at least compared to the others, with a minimum of damage to the blade and its grip intact. Little pitting and only small levels of rust, once again treated with oil and G0000 wire wool, have been found on this blade. There seem to be no markings, at least that I can make out. The grip appears to be of cowhide or something similar, and its stitching is happily intact. The two langets, however, are both bent, in the same direction, presumably indicative of poor care or possibly battle damage; perhaps in the case of the langet that has bent outwards, an enemy blade slipped down and forced it out? Overall the most complete of the four, scabbard notwithstanding.

Length overall: 39.5in (100cm),
Length blade (cross-guard to tip): 37.6in (88cm),
Width at widest point (ricasso): 1.6in (4.2cm),

Overall views:
http://img297.imageshack.us/img297/2909/img0400de.jpg
http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/828/img0408uj.jpg

Blade, tip to base, obverse (some images may require rotation):
http://img412.imageshack.us/img412/392/img0402uk.jpg
http://img200.imageshack.us/img200/5691/img0403fy.jpg
http://img197.imageshack.us/img197/5562/img0404co.jpg

Cross-guard, grip and pommel, obverse and reverse respectively:
http://img249.imageshack.us/img249/64/img0405j.jpg
http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/7903/img0407e.jpg

(The stitching holding the cowhide - or whatever it is - together is visible in the first picture.)

View of distorted langets:
http://img245.imageshack.us/img245/2551/img0411l.jpg

Two views showing the alteration experienced by the edge in depth, ~13in short of the tip:
http://img46.imageshack.us/img46/5701/img0412ol.jpg
http://img532.imageshack.us/img532/2069/img0413m.jpg

A fairly flexible blade, though by no means as bendy as the last I shall put up. On with the show, and our next example is what I believe to be a somewhat unusual specimen that has me a little intrigued.
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Old 19th May 2010, 11:54 AM   #10
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Kaskara #3, which is by far the... er... shiniest of the lot, for some reason. My inspection has failed to locate any active corrosion on its surface, though very numerous areas of black, inactive rust, along with some pitting, can be seen. It's as if the blade has been galvanised, a process which, I understand, has been in use for some 150 years and might thus have been employed by European swordsmiths exporting their wares to the Sudan and nearby areas for use in kaskara manufacture. On the other hand, if galvanised, why has the blade seen such corrosion and pitting, visible on the attached photographs? I'm leaning to the hypothesis that this blade was treated after it entered the United Kingdom but have no doubt that the members here will have come across similar weapons before, and have an explanation more in line with Occam's Razor. As well as pitting and rust, the blade has the usual chips and nicks in its edge, and its tip has been flattened considerably, suggesting perhaps that it was dropped; given the lack of body armour on European (and especially British) troops at this time, I think it unlikely that the point met impenetrable plate.

This blade has proportions, unsurprisingly, broadly similar to those of our other kaskara, but is unique in having no fewer than five fullers, all of the same narrow type as on our first example, which run for (on average, accounting for minor variations in individual fuller length) 8.25in (21cm) from the base of the blade. At said base are a pair of large tabs, seemingly forge-welded or similar to the flats of the blade, and presumably intended to broaden it a little and allow the cross-guard and grip a firmer attachment to the base and tang, though that's probably an erroneous presumption. A curious aspect is the small piece of what looks like copper or perhaps gold (depending upon the light in which one views it), which can be found 10.25in (11cm) from the tip.

Moving downward, the cross-guard is loose and can be moved relatively easily, although it does not come off entirely. This I would ascribe to the partially absent wrapping of the grip, for about half of the leather strips which should bind it are missing. The grip's wood, however, appears sound, as does the remaining leather and its disc pommel. The nail passing through the grip remains in place and secure. Overall one of the more interesting kaskara we have, quite sharp and relatively flexible, if somewhat rough. For a weapon at least 126 years old, I don't think she's doing badly!

Length overall: 39.4in (100cm)
Length blade (from horizontal of cross-guard): 34in (86.4cm)
Length grip: 4.5in (11.5cm),
Width cross-guard horizontal: 5.5in (14cm)
Length of fullers (average): 8.25in (21cm) from tabs at base of blade.

Overall of sword, obverse:
http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/2575/img0414y.jpg
http://img63.imageshack.us/img63/3254/img0415h.jpg

Overall, reverse:
http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/2328/img0416sz.jpg

Grip and cross-guard, obverse
http://img293.imageshack.us/img293/1274/img0419c.jpg

Grip and cross-guard, reverse:
http://img694.imageshack.us/img694/1834/img0417s.jpg
http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/4604/img0420h.jpg

(Note small tab in lower picture between lower vertical portion of cross-guard and grip - any ideas?)

Cross-guard and langets:
http://img46.imageshack.us/img46/2351/img0423y.jpg
http://img207.imageshack.us/img207/3184/img0422fz.jpg

Cross-guard and tab, reverse:
http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/7728/img0424n.jpg

Cross-guard and tab, obverse:
http://img706.imageshack.us/img706/1575/img0425n.jpg

Pommel:
http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/8194/img0426tr.jpg

Grip, cross-guard, langets and upper portion of blade, reverse, perspective:
http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/3640/img0427g.jpg

Details of copper/gold on blade:
http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/7266/img0453l.jpg
http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/3430/img0452bm.jpg
http://img109.imageshack.us/img109/3227/img0421r.jpg
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Old 19th May 2010, 12:35 PM   #11
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Hi RDGAC,
with regards the pitting on the blade that is devoid of active rust...IMHO the blade has probably been subjected to electrolytic rust removal or the use of a weak acid.

Kind Regards David


PS With regards galvanised blades ....I believe Mole patented a galvanised blade or the process of galvanising a blade, in 1860 ......"galvanized,that is to say, coated them with zinc, whereby the said machetes and cutlasses are preserved from oxidisation" . However I think this was mainly for Maritime swords ...which were often painted (black) to help preserve them in the 'sea air'.

Last edited by katana : 19th May 2010 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 19th May 2010, 08:33 PM   #12
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Nicely done David! Thank you for the note on Mole and galvanizing, and it would be interesting to learn more on the use of this process in England in these times.

I have been rather determined to discover more on these kaskaras, and how they might have been captured at Tel el Kebir in 1882, as this conflict was between nationalist Egyptian forces rebelling against the Khedive, and the British forces protecting thier interests in Egypt and the Suez Canal.

The key problem, as previously noted, being that the Egyptian Army was essentially a modernized army, now equipped with Remington carbines and revolvers, and wearing military uniforms. That having been said, I think it is important to note that the rebel forces were not technically the forces of the Khedive, in the militarily outfitted sense, though it would be likely that a large part of them had this equipment.

It is known that the Khedives forces, by 1876, had been receiving these modern firearms ("Khedive Ismail's Army" , John P.Dunn, 2005, p.38). It is also worthy of note that these forces also included the regiments known as the Khedives 'Iron Men'. Certainly the Turko-Circassian aristocracy as well as the well established Mamluk traditions had firmly emplaced the use of medieval style armour, and these elite regiments were carrying forth those traditions.

The reason I bring this up is that in these times, apparantly the British industrial engine in Birmingham was supplying helmets of traditional style to these Khedival troops, as well as producing chain mail for them. While it is unclear about swords and blades that might have been produced along with these, it does seem quite possible that medieval type broadsword blades, well known in the kaskaras, could well have been produced in some number
as well.
The comments and observations on galvanizing were what triggered this thought, as well as the fact that these blades seem somewhat more 'industrial' and without the typical characteristics of many of these swords of the Mahdist trophy groups.

In trying to establish who then, in the Egyptian forces, might have been using kaskaras, we must consider that within the Khedives forces were also irregular troops of Bedouin in sizeable contingents, along with small squadrons of Shayqiyya. These units who functioned much as the Bedouin, in duties such as raiders, scouts, border guards etc. and thier home areas were actually in generally the same regions as that which encompassed the campaign at Tel el Kebir in 1882. Incorporated in these groups were elements of the Beni Amer tribe, actually a component of the large Beja group more familiar in Sudanese areas, but certainly present in these parts of Egypt and Northern Sudan.

Here is what is important, I have seen illustrations of the Beni Amer, mounted, wearing chain mail, and kaskaras! It would seem entirely possible, if not likely, that many of these tribesmen would have joined Ahmed Urabi in revolt, along with the profound ties to the Shayqiyya Brotherhood, and Bedouin.

Here may be where these clearly Sudanese broadswords may have found thier way into the hands of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards, just as has been included in RDG's description. It is also worthy of note that , "...the British admiration for an enemy intensified thier desire to collect war trophies".
(Maj. Gen. Sir Alexander Bruce Tulloch).

Also, noted by war correspondent G.W. Stevens after Omdurman in 1898, the respect the British had for these adversaries remained as he noted, "..our men were perfect, but the Dervishes were superb beyond perfection".

The instructions not to wantonly destroy the combatants at Tel el Kebir was certainly to try to defray as much damage as possible in this unfortunate situation, and certainly reflected much of this same perspective. It seems likely of course that many of these forces may have become part of the Khedives forces in the later campaigns.

While often times museum attributions and provenances can certainly become clouded over many years, but in this I very much commend RDG for his efforts to find support for that with these kaskaras. It is an example that should be followed by the staff and constituents of all museums, and I hope the discussion here will prove helpful in the further display of these historic swords.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 20th May 2010, 12:15 PM   #13
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Thank you both for the insights; I shall have to look in to our records (such as they are) to see where we got our caption information. Unfortunately, the records of the 4th DG are sparse (as indeed are all of our records); a fire at their barracks circa 1920 destroyed a great many records going back to the regiment's foundation in 1685, and over the years yet more records have been lost owing to neglect, mishandling, wartime damage (the 5th Dragoon Guards placed their records into safe storage for the Second World War, only for said safe storage facility to be bombed flat by the Luftwaffe - argh!) the sheer ignorance of the squaddies on the importance of such documents (with no offence at all meant; it's not their job to be archivists, it's their job to be good soldiers, and so long as they do that I can forgive them most anything, however frustrating it might be for us down the line), and the habit of QMs to regard these enormous boxes of paper as so much useless encumbrance. I'm told by my boss (an ex-soldier himself) that on many occasions quartermasters would simply detail some luckless corporal and a private (or trooper, in our case) to go through the records and destroy any that weren't absolutely vital - or indeed, just to burn the lot as long as they weren't in use. It makes one bang one's head on the wall nowadays, but one can't really blame them.

Regardless, however, we must try. I happen to feel it's my duty to do so, and it's good to see that people appreciate that. Makes one feel quite humbled, really. Aw, shucks!

In any event, on with the show. Our final kaskara is much like our second specimen; it's in good condition (for ours, anyway), with its blade largely free from active rust and cleaned up; with that removed a good coating of oil (I cannot recommend Young's "303" enough, since it comes in a spray can and provides a good, durable coating - but am I right?) and some treatment applied, however belatedly, to its leather bindings and pommel should see it through, though I still dislike the unsightly black blotches of inactive corrosion. Once again it has a single, broad fuller, and is fairly sharp though less flexible than any other of the blades, at least to my feeling.

The blade also has a design etched into its base, just forward of the top of the langet, on both sides; after numerous unsuccessful attempts to make a rubbing of the wretched thing I decided to draw it instead, so I'm afraid that'll have to do until I can make a proper rubbing of the design, which seems to be carved fairly shallowly into the metal. Though the leather bindings are intact (just), they have begun to come away from the wood and, having I suspect been untreated for some years, are very frail. I've begun applying leather cream to all the leather parts on our swords (and everything else, too, in time) with the aim of trying to restore some of their natural strength and prevent them from disintegrating entirely.

Length overall: 39.375in (100cm)
Length blade: 34.5in (87.5cm)
Length grip: 4.5in (11.5cm)
Length fullers: 8.5in (21.5cm)
Width: 2in (5cm) at base of blade, tapering to 1.5in (3.8cm) just prior to tip.
Tip: Spatulate (?)/"spear-point".
Width of cross-guard: 6.895in (16.8cm)

Overall views:
http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/6070/img0429b.jpg
http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/7523/img0430j.jpg
http://img14.imageshack.us/img14/5227/img0431r.jpg

Bottom of sword, grip, pommel and cross-guard, prior to treatment:
http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/9813/img0441qp.jpg
http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/8207/img0428pa.jpg

Detail of design on blade base (probably not much good - sorry about that):
http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/9839/img0432am.jpg
http://img62.imageshack.us/img62/9115/img0434yf.jpg
http://img695.imageshack.us/img695/3359/img0436hq.jpg

Langets, cross-guard and bottom of edge:
http://img197.imageshack.us/img197/5250/img0438mx.jpg

Pommel (and my shirt - admire its stripiness):
http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/3375/img0439ru.jpg

Fuller, base of blade and cross guard:
http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/2504/img0440n.jpg

Reproduction of design on blade - approximately:
http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/403/img0465q.jpg
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:07 PM   #14
Jim McDougall
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Yes RDG, appreciation is often a scarcely afforded commodity in our times, but nonetheless, we do what we do I think that what always keeps me charged up is the tremendous satisfaction of discovering things and always hoping others will add to the trove. That doesnt happen as much as I would like to see, but there are some out there with the same passion.

Regarding the plight of the records, it seems that is a well known dilemma and so much has been destroyed by war and disaster. One thing I think of as an alternate resource in your case might be the National Army Museum in London. Some years ago, and in quite a number of cases, these folks were wonderfully helpful, and I was truly amazed at the volume of material they have compiled. While official records from one source may have been lost, the donations from private individuals seem to have often ended up here rather than the specialized museums.

Once cleaned and stabilized, and along with some photos and display graphics, I think these will offer a great representation of this event in the units history.

It is pretty hard to make out much from these images, and I am not computer savvy enough to use all the cropping, brightening features, but this too looks like the very much standard kaskara of the period. The drawing you added seems to stall each time I try to display it, and it would be great to determine more on the blade if I could see it.
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:35 PM   #15
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Hi Jim and RDG ,
thank you both for your comments. RDG the marking on the 'latest' Kaskara is mentioned in this thread...

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...udanese+marking

Kind Regards David
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:40 PM   #16
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Thank you so much for posting these - we now know that this mark, noted by Cabot-Briggs over forty years ago on a takouba not a kaskara, was being used as early as the 1880's.
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:44 PM   #17
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David, absolutely bang on! The one thing that's different is that I'm quite positive (from home) that the diagonal lines run in the perpendicular fashion on our example. If it is a Mahdist symbol, then that dates it very precisely, but... it doesn't mean it's connected to the rest of these blades! For some while - certainly since I have been here, i.e. since November - this blade has lain in our Uniform Store (which is in chaos), in what I can only describe, with the greatest regret, as a disorganised heap of swords, for we have neither a sword rack nor anywhere to put one. This heap, fortunately, contains mostly relatively common British weapons, and doesn't seem to be doing them any harm, since most are in their scabbards.

It could thus be that our other examples were taken by the 4th D.G., or indeed the 7th D.G., in the course of the 1882 campaign, while this particular weapon was captured in 1884. Dangit!
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Old 21st May 2010, 12:23 AM   #18
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RDG, in the future could you actually post your images directly to this forum. They are easy to access now, but next month or next year or so you are bound to take these off imageshack and then this will be a long and interesting discussion that has no illustrations of the weapon in question . If you need help we can tell you how to upload directly.
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Old 21st May 2010, 01:07 AM   #19
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I did try uploading to the forum, but unfortunately found that the forum's file server size limits are rather smaller than the images I'm uploading! Is there any way around that? I know ImageShack and the like are distinctly ephemeral storage means, but without uploading them here being possible I'm not sure where else to go.

Edit: Of course, I could do the intelligent thing, and crop the images so as to eliminate the honking great background area that's irrelevant to the weapon. I'll try that tomorrow and see what I get, as well as working on getting some better pics of that design.
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Old 21st May 2010, 04:31 AM   #20
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The link that Katana posted to the thread last year on this emigmatic marking brings up some interesting discussion. Now that I can see the marking, I recall that it did indeed come up in the key resource on takouba blades, Cabot-Briggs. I am inclined to follow the discourse there that suggests that this, as well as numerous versions of markings found on blades are indeed native interpretations of European markings on trade blades from generations before. The dramatic stylization results from not just degeneration through the reproduction process, but from the fact that these 'quality' marks became temporally adopted into local folk religion and talismanic significance.

It would seem that many of the markings and characteristic motif found on blades are essentially cross cultural, and diffused along the trade routes that crisscrossed the Saharan regions into the Sudan. For example, the paired crescent moons that are almost quintessant on takouba blades are also often seen on kaskara blades.

I believe we can be fairly certain that this marking is not a Mahdist symbol or associated in that respect, and while there is distinct astral motif favored on blades in the Sudan, this inscribed device is not representing a comet, but probably a developed symbol from earlier markings as noted.
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Old 21st May 2010, 09:00 AM   #21
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While it's a little disappointing to find that our marking probably has nothing to do with the Mahdist uprising (which'd date the sword very nicely indeed, naturally), the mystery of what the design actually means is equally fascinating. One is inclined to wonder if there is any sort of trade directory for European swordsmiths of, say, the 16th and 17th centuries, which might enable one to discover (with a fair dose of conjecture) which blade-maker's mark was "appropriated" by the locals for use in their swords. Of course, it'd be just my luck if the maker turned out not to have a mark recorded.

Anyway, on we go; next item is what I think is an Omani kattara.

Meredydd Jones,
Assistant Curator RDG
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Old 21st May 2010, 02:12 PM   #22
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[QUOTE=RDGAC]While it's a little disappointing to find that our marking probably has nothing to do with the Mahdist uprising (which'd date the sword very nicely indeed, naturally), the mystery of what the design actually means is equally fascinating. One is inclined to wonder if there is any sort of trade directory for European swordsmiths of, say, the 16th and 17th centuries, which might enable one to discover (with a fair dose of conjecture) which blade-maker's mark was "appropriated" by the locals for use in their swords. Of course, it'd be just my luck if the maker turned out not to have a mark recorded.

Anyway, on we go; next item is what I think is an Omani kattara.

Meredydd Jones,
Assistant Curator RDG[/QUOTE


Actually there are numerous resources which do reflect the markings and various names/phrases etc. on blades of these periods and into modern times. It has been fairly well suggested in earlier discussions that this particular marking may well derive from those of Solingen maker Peter Kull, whose blades entered the Sudanese sphere along with numerous other Solingen blades.

Actually it must be remembered that makers marks and the like were perceived as quality guarantees in Europe, and much in todays sense of marketing, they became widely copied. When these trade blades entered native markets, the emphasis placed on the markings in distributing them became perceived in many cases as imbuing them with power and other talismanic significance. Talismanic symbolism is key in the folk religion and superstition of these regions, and similar meaning can be found in the Arab 'aghrab', a device said to represent a scorpion and is meant to deter the evil eye. This device is so stylized that it is hard to discern that as what the figure represents, but the meaning remains firmly in place. The same type of application seems likely here, whether perceived to mean quality; the imbuing of power to the blade and its warrior or distinctly to deflect the forces of evil.....these are all potentially what may have been meanings, but as these would only have been known by who applied them, and again as perceived by others who used the blade..we can only guess.

The fact that this apparantly distinctly North African derivative of these earlier makers marks cannot be specifically assigned to the Mahdist movement does not eliminate swords with the mark from thier potential as having been among their weapons. It would appear that this type marking was being used as early as the 1880s or before, and the blades found with the marking as late as 1916-17, even though on takoubas, were certainly much older. The blades were a precious commodity, and swords were typically remounted many times through generations, particularly when changing hands.

As far as has been determined, there are really no known markings or stamps that would specify arsenal type application on Sudanese weapons, and of the Mahdist period. The only characteristic that seems typically identifiable with the period would be the various weapons including kaskara that were acid etched with the calligraphic Arabic script known as 'thuluth'. This heavy and broad Arabic script typically covers the entire blade.

I can say that the Peter Kull markings (and derivatives) as well as a lion marking were very much favored in Darfur, the western province of the Sudan, and where the kaskaras are somewhat more distinctly identifiable.


All best regards,
Jim

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Old 21st May 2010, 03:20 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RDGAC
I did try uploading to the forum, but unfortunately found that the forum's file server size limits are rather smaller than the images I'm uploading! Is there any way around that? I know ImageShack and the like are distinctly ephemeral storage means, but without uploading them here being possible I'm not sure where else to go.

Edit: Of course, I could do the intelligent thing, and crop the images so as to eliminate the honking great background area that's irrelevant to the weapon. I'll try that tomorrow and see what I get, as well as working on getting some better pics of that design.

Of course it is possible to upload them here, you just need to resize your images. If the software that you crop with doesn't allow you to resize then there are are internet sites that will do it for you. Rick is always recommending one whose url eludes me at the moment. Perhaps he will chime in.
FYI, i usually resize to about 7x10 at 72dpi. This is well within the means of our server to handle. There is really no need for you dpi to be anything higher since most computer screens are only capable of this resolution.
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Old 23rd May 2010, 12:58 PM   #24
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I've taken the liberty of uploading a selection of the images....

Below is the first Kaskara in the posting....

Regards David

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Old 23rd May 2010, 01:07 PM   #25
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Kaskara 2 .....



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Old 23rd May 2010, 01:24 PM   #26
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Kaskara 3 ....


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Old 23rd May 2010, 08:41 PM   #27
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Thank you so much for enhancing these images David! It really is amazing, while these to some may look like beaten up, worn old swords....To myself, and anyone who has a passion for the history of North Africa and the ethnography, they are beautiful. The example with the triple fullers of course stands to be one of the earlier of the group. The others, it is hard to be sure as they seem more sheet steel stock with a vestigial central fuller in seeing better views.
Still, I enjoyed the search for an explanation for how 'kaskaras' MIGHT have been captured at Tel el Kebir........there remains of course the profound chance that at least some of these may have been acquired later as was once proposed. My goal was of course to find support for the captioning specified by RDG.

As I have also noted many times through the years, the British troops were quite impressed with the Sudanese warriors, and there was an enormous trend for bringing back souveniers from these campaigns. It has been a well known circumstance that families in much later years who have donated items of military veterans who have passed on to museums, only knew the assumed origins of the items. Often interpolated and anecdotal stories were relayed with the items, or even worsened as the items were handed down through a generation or two.

These resulting errors in captioning in no way take from the intent of memorial to the donors or the veteran, but simply present difficulties in using the items in scholarly study. Therefore correcting any data on captions or descriptions not only enhances the value of the item historically but reinforces the purpose of the museum in preserving that history, and honoring the veterans who collected the items.

An important duty in our upcoming recognition of our traditional Memorial Day, in which many of us recognize all those who serve and who have served militarily, and particularly all who have fallen in war or battle.
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Old 7th June 2010, 11:52 AM   #28
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After a lengthy hiatus - caused mostly by a shortage of computers, and by the installation and promotion of our new exhibition covering Op. HERRICK and suchlike - I return, bearing another weapon for your comments. This particular specimen comes from Oman, and is presumably therefore Omani in nature; I would hesitantly suppose it to be a kattara, but that is a very hesitant identification indeed.

Overall length: 39.5in (100cm)
Blade length: 32in (81.3cm)
Scabbard length: 32.85in (81cm)
Breadth of blade (at widest point): 1.5in)

The blade has severe pitting throughout its length and is very thin, so much so that it visible bends if the sword is held at the grip only. From the lines visible along its length, the lack of active rust spots and the thinness of the blade, I would conjecture that this particular weapon was, much to my dismay, ground at some point, probably prior to its presentation to Field Marshal Bagnall in order to present a better appearance. The blade also has a few cracks on its edges, the most severe of which is shown in picture 11. Overall, despite good preservation in the museum, it is in bad shape, and the damage appears irreversible.
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Old 7th June 2010, 12:18 PM   #29
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Hi RDGAC,
Kattara it is .....well known to have very 'flexible' blades. High end examples often have silver or silver decorated hilts.

Regards David
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Old 7th June 2010, 12:41 PM   #30
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Most interesting David; our grip is wrapped in the same black, leather-ish material as the scabbard, which doesn't have any obvious means of removal. I shall work on getting that off, in a non-destructive manner, so as to have a good look at both.

Regards,
Meredydd Jones
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