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Old 22nd May 2013, 07:05 PM   #1
Iain
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Default Recent takoubas for sharing

Hi all,

Rather than make a few threads I thought I'd just share some recent additions in one go.

1. I put this on here before for a scabbard ID, now I have it in hand, a European blade sword of very fine quality marked with a running wolf. One of the best examples I've had the privilege to handle and I think a quite early example.

2. A very wide bladed sword, mainly of interest for the extreme proportions.

3. An interesting sword with I think a native blade (it was in rough shape when I got it and the blade required some straightening). Oddly marked but obviously of good age.

If anyone thinks they can help ID the scabbard on 1 I'll supply some detail shots of the leatherwork.

Hope you enjoy seeing these, for me at least, the variety in this form continues to be fascinating.

Regards,

Iain
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Old 23rd May 2013, 08:59 AM   #2
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Fine swords Iain - thanks for posting. The blade on sword no. 2 looks as if its from an old European woodsaw blade, converted.

Regards.
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Old 23rd May 2013, 09:36 AM   #3
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Hi Colin, as always thanks for the comments. From period accounts of travelers in Nigeria it would seem there was no problem to use recycled steel sources, two man saws have been around for a while and I guess would have been a likely trade item even in the early colonial days and 19th century. The blade on this is 8.25cm (over 3 inches) wide at the base. The hole I think was probably filled with a copper slug at one point - I've seen this on some other ultra wide bladed takouba.
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Old 23rd May 2013, 09:52 PM   #4
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Very nice Iain, thank you for sharing. My guess is that the running wolf and the circular marking (orb/sun?) were applied to the blade after it reached the Sahel. What do you think?

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 24th May 2013, 06:38 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Very nice Iain, thank you for sharing. My guess is that the running wolf and the circular marking (orb/sun?) were applied to the blade after it reached the Sahel. What do you think?

Regards,
Teodor


Hi Teodor,

Actually I lean towards the wolf and orb being legit in this case. A friend and fellow forum member has a blade to the same pattern and the same marks, also showing great age. http://takouba.org/catalog/index.ph...wolf/takouba-38

On his you can see the orb much clearer.

I could be wrong, but these seem to be well enough made and found in a context that makes sense.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 28th May 2013, 11:50 PM   #6
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Iain,

It will probably be too difficult to tell one way or another with any certainty. Are the markings stamped or scratched?

Teodor
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Old 29th May 2013, 05:11 PM   #7
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In looking at these and reviewing notes I wanted to add some thoughts.
Over time we have discussed the application of European 'type' markings in these regions of Sudan on European trade blades or those entering the trade sphere . While it seems agreed that many interpretations of long established European markings and stamps are copied by native enterprenuers, it is interesting to note the apparantly and relatively consistant use of the running wolf and cross and orb combinations (as seen in the example linked by Iain).

These centrally fullered blades do seem to have existed as exports from Solingen from as early as about 1800, and the application of certain markings in the fuller configuration in a kind of 'brand' presentation seems likely.
It seems quite possible that these markings of the wolf and cross/orb much favored by the Sudanese markets might have been applied by artisans in Solingen context preparing these blades for that export. By the same token, experienced craftsmen in established entrepots receiving blades may well have applied these before distribution to various markets.

I notice that the styling of the running wolf is actually more 'artistically' fashioned than the rather choppy chiseled lines of most of the early wolf marks on European examples. The comparison of the two examples seen here suggests that they might have come from the same 'shop' if not even the same artist working freehand rather than stamping. It would be hard I would think to stamp across a fuller ridge.
Also consider that the 'wolf' and 'cross and orb' were virtually out of use in Europe overall by mid 17th century, but Solingen was still producing traditional blades and weapons for certain markets despite being in degree 'out of vogue'.

While certainly still a conundrum, I would simply venture these considerations as possibilities.

The third example with the heavy ricasso block would certainly be in my thoughts, an earlier European blade, and the 'twig' marks probably are authentic. Again, these are in my opinion more compliance or production markings having more to do in inventory or accountability sense than particular maker or talismanic imbuement. I think many of these kinds of blades were among surplus items probably either among other trade blades or simply shipments of other commodities to supply trade routes.

I agree with Colin, the blade on #2 does look like it may be fashioned from a tool or utility item as many knives are made of old files etc. The hole at that position on the blade is as I understand often copper filled, with this an old tradition applied toward old superstitious beliefs. Many early Islamic swords had gold filled holes in thier blades with various significance, as did Asian and even many European blades. Old traditions stand timelessly in these desert contexts.
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Old 29th May 2013, 07:28 PM   #8
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Hi Jim,

I'm going to respond in some detail if you don't mind, I think this is an important piece and worth a bit of analysis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
In looking at these and reviewing notes I wanted to add some thoughts.
Over time we have discussed the application of European 'type' markings in these regions of Sudan on European trade blades or those entering the trade sphere . While it seems agreed that many interpretations of long established European markings and stamps are copied by native enterprenuers, it is interesting to note the apparantly and relatively consistant use of the running wolf and cross and orb combinations (as seen in the example linked by Iain).

These centrally fullered blades do seem to have existed as exports from Solingen from as early as about 1800, and the application of certain markings in the fuller configuration in a kind of 'brand' presentation seems likely.
It seems quite possible that these markings of the wolf and cross/orb much favored by the Sudanese markets might have been applied by artisans in Solingen context preparing these blades for that export. By the same token, experienced craftsmen in established entrepots receiving blades may well have applied these before distribution to various markets.

I notice that the styling of the running wolf is actually more 'artistically' fashioned than the rather choppy chiseled lines of most of the early wolf marks on European examples. The comparison of the two examples seen here suggests that they might have come from the same 'shop' if not even the same artist working freehand rather than stamping. It would be hard I would think to stamp across a fuller ridge.
Also consider that the 'wolf' and 'cross and orb' were virtually out of use in Europe overall by mid 17th century, but Solingen was still producing traditional blades and weapons for certain markets despite being in degree 'out of vogue'.


I would take a rather different view here. Solingen smiths were producing blades of this basic shape for the schiavona market, often with wolves and crosses and orbs since the 1600s as well as for a variety of other basket hilt swords across the continent. This was an export market as well in that sense and these weapons of course carried around the Med. The 19th century examples found in kaskara and takouba are invariably different in significant ways and I'll detail that a bit more below. Schiavona blades of this style continue up until the late 18th century (dated example)

Wolves with more curved lines quite well known and not all are made with small, chiseled lines joining to create the form. 17th century examples often exhibit longer line forms from my understanding (link). Running wolves are invariably made by engraving or chiseling, not stamping, at lest I can't recall a stamped one. The one on my example is the same. Engraved.

A blade in takouba form, with identical marks is IDed in Briggs as early 16th century, another with very similar marks 17th century. (see attachments) Mine has the identical dimensions as Briggs' piece in terms of fuller dimensions and the described profile.

I'd also highlight by the 19th century the export patterns from Solingen that seem more purpose made for the African market are notably different in form. They are flatter in profile (mass produced from bar stock is perhaps one factor) with entirely different edge geometry (chisel form), the fullers are rougher and if marks are present they are stamped. A fast, efficient method of marking (link to a great example of this).

Of course there is a possibility the marks on mine were done outside of a European context and the blade might certainly not fit into Briggs perhaps early dating. However, I would be surprised if this was a 19th century Solingen item even if the marks were done outside of Solingen, because it does not exhibit the characteristics we see in the 19th century blades from Solingen in kaskara and takouba.

While I am usually hesitant to assert something as earlier than the 19th century in a takouba or kaskara context, in this case I am rather confident. I have not had the time this evening to go through my archive of 16th-17th century single fuller blade images with similar characteristics. But a bit of Googling for schiavona will turn up quite a lot of auction results. But here's a particularly interesting one.

Quote:
While certainly still a conundrum, I would simply venture these considerations as possibilities.

The third example with the heavy ricasso block would certainly be in my thoughts, an earlier European blade, and the 'twig' marks probably are authentic. Again, these are in my opinion more compliance or production markings having more to do in inventory or accountability sense than particular maker or talismanic imbuement. I think many of these kinds of blades were among surplus items probably either among other trade blades or simply shipments of other commodities to supply trade routes.


This sword doesn't actually have a ricasso block. It has a "sandwich" mount of two pieces of steel pinning the blade. The mount is marked in the same way as the blade making the marks suspect in terms of period and application to my mind. The steel is also rather soft, not like most European blades I've had pass through my hands. But I agree, it's a mystery and rather odd. I haven't run into twig marks I considered suspect before.

Quote:
I agree with Colin, the blade on #2 does look like it may be fashioned from a tool or utility item as many knives are made of old files etc. The hole at that position on the blade is as I understand often copper filled, with this an old tradition applied toward old superstitious beliefs. Many early Islamic swords had gold filled holes in thier blades with various significance, as did Asian and even many European blades. Old traditions stand timelessly in these desert contexts.


Yep, I think we are getting towards a consensus this is probably made from a tool. The saw seems the most likely due to the sheer width of the piece.

Really appreciate the time you took to respond here Jim, I enjoy the discussion immensely even if I don't agree all the time!

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 29th May 2013, 07:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Iain,

It will probably be too difficult to tell one way or another with any certainty. Are the markings stamped or scratched?

Teodor


Hi Teodor,

Not stamped, engraved (wolves are typically engraved or chiseled) see my previous reply to Jim.

These things are always tricky to judge but having seen a few obviously native examples on takouba... I'm somewhat more certain than usual.
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Old 31st May 2013, 01:07 AM   #10
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Absolutely perfectly presented case Iain!! and I am inclined to concede on your position for the blades being potentially schiavona 'types' which seem to have Solingen origins. The cross and orb and wolf being on reverse and obverse sides of blade across these distinct central ellipse type fullers indeed are seen on schiavona with these blades as you have shown.

I must admit that even on the European examples shown, these figures seem oddly placed as if being applied in observation of older tradition. It would seem that they might have been applied in trade entrepots coming out of Solingen? In this case whether the blades were to end up in Italian markets or Meditteranean toward North Africa, the marks would have been found both in schiavona as well as North African markets, Red Sea or Arabian routes.

I feel that Briggs, despite the well known value of his work, was a bit optimistic in suggesting 16th century on these blades, but certainly later 17th and well through 18th is evidenced with these schiavona shown.

Quite frankly I need to refamiliarize with the varying blade forms seen on both takouba and kaskara which seem to be 1) extant blades from earlier European import, 2) blades imported from mid to latter 19th c. through colonial trade 3) native made blades using imported sheet steel and stock from railroad and automotive , as well as various tools and implements.

I had completely forgotten the adabal, or sheet steel blocks sandwiched on forte, in the case of the takouba I thought had a block forte. Clearly the stamped marks must have been applied by native artisan.

Discussion is discussion regardless of agreement or not, and this is outstanding as I enjoy learning. Iain, your tenacity and detailed research into comprehensively understanding all aspects of these tribal cultures has added fantastic dimension to these weapons.

All the very best,
Jim
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Old 3rd June 2013, 02:09 PM   #11
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I wanted to add a few detail photos of the leatherwork on sword #1 in the hopes someone will recognize the style and technique.

I have made little progress myself although I feel the scabbard would point away from Tuareg, Fulani or Hausa attributions.

All help appreciated.

Iain
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Old 3rd June 2013, 02:18 PM   #12
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Hi Iain

From memory - there is an excellent, but scarce book, called "Au Sahara" by Gabus ?, which has lots of designs etc., if you can lay your hands on a copy...
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Old 4th June 2013, 03:47 PM   #13
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Hi Colin,

Thanks for the suggestion, I will try to find the book you mentioned. Sounds intriguing!

I will take some photos soon of a Manding scabbard I have that has some interesting similarities with this one. For example leather applied over textile and the interwoven squares among the patterns.

Regards,

Iain
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Old 4th June 2013, 05:19 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Hi Colin,

Thanks for the suggestion, I will try to find the book you mentioned. Sounds intriguing!

I will take some photos soon of a Manding scabbard I have that has some interesting similarities with this one. For example leather applied over textile and the interwoven squares among the patterns.

Regards,

Iain


Hi Iain

Those patterns of small boxes remind me a bit of amuletic squares, containing magic numbers etc ?? The other half circles and triangles are often seen on Sahel/Sahara jewellery and leather work, such as bags, saddle covers and the like...

All the best,
Colin
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Old 8th June 2013, 12:46 PM   #15
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Here's a comparison showing a Manding scabbard I have and this takouba scabbard. With the elements I'm seeing in common highlighted.
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Old 8th June 2013, 01:00 PM   #16
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To add to the post above... Here's a Nupe stool with some strikingly similar patterns and color work. However I would find it odd if this scabbard is Nupe since there's plenty of other Nupe scabbards on takouba around and none of them look like this...
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Old 2nd September 2013, 02:24 PM   #17
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Instead of making yet another takouba thread.... I'll just put my latest addition here. A nice, unmarked single fuller example with brass hilt.
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Old 2nd September 2013, 04:55 PM   #18
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Nice one, thank you for sharing!

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 3rd September 2013, 02:06 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen
Nice one, thank you for sharing!

Regards,

Detlef


Thanks! I feel lucky to have a few of these 'heavier' takouba now with very big beefy blades. I'm a bit surprised this one isn't marked at all (perhaps something hidden under the guard, but there's no way to disassemble it).

The different levels of sharpening on takouba intrigue me, this one is quite worn while the one at the beginning of this thread has an older blade and has much less wear...
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Old 24th September 2013, 07:43 PM   #20
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At the risk of boring you all to death with yet another of these...
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Old 24th September 2013, 11:20 PM   #21
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Very nice gurda markings. Iain, is this takouba double or single edged? If double, was the blade originally like that?

Teodor
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Old 25th September 2013, 08:33 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Very nice gurda markings. Iain, is this takouba double or single edged? If double, was the blade originally like that?

Teodor


Hi Teodor,

Thre sickles and astral configurations are present on one side of the blade only. This was originally a single edged backsword blade, modified to be double edged in these mounts. There's a well worn ricasso as well.

This one has seen a lot of use and repeat sharpening in it's life and the mounts are decently old.

Iain
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Old 25th September 2013, 04:31 PM   #23
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Very nice sword indeed. Based on the hilt, would you classify it as Hausa?

Teodor
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Old 25th September 2013, 04:44 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Very nice sword indeed. Based on the hilt, would you classify it as Hausa?

Teodor


Thanks! I'd actually put it down as Tuareg, but it's tough to say really. Without a scabbard it gets even tougher.

Decoratively there's nothing here to really distinguish this. This is an old drawing of a Tuareg example: http://encyclopedieberbere.revues.o.../2159/img-1.png with a Spanish blade.

Even after much trying I've yet to find a definitive way to make ethnic classifications. Hausa tends to use longer scabbard throats and chaps, Nupe pieces are often all metal hilts. The wide blades are pretty distinctive etc...

But your basic mounts like these... Not really all that distinct.

It used to annoy me, but more and more I see it as a pattern that was simply very common across a large area and a type manufactured in the greatest numbers in a few commercial centers and widely exported. Hence it's not surprising to see them distributed far and wide among various ethnic groups, rather than being tribally distinct.
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Old 26th September 2013, 12:25 AM   #25
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Iain, thanks for the explanation, always good to learn more about these obscure swords and your posts here and on your web site have been a great source of knowledge.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 26th September 2013, 08:05 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Iain, thanks for the explanation, always good to learn more about these obscure swords and your posts here and on your web site have been a great source of knowledge.

Regards,
Teodor


Hi Teodor, I always enjoy sharing and appreciate when folks like yourself take the time to comment. As you say it's a bit obscure and somewhat of a lonely road collecting these!

One of the things I find the most interesting about them relates to the points I made above - they just don't fit well into the tribal oriented tendencies of most African arms collectors. IDing one is like someone gave you a Medieval European sword, told you the blade was German but that it could have been hilted anywhere in the continent and that there was no collection date, no details of where it had been found and zero period artwork to work with.

Takouba cover a similar range and provide similar frustrations. I can't say I've come any closer to pinning down precise attribution over the years, but I am least more comfortable with not being sure.

I have another one I was going to wait until I had in hand to show off, but I may as well do it here. It's a very old example with again a European blade. It has a couple rather unique features. First the tip retains the original form. Second the pommel rivet is a block and very well worked, rather than the usual little tang nub.

The blade has the Italian marca a mosca at the base and traces of an inlaid wolf further down.

I've been waiting a while to get this one in my hands! It's one of the more exciting ones to become available this year.
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Old 28th September 2013, 11:07 AM   #27
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Yes! Very convincing.
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Old 28th September 2013, 11:36 AM   #28
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Quote:
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Yes! Very convincing.


Good to hear from you Lee! Yes, I think the last sword I posted has some rather special characteristics. More may become clear when it is in hand.
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