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Old 22nd May 2019, 08:28 PM   #1
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Default Are these crocodile scabbard sudanese ? swords tourist pieces ?

a friend has asked me to put this sword that hes unsure about on the forum , his question is are these tourist pieces , I think maybe as its not a very practical with the scabbard easily damaged and the whole thing looks a bit awkward, the ring I believe is ivory and does have a lovely aged colour , I thought this maybe could be an old tourist piece ?
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Old 22nd May 2019, 09:28 PM   #2
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Sometimes it can be hard to tell. The crocodile had important symbolic meaning, and crocodile and other reptile hide was used to wrap weapon hilts within the culture. Of course, with interest in souvenirs peaking after the battle of Omdurman in the 1890s, the use of crocodile parts went overboard.

To me the sword looks like it was originally a fighting sword, quite possibly used during the Mahdiya. It is very possible that it received its scabbard later to appeal to the Western market. Good pictures of the blade and any markings would be nice, and you can see that the crossguard is of an earlier, higher quality type per Ed Hunley's article in this forum - if you put "kaskara crossguard" in the search function you should be able to find it easily.

It is kind of sad that it got its current fittings - both from the point of view of the animal (and PETA) and my point of view as a collector, as this was probably a nice decent quality sword.

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Old 22nd May 2019, 09:56 PM   #3
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Thanks for your reply teodor , everything you have stated makes sense , the blade is unmarked but does look good quality as does the the crossguard , I expect this kind of thing was quite common to supply tourists with impressive looking pieces .
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Old 22nd May 2019, 10:21 PM   #4
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I agree with Teodor, it's a good sword with a good crossguard.
I disagree the scabbard is original to me, I have seen several like that and you can find many Sudanese weapons with crocodiles or monitors.
Look at one detail the ring to attach the sword to a camel saddle.
Why to do such a detail for tourist?
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Old 22nd May 2019, 11:15 PM   #5
Jim McDougall
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This is an excellent topic, and I brought it up about 15 years ago, about the use of crocodile hides and taxidermy on Sudanese weapons. The resulting consternation was troubling, but it seems we have more reasonable perspective by this time on matters which involve other cultures and times.

In considerable research on Sudanese weaponry, I did find that the use of crocodile hides was indeed prevalent on many of the weapons used during the Mahdiyya. I have seen examples of weapons in collections which established this as well as individuals handling these in museum context. Accounts of weapons from the campaigns in Sudan which included Omdurman (1898) noted such weapons among captured items.

There was a notable surge in 'souvenir ' collecting after Omdurman and during the Condominium, but it seems the kinds of items were generally items such as spear heads etc. as they were easily transportable by soldiers in their kit. Obviously swords and the like were as well.

As Kubur has pointed out, there would be no need for appurtenances such as carry rings on items intended for such commercial reasons, and frankly the rather grisly character of these taxidermy type mountings were not much favored. I had one of these once, which brought great dismay not only to my wife but anyone who saw it!

In speaking with a Fur tribesman on one occasion, he noted the strips of crocodile belly hide on Darfur kaskara, and that these were regarded as totemic in a manner and indicative of power etc. Such observance is recognized in varied regions, and Briggs (1965) mentions 'crocodile cults' but more on those was not further researched.

I have never seen the 'kassala' type kaskara of more recent times (Reed, 1987; Hunley, 1984) with crocodile mounts of any kind. Most modern weapons from Sudan including knives etc. may have monitor lizard hide mounts, but again have not seen crocodile.

I would suspect the crocodile mounts may have carried further into the Ali Dinar period (up to 1916 in Darfur) and I thought perhaps these may have been used by slavers in these regions as impressive arms worn by 'bosses'. The one I had was with guard similar to the Darfur type (Reed, '87) and older European blade with cosmological figures on blade.
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