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Old 17th November 2010, 11:04 PM   #1
stephen wood
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Default Very Unusual Marks

...now, this is a quite old Kaskara which turned up at auction recently. As you can see, it has rather unusual marks (on both sides) - Magen David stamped with the same die and sets of Twig/Fly marks joined by Eyebrow marks (which the Catalogue described as scales)...

...the blade is 35 1/2", just under 2" at its widest. Flexible with a very shallow fuller extending halfway down. The crossguard has the bulbous quality which I have begun to associate with older examples.

I've never seen any marks like this on a Kaskara - has anyone else?

Many thanks, Stephen.
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Old 18th November 2010, 03:46 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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A most interesting example of Sudanese sa'if which I agree seems earlier than those typically found, and I'd like to hear more on the crossguard section as representing earlier forms, and if possible some comparison to the more common types.

These markings are indeed unusual, and I have honestly never seen these used together, nor in such unusual configuration. The twig/fly marks were of course known to be used in various configurations on Italian sword blades, often later copied in Germany, but they seem relatively uncommon on blades of native manufacture.

The use of the Star of Solomon is also extremely unusual, and in this context may have associations in degree with the other marks. The twig marks are connected by a rocker or 'eyelash' which is as noted representative of a scale.
The scale, or al Mizan, is an important element of Islamic Faith and representative of balance. The character of balance would appear to be emphatically indicated with not only parallel scales with the twig marks,
but the twin six point star stamps beneath.
It seems important to note also that the six pointed star or hexagram is also representative of two interlocked triangles, and used in many cultures symbolically. In these perspectives, the symbol often also represents balance and harmony.

I have always considered that the application of the double crescent moon marks (dukari) were placed in that configuration as representative of cosmic symmetry, which has been an important element in religion in so many aspects, even into superstitions found in folk religions in tribal cultures.

It would seem that markings incorporating these symmetrical values and using symbols effectively representing balance in these senses would be well placed on a sword blade.

The Star of Solomon was well known in Islam, and was often used in Ottoman principalities, such as in regencies in Tunisia and Algeria in the 16th century and of course certainly beyond. As it is known that many blades entered the North African trade sphere in these regions, perhaps the star had become a known stamp or talismanic mark as well as possibly makers mark in later times. As attached, the star was used in Morocco on coins in the 19th century.

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 26th November 2010, 03:58 PM   #3
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Just thought I would add more here, just for the record.

In further research on the other kaskara with the five point star, and looking further into Ethiopian possibilities mentioned by Iain, I discovered more interesting potential for the markings on this blade.

In the symbolism used by the Emperor Haile Selassie in the 1930s, he drew considerably on his important descendancy in the Solomonic line of the Imperial House of Ethiopia. In the coat of arms, among the devices included are scales, and of course the Star of Solomon, placed along with the Christian Cross and the Crescent. These were to represent the key religions.

It would seem that the use of the six point star would be well placed here as significant in a number of respects, and whether produced by the Beta Israel (Falashas) or not.

The history of Ethiopia is absolutely fascinating, and complex, and studying it truly adds great dimension to the history of these religions as they developed in early times.

With the five point star, discussed on the other thread, as previously noted, the star appears on the Ethiopian flag and is stated to represent the country as a shining star.

Further comments always welcome.
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Old 27th November 2010, 12:08 AM   #4
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Thank you, as always, for your comments.

Since this is the European forum, shall we look at the marks from a European viewpoint? The fly and eyelash marks turn up on European blades - and I am certain this is one - but in this alignment?
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Old 27th November 2010, 12:58 AM   #5
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As always, it is my pleasure Stephen, and again, I very much appreciate you posting these fascinating kaskaras. You seem to find anomalies that really help expand the boundaries of exposure to variations and present oppotunities to learn more on them.

Well placed note on the inclusion of these on the European Forum, and the profound presence of European blades on these and many North African swords was one of the driving factors in adding a European subforum.
Just as Dr. Briggs was compelled to write his article in 1965 on this phenomenon, these swords have ironically become an important ancillary source for the study of many European markings.

The 'eyelash' mark is of course also known as the 'sickle' mark and occurs in many variations, some dentated, some are not. The familiar parallel position of these in pairs is most recognizable in regions which adopted these from Italian trade blades and use by local smiths in other centers and cultures.

The best sources to see variations on these semi circular markings is in "The Wallace Collection" (Sir James Mann, 1962), and "Armi Bianchi Italiene" (Boccia & Coelho, 1975). Here these markings can be seen in composite arrangements which vary greatly in positions and use of a number of the commonly seen markings.

The 'fly' markings are often also called the 'twig' marks by Mann, and also occur in many variations and groupings. It is certainly possible these may have been applied in a European setting, while the six point star does not seem likely to have been. Perhaps they may have been applied in such position to correspond to the 'scale' markings if they were already present, but close examination to compare both sets of markings would need to be done.

If done contemporarily, then the idea of the scales symbolism I had noted might seem worthy of consideration.

So as often is the case with many ethnographic weapons, viewing the entire weapon with both perspectives in mind is the most constructive method.

All the best,
Jim
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