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Old 19th July 2018, 06:39 PM   #1
Ian
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Default Kaskara in Silver Dress: an essay for comment and discussion by Ed Hunley

Moderator's Comment
The following essay has been prepared by Ed Hunley for comments and discussion. Ed asked Vikingsword staff for help in putting his lengthy piece online, and it has been necessary to break his essay into several parts to accommodate the limitations on the number and overall size of graphics that can be included in a single post. We hope that this somewhat disjointed presentation does not detract from Ed's outstanding article. Any typos or other errors in the text are mine and not Ed's. Ian.
[Note: Pictures referenced to this web site have not been attached to these posts--you can access them directly from the links provided in the text--per Forum Policy, all external links must be accompanied by attached pictures.]


INTRODUCTION

Studies of the Sudanese Kaskara sword have focused mostly on variations in blades and quillons, allowing educated guesses as to a sword's regional origin and period of manufacture. However, the Kaskara “sword package” comprises several components—blade, quillon/cross-guard, grip cover, and scabbard with chape and top band—each made by individual craftsmen in the supply chain who may perform their work separated in space and time. Today’s package may be original to its initial time and place of manufacture/assembly, or may have a history of repairs or upgrades over perhaps hundreds of years and considerable distance. Each component has a story to tell.

I propose that we expand our discussions to include silver accessories added to a basic unadorned sword, usually of highest quality. These additions are intended to enhance the sword and its owner, and may be gifted to high status people as an honor. Silver has a talismanic quality as well as a decorative function. Copper and silver are both thought to bring protection from knife attack, but silver trumps copper. Silver accessories include grip covers, pommels, and chaps and bands on the scabbard's bottom and mouth.

Silversmiths are not affiliated with sword-making enterprises. They are higher-end craftsmen located nearer the center of the market. Their work is performed for a customer after the sword and scabbard have been assembled, and is an optional upgrade to enhance the quality of the “sword package” and the prestige of its owner.


A. GRIP COVERS

I am aware of four main styles of grip covers:
  1. Diamond or Harlequin Motif
  2. Stars and Comets (for want of a better term)
  3. Silver filigreed ribbon mixed with reptile skin.
  4. Other/Unique
1. Diamond/Harlequin

This is apparently the most common design and would be the easiest to emboss on a sheet of silver. The diamonds are in rows and appear to be aligned at an approximately 60º incline. They are sized to align more or less vertically as well. There is a small incised border at the top and bottom. The format appears to be standardized and varies only slightly in execution among different skilled hands.

This design appears to be most common in Darfur, mainly because it is associated with Ali Dinar's regalia swords. Also, the design, in a simplified form was recorded by Reed in Northern Darfur in 1984–85. An exception is a sword in the al Shinqiti Collection in Khartoum.

Examples

Fig. 1. Sword of Ali Dinar, Sultan of Darfur who was killed by the British in 1916. He apparently was gifted several high-end swords. [Maybe someone can fill in the givers and approximate dates.] It seems reasonable that the sword and grip cover would have been fabricated at the location of the gift rather than the location of the giftee. View online at: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions...ld/lot.317.html

Fig. 2. Another sword very similar in quality and design to Ali Dinar's example posted on this web site by DaveS. View online at: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=13142

Fig. 3. Another sword of similar design posted on this web site by David (Katara). Note the unique and exceptional domed pommel. View online at: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ghlight=kaskara

Fig. 4. Another with copper casing (unique as far as I know)—although it could be just dirty silver—posted by Longfellow on this web site. Also, note the domed top the pommel. View online at: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=16357

Fig. 5. An example with one of the most ornate pommels I've seen. View online at: http://www.sword-site.com/thread/91...ra-19th-century

Fig. 6. From the collection of Judge M.S. al Shinqiti (1896–1966), University of Khartoum (picture attached). One of six swords gifted to him c.1956 at the independence of Sudan, as photographed in 1984. [Three other of his swords with the Stars & Comets design will be discussed below.]I showed this photo to the shaykh of the Kassala sword maker's suq. He said it was likely made in the village of Wager about 60 miles north of Kassala. The blade is likely an import (it has the “enigmatic” mark). The quillon may have been forged by a smith there long ago and perhaps a local silversmith made the grip cover.

Fig. 7. Graham Reed 1987. His Plates L1 & L2 (attached below) have diamonds that are arranged vertically with a line gap between (unlike the Ali Dinar standard). The blades are older European and the quillons are well flared. Each has an interesting and well-defined pommel design. My guess is that a local silversmith made the grip covers inspired by the diamonds of the Ali Dinar examples.

Fig. 8. The handle cover on this kaskara (shown on the Ashokar Arts web site) uses the diamond motif but strays from the “standard” of Ali Dinar. It is a Beja sword, which may explain the difference. View online at: http://www.ashokaarts.com/shop/nice...er-mounted-hilt

All of these examples, except Fig. 7 and the Ashoka Arts item, show remarkable similarity yet are different in subtle ways. Only in Figs. 1, 2 & 4 does the cover extend from the quillon to the top plain band where a tassel usually is tied. All the rest have the gap filled by coils of fine silver wire. I couldn't measure the actual widths, but assume the grips were all virtually the same rather than being of different length, though that is possible. None stray very far from the Ali Dinar grip if it may be the standard. A question remains as to the symbolic meaning, if any, and where, when and by whom it originated.

---------- Attachments: Figures 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 -----------
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Last edited by Ian : 19th July 2018 at 10:52 PM.
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Old 19th July 2018, 06:59 PM   #2
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Default Kaskara in Silver Dress: an essay for comment and discussion by Ed Hunley--Part 2

2. Stars and Comets

These examples are intriguing and are rare in my experience. The design consists of opposed comet-like head and tail swoops offset by 5–6 pointed stars. At the center front is a diamond-shaped box with four small diamonds arranged in a vertical square. I've not considered one of these covers in 3-D, seen one unrolled flat or as a template, so it is difficult to present a full picture.

Most intriguing is that the same basic design is exhibited on the oldest documented example of a kaskara, the sword of Nasir Mohammad, the Funj sultan from 1762–69 (see attached Fig. 9), as well as more modern examples. The Nasir design also is on three of the six swords in the al-Shinqiti collection as mentioned above. If the Nasir design is 200 years old and has remained unchanged for that time, it must be full of symbolism and significance to have reappeared to honor al-Shinqiti.

Examples

Fig. 9. Nasir Mohammad sword (c.1762). This sword has all the elements of a first quality kaskara: a high-end blade, marked as a German source, with a perfect high taper quillon and a star and comet silver-covered grip. Indeed, all quillons produced since this design and method of manufacture have degenerated in style and quality. [A skilled swordsmith in Kassala in 1984 said that no one currently makes quillons of that flared design.] The sword is equal in quality to the Ali Dinar (c.1900-1916) piece shown above, except it doesn't have the rich engraving on the quillons. Its “perfect” condition begs the questions: Where did it come from? What is its stylistic development history? Are there any known examples of precedent designs? The Nasir sword is shown here, with a good background by Regihis: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=16814

Fig. 10 a,b. Two views of the same sword in the al Shinqiti Collection are attached. The theme resembles that in Fig. 9, but it has only one “V” line above top center pair of comets. Note the flared quillon (Fig. 10a). Fig. 10b shows the end of the quillon's diamond shape. I wonder if this diamond motif has symbolic relevance like the design on the diamond silver case. It looks to me that if the sword was restored, especially the pommel, it could be a brother to the Nasir Mohammad example and a potential Funj sword as well.

Fig. 11. Another sword from the al Shinqiti Collection. To my eye the silver work is virtually identical to the 1762 grip cover in Fig. 9, although the silver band at the bottom is not there.

--------- Attachments: Figures 9, 10a,b, 11, 12 ---------

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Last edited by Ian : 20th July 2018 at 04:18 AM.
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Old 19th July 2018, 07:49 PM   #3
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Default Kaskara in Silver Dress: an essay for comment and discussion by Ed Hunley--Part 3

3. Silver Filigree

This type of grip treatment consists of filigreed silver tape wrapped around the wooden grip base, plus a wrap of reptile skin. Both materials have symbolic meaning. The process is of course less expensive to execute than the high-end diamond and stars examples. However, this treatment addresses the protective qualities of silver and cultural signatures of lizard skin and the traditional Beja tassel.

Examples

Fig. 12. I collected these two Hadendowa swords in Kassaka in 1984 (see attached). The one on the left was said to have been made c. 1915. Due to the similarity of its grip cover, I would date the other to the same time. This style may be a Kassala signature style. Similarly dressed Beja swords are shown on other web sites sites, and two more examples can be found here:

Fig. 13. An example in Lee Jones kaskara paper on this web site is a cut well above. View online at: http://www.vikingsword.com/ethsword/kaskara/index.html

Fig. 14. Another example is on the Oriental Arms site. View online at: http://www.oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=1343


4. Other/Unique covers

Other embossing styles and designs will be encountered; some may be unique, one-off products of local silversmiths. If we come across other examples that can be typed as stylistically similar, we will have another type to study. Here are a couple of examples:

Fig. 15. Kind of a diamond design, but not really (see attached picture), with good views of the pommel and chape. Somewhat resembles the pommel and top caps in Fig. 12. View online at: http://www.oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=1430

Fig. 16. A unique design on a Beja sword hilt (Fig. 16a). Also, provides a good view of the pommel and chape (Fig. 16b). View online at: http://www.swordsantiqueweapons.com/s587_full.html


B. POMMELS

Examples of different pommels have been shown along with the pictures of silver grips. A couple are rather spectacular, but these seem one-offs. (Figs. 7, Reed's Plates L1 & L2, show nice sketches of designs.) The pommels in Fig. 12, especially the top caps, are virtually identical and likely made by the same silversmith. Additionally, you will notice other similarities of type. However, I'll leave their description and analysis to others.


C. SCABBARD CHAPES AND TOP BANDS

Chapes are the triangular metal pieces at the bottom of scabbards. They prevent the point of the sword blade from penetrating the leather and causing injury. Bands at the throat of the scabbard are designed to prevent the blade from cutting the scabbard when being withdrawn or replaced. For the most part, these are made of thin light metal, usually aluminum these days, and they generally exhibit a decorative design. On higher end swords these items will be made of silver and many have elaborate designs.

Example

Fig. 17. Shows the scabbard chapes from my two Kassala swords above (Fig. 12). The left chape (of better quality) belongs to the left (better quality) sword in Fig. 12. The corresponding bands are also shown in Fig. 12.


There it is, my first cut at silver dressed kaskaras. I was surprised that my mainly online research revealed so few design motifs. Hopefully, other examples in museums and forum members’ collections will come to light. Comments, discussions and light criticism welcome.

Ed Hunley
July 2018


----------- Attachments: Figures 12, 14, 15, 16a,b, 17 ---------
.


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Last edited by Ian : 20th July 2018 at 04:20 AM.
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Old 19th July 2018, 08:13 PM   #4
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Default Thread now open for Comments/Discussion

This thread was locked during the loading of all the material from Ed. It is now complete and open for Discussion. I want to thank Ed again for taking a considerable amount of time and effort in putting this magnum opus together.


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Old 19th July 2018, 09:42 PM   #5
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Thank you for these posts. Very interesting and informative.
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Old 19th July 2018, 10:52 PM   #6
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Ed, thank you very much for this essay. It is on a very interesting topic that nobody has tackled before, and I learned a lot from reading it. The essay is very well written as well.

I have a couple of questions: do you know what the symbolism behind the different motives embossed on silver hilts may be (assuming there is any)? Did you consider including the double disc pommel kaskaras in the essay?

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 20th July 2018, 12:35 AM   #7
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Teodor,

Thanks for your compliments. I did considerable on-line research on any symbolism exhibited. No real luck for the covers. Of course Islamic/Sudanese cultures use a lot astrological images as symbols including images on sword blades. Its fantastic to be out at night in remote Sudan and look up at the sky. No light pollution or humidity and the heavens are alive with stars and shooting stars. That vision is bound to make an impression on the individual, society and culture. But still I found nothing that articulated that. I was hoping that members would be able to add from their research and knowledge.

Double pommels are interesting and I think mostly from Ethiopia. But I didn't include them. By the "pommels" section I was getting drained. I and others would appreciate it if you would add discussion and images them to this thread.

Best,
Ed
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Old 20th July 2018, 01:00 AM   #8
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Ed, rather than repeat the research of others, here is a link to a thread that was created by Iain for the discussion of double disc pommels:

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18691

Teodor
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Old 20th July 2018, 02:32 AM   #9
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Good addition to the thread. Thanks.
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Old 20th July 2018, 08:13 AM   #10
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Dear Ed,

Your essay is interesting, but I can see a serious problem:
- where are your references, books, articles?

Regards,
Kubur
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Old 20th July 2018, 01:47 PM   #11
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Dear Kubur,

My main reference was on-site research in the Suq al Hadad in Kassala, Sudan in March 1984, associated field notes and written up in my Social Economics of Small Craft Production, the Sword and Knife Makers of Kassaka, Eastern Sudan. (Available from EAA's reference section) I also used G. Reed's 1987 “Kaskara from Northern Darfur, Sudan” in The Journal of The Arms & Armour Society and Lee Jones' “Kaskara of Sudanic Africa”. I inspected and photographed the as-Shinqiti Collection in-situ at the Univ.of Khartoum where I taught a semester in 1984-85. I also used photographs from a couple of my own kaskaras. Most of the other photo references were identified from a Google image search on “Kaskara Silver Grips”. Most of the good stuff was from our own Vikingsword threads and photos. Other photos were from various web sites I incorporated under ”fair use” and did not reference other than their URL address as a live link. I won't mention all the other references, including Sudan Notes and Records articles and the Jay Spauldin works of the Funj Kingdom I reviewed but didn't find anything relevant. I even delved into siting references into the al-Kaid comet or star with a tail; nothing to tie a passage in late Funj times.

If I missed any important or relevent reference, please let me know. Anything to expand our knowledge will be helpful.

Regards,
Ed
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Old 20th July 2018, 04:22 PM   #12
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Kubur, you raise a good point and thanks Ed for clarifying your sources. So much of our research is necessarily conducted from outside the culture. Ed's field data from his time in the Sudan is valuable information, being reported here in a manner subject to review and critique much as a scientific paper presented at a scholarly meeting. The court of "peer review" on this site can be as rigorous as in an academic setting.
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Old 21st July 2018, 08:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
Dear Kubur,

If I missed any important or relevent reference, please let me know. Anything to expand our knowledge will be helpful.

Regards,
Ed


Dear Ed,

You have plently in any catalogue such as Hales, the MET...
Just look at Ricketts, 1988, he mentions the swords of the Darfur and the ones at the Royal armouries (Richardson)...
...
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Old 21st July 2018, 02:25 PM   #14
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Dear Kubur,

Thanks for the references. I tried the on-line MET, but the only photo they had was of the snake double pommel sword, but it wasn't as good as the one Teodor supplied. Ricketts, 1988 looks great, but I don't have access to it. I'll try to get bootleg access via libgen.io. I'd appreciate if you could scan & post the Darfur sword sections. Its difficult for casual researchers to get access to a good reference library without spending a bundle. I'm beginning to think that Darfur may be the birthplace of the Kaskara or at least the key location to its development.

Our inquiry is hampered because mostly we see in books "full face" photos of swords and particularly quillons. We need to be able to handle them and see and photograph from different angles to appreciate their 3-D qualities.

On a separate note, I recently found an 1838 reference to the cross & orb with a lion sword makers mark. Its in Travels in Kordofan by Ignatius Pallme, London 1844. Not a very good cut and paste below. Also note the preferred Death's-head mark by Peter Knell. I'm not familiar with that one.

“Two-edged swords, of Austrian manufacture, are thirty-six inches and a half in length, and one inch and three-quarters in breadth, of equal diameter throughout, and rounded off inferiorly. Seven inches and a quarter in the curve, and marked: 5 with a lion. Thescabbardsandhiltsaremadeinthecountry. They areinmostrequestinDarfour. Thesaleisattendedwithcon siderable profit, but those marked with a death's-head from the workshops of Peter Knell, in Solingen, are preferred. “ (Note: The “5” in the text above in the cross & orb symbol in the original.)

Below are great references I used, but forgot to include in the previous reply to you. They are key to the silver grips of both diamond and star & comet motifs.

“Royal Regalia: a sword of the last Sultan of Darfur, Ali Dinar” J. Anderson, A. Ali Mohaned, et al, Sudan and Nubia, The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, Bulletin No. 20, 2016

Ancient Treasures exhibition from the Sudan National Museum, 2004, The British Museum. D. Welsby & J. Anderson. It shows the 1762 Nasir Mohamed Funj sword. I didn't use the image in the essay because a better one was available elsewhere.

Regards,
Ed

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Old 21st July 2018, 04:46 PM   #15
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Ian,

Great example. Its a new one for me. High-end Beja, my guess. BTW how did you lift (cut & paste) the photos from the web site and to post on a thread? I couldn't make it happen.

Ed
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Old 21st July 2018, 05:09 PM   #16
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Has this beautiful example already been sold, Ian ? .
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Old 21st July 2018, 05:36 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Has this beautiful example already been sold, Ian ? .
I don't know Fernando. There appears to be no way to purchase it online at the web site. I looked at the site as carefully as a non-German speaker can, and tried to determine if it was still for sale. Perhaps your German is better than mine. I will soft delete for now until the status can be confirmed.

BTW, does the date 04-07-2018 mean July 4, 2018 or April 7, 2018 in Europe? I'm always getting confused by these different date formats.

Ian

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Old 21st July 2018, 05:47 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
Ian,

... BTW how did you lift (cut & paste) the photos from the web site and to post on a thread? I couldn't make it happen.

Ed
Ed, you have a PM.


Ian
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Old 21st July 2018, 05:52 PM   #19
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My German is absolute zero, but the page translates automatically into Portuguese as i open it. The way i see it, it has a (fixed) price still open for sale, reason why i asked, expecting to be wrong.
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Old 21st July 2018, 06:01 PM   #20
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Well done, Ed. Solid and well-written paper which establishes a viable typology.

The Funj sword no longer appears in the British Museum database.
Does anyone know the acquisition date?
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Old 21st July 2018, 06:23 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian

BTW, does the date 04-07-2018 mean July 4, 2018 or April 7, 2018 in Europe? I'm always getting confused by these different date formats.

We never had the "July 4" format. We write day/month/year, like 04/07/2018, or skip the zeros (4/7/2018) or even shorten the year( 4/7/18). All those formats are consuetudinary.
However we are now converging to one only system, putting the year in the first place, the month in second and the day in the end (2018/07/04); we already find many blank forms with the corresponding spaces pre-formated ... and even legended. Whether this new system is legally obliging and is European and not only Portuguese, i would have to check.
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Old 21st July 2018, 09:28 PM   #22
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Hello Fernando,

Quote:
However we are now converging to one only system, putting the year in the first place, the month in second and the day in the end (2018/07/04); we already find many blank forms with the corresponding spaces pre-formated ... and even legended. Whether this new system is legally obliging and is European and not only Portuguese, i would have to check.

Nothing binding yet AFAIK - I see it often in scientific contexts; it certainly allows for much better sorting! (Commonly given as 2018-07-04, possibly to differentiate it from the other notions involving slashes or dots as in 4.7.2018 ...)

BTW, Ian, does it matter? (Both dates being in the past...)

Regards,
Kai
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Old 21st July 2018, 11:32 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
... BTW, Ian, does it matter? (Both dates being in the past...) ...

Kai,


Actually it might. As you know, and Fernando correctly pointed out, current items for sale cannot be referenced in Discussions. A July 4th item is more likely to be an active sale than one posted on April 7th.


Ian.
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Old 22nd July 2018, 12:11 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
... Nothing binding yet AFAIK ...

I would say it depends on the perspective. I was checking my State issued documentation and the system is seen all over, namely in the Automobile Circulation Tax and IRS liquidation demo and receipt. So if it is not binding, it has an official posture.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
... it certainly allows for much better sorting! (Commonly given as 2018-07-04, possibly to differentiate it from the other notions involving slashes or dots as in 4.7.2018 ...)

The issue here was the format in which time fractions are presented; separation patterns were not relevant for Ian's question. OTOH, whether the optional use of dashes or slashes may fall into a conventional method, the dots may presuppose a visibility issue.

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Old 22nd July 2018, 12:25 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
... A July 4th item is more likely to be an active sale than one posted on April 7th...

Curiously the date in this Swiss page is broken by slashes (2018/07/04). I do believe the sale is still active, as it even has a box to place offers ... which appears to be functional after you register.
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Old 22nd July 2018, 12:28 PM   #26
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A most useful piece of research by Edster.

The motif of stars is also to be found on coins from the Mahdist era (see image attached). The coins also sometimes have similar "comet or shooting star" forms, however probably then meant to represent foliage ...
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Old 22nd July 2018, 02:36 PM   #27
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Colin,

I'm not really sure the "comets" are comets. Never looked at the overall cover in detail when I photographed them 35 years ago. They just look like they might be such in the photos. Could be foliage. Still an interesting symbolic rich design apparently limited to important swords.

Best,
Ed
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Old 22nd July 2018, 03:29 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
Colin,

I'm not really sure the "comets" are comets. Never looked at the overall cover in detail when I photographed them 35 years ago. They just look like they might be such in the photos. Could be foliage. Still an interesting symbolic rich design apparently limited to important swords.

Best,
Ed


I meant on the coin they look like foliage, but on the sword, could well be comets ?

Regards.
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Old 22nd July 2018, 05:49 PM   #29
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Yes, I agree. Coin foliage. Sword probably comets.
Regards,
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Old 24th July 2018, 01:55 PM   #30
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Oliver,

The 1762 Nasir sword was restored in the British Museum and returned to the Sudanese National Museum in Khartoum. See the "Ancient Treasures" reference in post #14. I'm not aware of the swords history prior to the restoration.

Regards,
Ed
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