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Old 18th August 2018, 10:50 PM   #1
Ian
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Default Kaskara Cross-guards—a second essay for comment by Ed Hunley (part 1)

--------------------------------------------
Moderator's Comment:
The following essay on the crossguards—quillons and langets—of kaskara swords was prepared by Ed Hunley for discussion and comment.
As with another recent effort by Ed regarding silver-covered hilts on kaskara, this essay is quite long and graphically rich,
and therefore needed to be divided into sections to accommodate posting limitations imposed by the Forum.
My role has been to help place the material on to the Forum pages and provide some editorial suggestions.
All substantive comments should be directed to Ed. Ian.
---------------------------------------------

The kaskara sword’s cross-guard (quillon) is a signature design element of the weapon, yet it has been largely ignored in the literature. The guard is notable for its four-sided “lozenge” cross-section, often flared at the ends. It performs two or three functions:
  • protection of the user’s hand from sword strikes;
  • a structural element to “unitize” and secure the blade, guard and grip into a functional whole; and, perhaps debatable,
  • a surface to place a forefinger to help control the user's strike.
Our main interests herein will be the lozenge design element, the Sudanese names of the stylistic variations, and the methods of quillon fabrication. This presentation is based on limited primary on-site research at the sword and knife makers’ market in Kassala, Sudan over six days in the spring of 1984 and field notes, as well as:
  • direct inspection of four kaskaras in my collection acquired in Kassala;
  • a wealth of online information and images from researchers, enthusiasts and collectors in multiple posts on the Ethnographic Arms and Armor Forum of vikingsword.com; and
  • the reading of period travelers’ accounts and seminal books of arms and armor authors.
Despite these rich resources, no doubt there are serious gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the subject. This preliminary presentation will be greatly enhanced by comments, discussions, and corrections from readers of these pages.

The preponderance of travelers’ narratives permit us to stipulate that, at least during the 18th and 19th C, most of the straight broadsword blades used in the Central and Eastern Sahel Region—the strip from the Hausa states, Karem-Bornu, Wadai, Darfur, Kordofan and Funj—were imported from Europe, overwhelmingly in bulk from Solingen, Germany. Many were imported via Bornu, mounted there, and distributed through the region, as noted by Denham, et al. (1822), Barth (1850), and Tonkin (1903). An earlier report from the Funj area (Father Theodoro Krump, 1700–1702) noted that a European swordsmith in Sinnar could not find work and made iron currency pieces. Native blades, of variable quality, were made in Sudan at least from the Mahdiya period (1881–1898) and “factory production” continues today in Omdurman, Kassala, and Port Sudan.

These swords are known to Western enthusiasts and collectors for their iconic qualities and are referred to as the kaskara. While the blade is the business end, it is not the focus of this investigation. The gripped end of the sword defines the nominal kaskara: it typically consists of a wooden grip wrapped in a leather strip, topped with a leather-bound disk, and a characteristic range of simple straight cross-guards or quillons. The kaskara is always carried in a scabbard with a leaf-like profile at the bottom. [Note: Mandinka swords from West Africa also have a leaf-shaped scabbard, but there are apparently no strong cultural links that would have influenced the design of the kaskara’s scabbard.]

Quillons are made by specialized craftsmen, not swordsmiths. Typically, a blacksmith forges the complete unit and other artisans smooth and finish the item before passing it on to the swordsmith who assembles the unified basic sword. There were four cross-guard makers in Kassaka in 1984: one of these makers was described as producing "excellent" examples, one "good" and two "poor." Each could make up to 10 units per day. A separate worker finished them with a file and sand paper.

Five types of quillons are identified:

1. Sammaniya
a. Small flare, forged iron
b. Large flare, forged iron
c. Large flare, gilded forged iron and perhaps cast copper alloy
2. Mutamaan, forged iron

3. Sennariya, forged iron

4. One-piece, forged angle iron

5. Cast copper alloy on Thuluth swords

The swordsmiths of the Kassala Suq al Hadad provided me the technical details of Types 1–4 above. The cross-guard is called tomot in the Hadendawa language for "two boys going together" re the two langets perpendicular to the horizontal. The Arabic word is bersham.

1. Sammaniya

The Sammaniya form, with its flared lozenge ends, is perhaps the signature style of the Sudanese Kaskara. The cross-guard has two side facets on front and back, with a flat top and bottom, for a total of six forged surfaces. The guard is forged one half at a time. The front and back langets, extending above and below the quillon body halves (four pieces) are then forge-welded into a complete unit. This is the common construction technique of the three named forms. See Figure 1 below.

The origin of the name is unknown. It is known that the Sammaniya Sufi order was introduced into Sudan soon after 1775. The Mahdi inherited the leadership of this order, but then condemned Sufi practices as against the values of the Mahdiya movement. After 1899, under British administration, sufism, always just under the surface, re-emerged to its former popular level.

We see Sammaniyas in three versions, as noted above. I suggest that the small flare is the parent design. Its origin is unknown. Its genesis is mainly debated to be either the Funj Kingdom in the 1500–1821 period, to the West in the Hausa and Bornu areas, the Mamluk designs up the Nile or via NE Sudan Arab immigrations from Arabia and Red Sea trade routes. Sir Samuel Baker (1861), while in Eastern Sudan, recorded that the Arab tribesmen in that area used similar double-edged straight swords with a plain bar cross-guard. He did not note any details of the guard. Sheiks and other high status individuals carried swords with silver mounted hilts as symbols of their authority.

Less extreme/normal flares, represent the ancestor of the form. A typical example shown in Figure 1, reportedly made in 1916 in Kassala, has the six forged surfaces and a modest flare to the diamond lozenge. This is quality work. Note the symmetrical facets, flat top, vertically aligned lozenges, and forge-welded langet. A Kassala swordsmith said in 1984 that this type of guard can no longer be made by contemporary smiths.

Sometimes a decorative “X” is cut in the center of the cross-guard. Most are found on Sammaniya styles, in both the greater- and less-flared examples. It is a stylistic enhancement with no other apparent meaning. My informant in 1984 said that some people preferred it. In my collection, the example shown in Figure 1 does not have an “X,” and another one that does is not a good example. An illustrative example is shown in Figure 2 from Sothebys’ auction site.

The extreme flares may be the highest form of Kaskara art. These are most often seen on presentation swords, like several from Ali Dinar's arsenal in Darfur in the 1902–1915 period. The forged iron example from Sothebys' site was dated 1902–1903 (Figure 2). In the enlargement notice the “X,” the filed lines at the ends of the lozenges, and the faceted lower langet. The enhanced langet detail is not seen in normally flared examples. Also, note the inscriptions on the ends of the lozenges.

Some extreme flares are seen on gilded, forged iron examples, for example British Museum kaskara Aft. 1932.1014. An example from Christies has a gilded guard (Figure 3). Another example of unknown origin has a rough cast copper alloy quillon with flared tips [Figure 4 (by Stephen Wood)]. I have seen no historical reference to Sudanese copper alloy casting practices. El Tounsy (1851) did observe that, along with blacksmiths and weavers, founders were among the trades present in Darfur and Wadai. The necessary materials were available in Darfur: zinc and old copper were imported from Egypt and were highly valued.

-----------Figures 1,2,3,4----------
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Old 19th August 2018, 12:03 AM   #2
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Default Kaskara Cross-guards—a second essay for comment by Ed Hunley (part 2)

An interesting example also comes from Almay Stock Images (Figure 5). It shows an upside down view of a brass quillon on a sword given by Ali Dinar to Slatin Pasha in 1910. Note the smoothness of the joint between the guard and the langet, an unlikely feature if it were forged and gilded.

With one exception, the known extreme-flare examples do not predate the Sultan Ali Dinar era (1899–1916). (The exception is a 1884 dated gift from him to his son Mazmal and shown on the Bonham Auction site (Figure 6). They seem to appear only in the Ali Dinar regalia and presentation swords and in those shown in Reed’s sketches from Darfur (Reed, 1987; numbers L1 and L2) of examples that were owned by the leader of a tribal section affiliated with Dinar's dynastic base and were handed down from probably the early 20th Century. I have not seen any extreme flared swords reported to be British war trophies of the 1885 and 1898 battles with the Mahdists, or other heirlooms from Mahdist or earlier Sudanese contexts.

Ali Dinar is known to have had a workshop in El Fashir to "produce locally many of the articles of kingly ambience that characterized the life-style of the region’s elite" (L. Kaptelins and J. Spaulding, Gifts Worthy of Kings: An Episode in Dar Fur-Taqali Relations, 1990.) He presented to Makk Jayli of Taqali several "instruments of state" including a native-made (not imported) sword, "silvered, with rivets of silver, decorative beads of silver, mother of pearl, silver rings, a silver pommel and tanned leather" and other weapons wound in silver wire (Kaptelins & Spaulding, 1990, p. 68). No date of the gift or description of the quillons is available. Taqali was a small sultanate in the Nuba Hills of southern Kordofan. It was conquered by Mahdist forces, but again became semi-autonomous at the British Reconquest when the gifts were presented.

It is easy to believe that Ali Dinar's craftsmen and jewelers had the design inspiration and skills to expand the common slightly flared quillon into the elegant version we see in his regalia and diplomatic creations. One reason for the flared design may have been to create space on the quillon ends to inscribe religious or genealogical texts (See Figure 5 above). The crack in the Ali Dinar's workshop theory lies in the flared copper alloy quillon sword given by him to his son in 1884 noted above and in Figure 6. The former Sultanate of Darfur was conquered by Egypt in 1874 and by the Mahdi's forces in 1883. Those conditions would provide little opportunities for such a sword to be made. It is doubtful that the craftsmen and facilities persisted for some three generations from the reigns of Ali Dinar's ancestors of the Keira dynasty. They may have drawn technical expertise from the Bornu kingdom and other more civilizing influences from the west, but there is no evidence that this happened.

Julie Anderson and others of the British Museum have written an excellent article Royal Regalia: a sword of the last Sultan of Darfur, Ali Dinar (In: Sudan & Nubia, Sudan Archaeological Research Society Bulletin 20, 2016, p.161). Permission has been requested to place this article on the EAA web site in the Geographic Section under Africa (a link will be provided here when that occurs).

Another example of an exaggerated flared lozenge is the Nasir Mohammad Funj-era sword, now in the Sudanese National Museum in Khartoum. It has been dated to 1762. It has a forged iron Sammaniya quillon, like the Ali Dinar examples, but has a star and comet silver grip cover similar to examples brought back to England from the 1899 war. The Nasir blade could well be 18th Century, but the grip appears to be much later. See Fig. 7 which shows the unrestored grip end.

Not all flared quillons are associated with Sudan. Figure 8 (www.michaeldlong.com/Catalogue/Swords/19th-Century/Rest-of-the-World/Italian-SPQR-Short-Sword.aspx) is a modern Italian SPQR short sword. The copper alloy quillon is indistinguishable from a Sammaniya quillon. It even has the decorative “X,” but no apparent langets. The site supposes that it is 20th C. It would be interesting to explore the design linkage.

----------Figures 5,6,7,8----------
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Old 19th August 2018, 12:03 AM   #3
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Default Kaskara Cross-guards—a second essay for comment by Ed Hunley (part 3)

2. Muthamaan

This form appears to be a degenerate form of the Sammaniya. It is technically easier to forge than the more sophisticated form. Smiths with lesser skills can produce the newer form. The lozenges remain on the ends, but they are only slightly flared and the top and bottom surfaces sort of meld into the two side facets (Fig. 9; collection of the author). After the first quarter of the 20th C, as an earlier generation of master forgers apparently became less active, this type becomes more common.

The term muthamaan is said to derive from a form of the number eight in Arabic, thamaaniya. The mu-prefix has an Arabic grammatical function implying “to make,” hence muthamaan means “to make eight.” A native speaker will certainly correct me, but the reader will get the idea. I count two facets on each side, front and back for eight surfaces total when both the right and left sides are counted. In contrast, the Sammaniya style has twelve total surfaces.

3. Sennariya

This type is perhaps the most simple yet most elegant of the kaskara quillon types. It departs from the lozenge ends of the Sammaniya and Muthamaan types and may pre-date them. The ends are spatulate or more like a thick straight screw driver (Fig. 10, Stephen Wood) with the flat top and vertical sides, and Chris’ oblique bottom view with forge welded langets (Fig.11). In both examples the top and bottom surfaces are finished smooth and flat and are of good quality. Note in Stephen's grip the securing pin and open tendon of the upper part of the langet. This illustrates a structural component addressed below.

The origin of this form is unknown. Sennar was the capital of the Funj Empire (1500–1821) and is 250 km south of Khartoum on the Blue Nile River. The form may have originated in Sennar during the Funj times and may be the original kaskara cross-guard. Why else would the type be called Sennariya? The picture of a Funj King dated 1821 indicates vertically flared ends on the guard, although they could be flared and spatulate. Note that the quillon appears to be adorned perhaps with precious stones (Fig. 12,13).

I offer a thought experiment to explain how the Sammaniya style perhaps evolved from the Sennariya style. It involves a bit of blacksmith empathy. We see that the Sennariya style essentially begins with a rectangular iron bar with parallel horizontal surfaces at 90 degrees to the vertical. Suppose a smith turns the bar 45º to present a rhombic/diamond cross-section, with facets on all four planes. Now hammer the top and bottom facets flat to form horizontal surfaces at the blade end of the half guard and taper to the ends while preserving the diamond cross-section. Now dress to create the lozenge ends. The piece now has six surfaces. Split the blade end of the quillon to accept the blade and wooden handle and the piece looks like half of a Sammaniya quillon. Have I explained this the way I envision it? Will the process actually work as a forging exercise?

----------Figures 9,10,11,12,13-----------
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Old 19th August 2018, 12:04 AM   #4
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Default Kaskara Cross-guards—a second essay for comment by Ed Hunley (part 4)

4. One-Piece Cross-guard

Mohammad Tomaniye was the first person to forge the entire guard from a single piece, using flattened angle iron in 1943. He devised a template with the center of a rectangular piece pierced by a Z-type cut as shown below and the long sides are forged to the cross shape. The short stubs form the langets and the other pieces which parallel the blade. The one-piece aspect of the guard doesn't permit even a slight flare at the ends. Mr. Tomaniye's innovation allowed a serviceable unit to be produced that doesn't require the high skills of the Sammaniya, yet resulted in a product similar to the Muthamaan or Sennariya faster and more efficiently. A one-piece unit replaced one that previously required aligning and forge welding four separate pieces together. Apparently by 1984 all quillons produced in Kassaka were of this simplified type.

Figure 14 shows the flat template, while Figure 15 shows two completed forged guards. The right unit is a Sennariya style and the left side is a Muthanaan, almost a Sammaniya. Either style can be forged from the same templated sheet.

It is possible to determine by inspection the difference between the one-piece and the Muthamaan. Note the gap line on the bottom of the right unit in Figure 15. This is where the forge weld line was not completely fused. The photo the bottom of one of my sword's quillon suggests the beginning of a similar gap. Note the small lozenge end as well (Figure 17).

Comparison of Four Similar Swords' Quillons of the Sammaniya Style

I compared my four middling kaskara swords and attempted to place each into its correct type. They are shown together in Figures 16 and 17.
#1 is reported of c. 1914 vintage and is definitely a Sammaniya type. Note its flat top and bottom, horizontal facets, total of six surfaces per half, vertically aligned end lozenges, and obviously forge welled langets.

#2 is of unknown age. It has a rough finish with considerable surface scratches, no patina. It almost looks like neglected “new, old stock”, but after all it is at least 35 years old. The top is flat, but somewhat abbreviated, the facets are rather rounded, but in the ends form lozenges that are slightly askew, its hard to tell if the langets were attached separately or part of a one-piece forging. The “X” cut into the metal at the junction may be disguising the weld, but a look inside the mount doesn't confirm it either way. I would reluctantly classify it as a “Gentleman's C” Sammaniya, but then again the suggestion of the hairline could make it a close cousin to the one-piece Sammaniya-style forged from flat angle iron (Figure 15).

#3 is also of unknown age. The front facets roll over to form lozenge ends several degrees from the vertical. It has no flat top or bottom. The langet weld joint may be obscured by the “X” marks both front and back. This meets the criteria for a Muthmaan.

#4 is also of unknown age. The surfaces are rolled like #3 and the lozenges are askew and much smaller than expected. There are no joints between the body and the langets, being folded parts of the same metal template. This is obviously a one-piece and made after 1943 at the earliest. Further evidence is found in the bottom views. Note the hairline at the end of one 'V' section. That suggests an incomplete forge-weld joint, as shown in Figure 15.
In assessing the age and type of a kaskara it is important to look at the bottoms as well as the tops of the guard, and for forge-welded joints between the body and the langets.

----------Figures 14,15,16,17-----------
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Old 19th August 2018, 12:16 AM   #5
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Default Kaskara Cross-guards—a second essay for comment by Ed Hunley (part 5)

5. Thuluth Cast Copper Alloy Quillons

Thuluth style swords have prayers etched on the blade. Some blades are battle quality, but others are relatively thin and meant for symbolic purposes (or even as souvenirs). They were popular during the Mahdiya period (1881–1898), while others may have been produced during the early post-reconquest period. The quillons are variously described as cast brass or cast bronze and have langets like the other types described herein. Most have rounded button-like tips (Figure 18; Heritage Auctions). Also, note the sharpened blade edge noting a more serious purpose. Others may exhibit a tip profile suggestive of the Sennariya style (Figure 19).

It is unclear where these swords were made. During the Khalifa's administration the import of copper from Egypt was restricted and available supplies were likely used to make rifle ammunition in Omdurman's arsenal. Informants in Kassala in 1984 said that they had done brass casting there in the undefined past, but offered no further explanation. In 1871, Frederic-Benoit Garnier wrote about imports through Suakin from Egypt. Andreas, in a 2014 Ethnographic Arms and Armor post, translates from the French that “among the goods were blades and cross guards of German manufacture.” The type and material of these cross-guards are not further identified nor was their ultimate disposition. They could have sat in a warehouse in Khartoum until found and used, if cast copper alloy, on Thuluth swords during the Mahdiya.

The Thuluth style sword, blade and quillon, is more or less a dead end. Its popularity was apparently short lived and associated mainly with the Mahdiya. It likely would never be seen in the field as a symbol of authority or a weapon for self-defense or conflict. Yet the type is interesting historically and stylistically. Jim McDougall and Iain Norman have discussed the form extensively and their inputs are well worth absorbing. More information and discussion of this type of sword can be found in the links below, among others.

Fig. 20 http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14711
Fig. 21 http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=16477
Fig. 22 http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?p=220571

Additionally, Figure 23 comes from a report (http://cool.conservation-us.org/ana...AGPIC_Grady.pdf) of a technical appraisal and protective treatment of a Thuluth sword and monitor lizard skin scabbard. It is interesting not because it is Thuluth, but due to the assessment and treatment processes. The cross-guard, like the Heritage Auctions’ example in Fig. 18, was thought likely to have been made of recycled brass and copper materials (Grady, p.14).

Structural Role of Cross-guards

In addition to its protective and decorative roles, the cross-guard performs a structural role. The wooden grip is cut and relieved to wedge between the blade and the guard to securely hold it in place. [See the wooden handle driven into the quillon in Figure 17.] Also the vertical langets fit into the slots in the wood grip (see also Figure 10).

Many, perhaps most, blades have a flat tang 2-3 inches long with an approximately ¼-inch hole. They seem to be typical in both imported and native blades, but I am open to correction. It is of a width much less than the blade. A tang with such a hole is shown in Figure 24 (Mefidk). [This tang seems to have a more defined outline than the few native blades I seen. I wonder if tang shape could be diagnostic for native or imported blades.] The soft wooden grip has a hole cut in it to accept the tang. Additionally, the grip is inlet/open-mortised to accept the vertical “up” langets of the quillon. The bottom of the grip is relieved to be tapped between the opening in the quillon to vedge in the blade. A pin is then inserted through the grip, through the tang hole, and peened to hold the parts securely together. The second from the left in Figure 25 (Colin Henshaw) has a pin. The other three examples are indeterminate.

A 2018 a video made in the Kassala sword suq shows a different way to attach the blade and wooden grip (Figure 26; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiwvGpbYhms). Here the smith inserts a “rat tail” type sword tang into the grip and into the cross-guard (see video at 47 seconds). This seems less secure than the pinned tang method, but the design shown may facilitate easier assembly, and now that the sword is mainly ceremonial and not subject to the rigors of combat the fixing of the hilt and guard may not need to be as strong as previously. The video also shows craftsmen smoothing a newly made cross-guard. Its interesting to see that swords are still being made in essentially the same way as in 1984, and basically forever.

It appears that all of the swords brought back to Britain as war trophies in the late 19th C were of a homogenous design within the scope of the Samanniya, Sennariya and so called Thuluth styles, either plain, silver or reptile dressed. The Samanniya with its slightly flared ends appears by far to be dominant.


----------Figures 18,19,24,25----------
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Old 19th August 2018, 12:19 AM   #6
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Default Kaskara Cross-guards—a second essay for comment by Ed Hunley (part 6)

Questions remain:
When did the Samanniya style originate, become homogenous,
and the signature style of the Mahdist Era?

I think the answer to all elements is, “We don't know.” There is scant and
scattered physical evidence. I have summarized what I have found.
Others, please add to what is known and may be known.

The accounts of 18th and 19th C European travelers to the Central and Eastern Sahel may be our best available sources of information or lack thereof on the swords and their quillons. Historians of the period are also in the mix. Many observers noted the availability of imported Solingen sword blades, and only a few even suggest the grip portions of the swords observed.


Historical notes
1700–1702 Father Theodoro Krump (translated by Jay Spaulding) in the Funj lands reports that swords were a symbol of authority among the Funj hierarchy, and separately, that a sword brandished by a local Arab prince was "like that of Emperor Charles." [Fig. 27 is a replica version of a sword of Charles V. Other swords of the period had loop guards as well.] Krump also observes that slave infantry carry lances and shields while horse and camel cavalry use lances or sabres.

The 1762 dated Funj sword of Nasir Mohammad. See Fig. 7 above (unrestored). While the blade may be 18th Century, I doubt the period date because the quillon is heavily flared like the Ali Dinar examples of 1899 period. Also, the silver grip cover has the star & comet design like much later examples.

A print of the Funj King with sword dated 1821. Fig. 12 above. (The source of the print is unknown to me. It is assumed that the artist was faithful to the physical item.) The scabbard already has the leaf shaped lower part characteristic of the kaskara. An enlargement of hilt area (Fig. 13 above) shows what looks like a jeweled quillon considerably wider than the Samanniya type, more like a takouba. The pommel is not visible, but one could imagine the upper and lower langets of a kaskara.

During 1837–39 Ignatius Pallme traveling in Darfur and Kordofan observed “that people use swords without guards, hilts covered with leather. Sheikhs’ swords have “massive silver hilts, terminating in a knob as large as a hen’s egg of the metal.” [The Mandinka of West Africa don’t have guards on their swords and use a leaf-style end on their scabbards. The scabbard style carried by Haj pilgrams passing through Sennar may have influenced the kaskara scabbard appearance. See Fig. 28.]

1851. Following Pallme’s observation, El Tounsy in his 1851“Voyage to Wadai” (Darfur's neighbor to the west) has a lithograph of a Wadai knight with a sword with similar knob. See Fig. 29. These two observations suggest that the kaskara’s home is not in the West. [As a footnote, he observed that the silver pommels were hollow, containing pebbles that produce a jingling sound. These are called garlic-heads.]

1861–62 Samuel Baker explored the upper Atbara River east from the Nile and observed that rank and file Arab’s swords had a plain bar cross-guard while the sheiks, etc. wear silver-hilted swords. While he did measure the swords, he apparently wasn’t interested in the fine points of sword accessory design. Also, the Hamran sword hunters he met were equipped with straight, double-edged swords, but he did not comment on guards.

In 1874–1875 Arthur Myers and others had a big game hunting experience with the same tribe of sword hunters. There are photos taken by Roland Ward, but they are unlikely to include other than portraits of their dead animals.

1871. Frederic-Benoit Garnier wrote about imports through Suakin from Egypt. Andreas, in a 2014 EAA post, translates from the French that “among the goods were blades and cross guards of German manufacture. “ This is the first and only reference to imported German cross-guards. We don't know the material or design on the cross-guards, nor has any known examples emerged.

1879 lithograph by Robert Hartmann in the Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, Vol 11, 1879 in German (Journal of Ethnology) shows a horseman with a kaskara with a leaf shaped scabbard. The hilt and quillon appear to be like the classic kaskara style, but since it's from a sketch, the details are not definitive. Google Translate produced “Sukuri Rider in Full Armor”. I assume he was a Shukriyya Arabic tribal knight in the Northern Butana Plain area of Eastern Sudan. See Fig. 30.

1885–1998. The overwhelming majority of the war trophies brought back to England display the classic characteristic of kaskara quillons named herein and with the characteristic leaf scabbard. (Exceptions are virtually limited to reptile skins on hilts and scabbards which may be associated with various reptile cults especially in the southern range of the Mahdiya controlled lands. Many of these are associated with Thuluth blades. I read somewhere that the exotic reptile dress was made to appeal to visitors or British Condominium staff.) This suggests that the kaskara, as we know it, had been homogenized and made universal before or near the beginning of the Mahdiya in 1881-85 or certainly after 1885 when the Khalifa consolidated his power after the Mahdi's death.

1899–1916. With the exception of the 1884 outlier, in my understanding virtually all the extreme flared Samanniya quillons were made during Ali Dinar's restoration of the Darfur Sultanate. Reed’s 1987 LI & LII, as well as others, were likely made during this period, as well. I have no information on the fate of Dinar’s workshop after his reign ended.
Thus, we have scant evidence from remote and static sources to support our speculation. In order to progress, we need on-site primary research by Sudanese investigators. Local people have memories, provenanced swords, and perhaps documents that could elucidate our inquiry, but as time goes by fewer exist. No doubt dated heirloom swords still exist in context. But then again, "Who will bell the cat?"

Ed Hunley
August, 2018


----------Figures 27,28,29,30----------
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Old 20th August 2018, 05:25 PM   #7
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Say, Ian ...

Doesn't this work qualify for a sticky in the Ethno Classic threads ?
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Old 21st August 2018, 12:51 AM   #8
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Hi Fernando:

Yes, I think it probably does--along with Ed's earlier post on kaskara silver hilts.

I have now added this thread and Ed's earlier one to the Classic Threads List.

Ian.

Last edited by Ian : 21st August 2018 at 02:55 AM. Reason: Comment about Classic Threads List
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Old 21st August 2018, 11:12 AM   #9
Martin Lubojacky
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An old painting from the museum in Addis Ababa (cca 17th century)
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Old 21st August 2018, 02:35 PM   #10
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Thanks for your observation/image, Martin. You're correct that there may be a substantial link between the Funj and Ethiopia and other nearby Christian states and the origin of the kaskara. There were a few Christian kingdoms remaining near Ethiopia after the Funj defeated the main one (can't recall its name just now) with capital near present day Khartoum.

I found this thread after the Essay has gone to press. Discussion on this subject herein.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...+Kaskara+blades

Also Kubur presented this 1845 image in that same thread. Others have been shown previously by others.

Regards,
Ed
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Old 22nd August 2018, 04:34 PM   #11
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From the Ethyopian.

Through the Mamluk swords.

We will finish in Byzantium.
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Old 23rd August 2018, 12:21 PM   #12
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Midelburgo.

Thanks for your comment. You could well be proven correct. Still need more research on the technical transition/evolution of how the quillon is attached to the blade and tang.

Regards,
Ed
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Old 21st September 2018, 03:20 PM   #13
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In the body of this essay I mentioned an article on Ali Dinar swords by Julia Anderson, et al of the British Museum. I highly recommend it on this interesting subject. That article is now available of the EAA Geographical Index as below:

J. Anderson, A. Ali Mohaned, et al, “Royal Regalia: a sword of the last Sultan of Darfur, Ali Dinar” Sudan and Nubia, The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, Bulletin No. 20, 2016 (Available from EAAGI or via this link: http://www.vikingsword.com/ethsword...erson_et_al.pdf

Best,
Ed
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Old 2nd April 2019, 08:39 PM   #14
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The .pdf and printable version of this essay is now available on the EAA Geographical Index as "Kaskara Cross-guards/Quillons"

or directly via this link.

http://vikingsword.com/ethsword/hun...kara_guards.pdf

As with the Kaskara Fullers monograph, I am indebted to Lee Jones who's layout and editing skills converted the raw thread into a professional document. Also, a special thanks to Ian Greaves who converted my original text and images into a readable thread.

I also appreciate the valuable insights of various Forum Members who added their comments and images to the original thread. It took all of us to produce a useful and I believe significant document.

Expect the third essay, "Kaskara in Silver Dress", to be converted to .pdf soon.

Best regards,
Ed Hunley
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Old 3rd April 2019, 11:25 AM   #15
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Old 5th April 2019, 10:45 PM   #16
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Dear Ed, First congratulations on this great thread and clearly a whole lot of effort has gone into its production.

Perhaps you can note that it is arranged in direct opposite to the thread we are dealing upon over the likeness to Manding and other weapons across the region...and that in the first instance you align this detail below in italic;

Note: Mandinka swords from West Africa also have a leaf-shaped scabbard, but there are apparently no strong cultural links that would have influenced the design of the kaskara’s scabbard.]

and that further on you suggest that it was Manding that passed on the flared scabbard at hajj to the Sudani at Hajj. pitt rivers museum think experts show it was the other way around but notwithstanding the direction it was transferred from would that not indicate a certain degree of liason between the two nations in contradiction of your earlier suggestion of little or no cultural links? Moreover would not the fact that both nations had adopted the Arabic alphabet be of some support to the contrary.

Would not the proven catalysts of war, religion, trade, exploration have come under the broad brush of interaction and liaison/ cultural exchange? Other experts according to museum reports suggest that the scabbard was a crocodile form and was known across broad swathes of tribal Africa and that the reason for its geometric as opposed to animal design was owing to the rules for artistic impression in the religion and that leatherworkers were the first Manding to convert to Islam at least in the Manding homeland...but that Sudan converted earlier being much further east.
Could it be that Manding and kaskara are not fighting weapons. We know that the higher ranking Sudani wearers of the silver hilts never used the kaskara to fight. Badge of office only.

I see little evidence that any of these were weapons as such save the possibility that the cross guard is a fighting sword marker in other countries...yet equally I could point out that many of these kaskara when adopted by the Mahdi had very flimsy blades and more designed as carriers of Islamic quotations and edicts rather than battle swords yet they has the same guards.. Alam in miniature carried by thousands of warriors as inspiration and religious guidance etc

If the Manding was not a weapon then what was the role of the kaskara?

Was it not the case that although carried into war they were originally not actual battle swords? Naturally the weapon which did most damage was the spear and lance but the question raises the point of what was the primary use for this so called weapon..Was it not purely psychological?

Thus I think that is two questions of some importance~

1. What evidence is there that the kaskara was a fighting weapon?
2. Which way was the transfer of technology/style (to the East or West) and surely the influence was present as the two countries were in fact culturally linked ?
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Old 6th April 2019, 02:52 AM   #17
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Ibrahiim,

Well argued piece. Unfortunately, I wrote the comments on the Mandin scabbard before we benefited from this thread's discussion. I didn't consider the design important to the essay's cross-guard context except that it had similar design to the kaskara's. Also, I didn't see Pitt-Rivers' comments and have seen no other firm attribution to croc. head symbolism. We must be cautious of academic speculations. Maybe someone should write a paper on African sword scabbards.

It's late here now and I won't take time to dig up specific references, but I'll try to make some relevant comments.

State Islam came to Mali/West Africa much earlier than than the Nile Valley. Massa Musa made his pilgrimage in 13 Something, but state Islam didn't come to the Funj Kingdom until after 1500. Of course, Muslim Arab tribes entered upper Egypt from c.900 and merged with the Beja, but the Christian Kingdoms of the Nile survived until the coming of the Funj and their influence lasted much longer. From early times Arab traders had their own quarters in market towns and were allowed to practice their religion., but did not try to convert locals.

I don't know when imported swords and German sword blades became the Kaskara as we know it, probably sometime in say mid-1800s, but swords were weapons of early Muslims likely from the beginning of their arrival as they were weapons of the early Arab armies. The northern Beja gave up spears for swords around 1750 while the southern Beja kept their spears. They were never devout Muslims even during Mahdist times.

Travelers reports say that elites used sabers and silver mounted swords as symbols of authority, but I think that Burkhart says that Funj bodyguards/elite cavalry used swords as part of their armament.

The only reports I know (EAA threads) say that some Thuluth swords had flimsy blades, but other examples do not. I doubt that they were used as battle swords.

Mading scabbards have more elaborate designs and even high end kaskara scabbards are richer than the run of the mill kaskara. BTW, leather workers are much lower on the social ladder than than blacksmiths who are themselves lower than silver & goldsmiths. I think I read that leather work from Bergami was superior.

My Beja/Hadendawa informants at the Kassala blacksmith/sword suq said (1984) that Osmond Digna asked them to make weapons for the Mahdi's army. Included was an array of knives, a short sword called the Ansar plus the kaskara as we know it.

I'm now convinced that there was much cultural transfer between Mading and Funj/Nile Valley. The 40 Day caravan route from Dongala/Nubia to Darfur was active from Dynastic times, but it was mostly a waterless trek from Sennar across Kordofan to Darfur. Sennar traded north up the Nile to Cairo or to Suakin and similar ports on the Red Sea. Of course Arab merchants went from Darfur to Kano and points west, but there was more Christian cultural practices (mark of the Cross at weddings and births, etc.) 300 years after the fall of the Nile Christian kingdoms. Craftsmen traveled back and forth along the Sahel routes. Likely Berghami leather workers traveled to Darfur and set up a scabbard shop. Maybe they worked with a leather worker from the Funj area, compared notes and went into business together. This is just speculation, and I'm no academic.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 6th April 2019, 05:02 AM   #18
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THANK YOU ED ..A great reply and I enjoyed reading your treatise. I actually think the British with only about 47 casualties stopped most blade to blade exchanges by effective gun and cannon fire though the 21st did come into close contact where blades were encountered and the enemy grouping included spear regiments and sword regiments …

The pilgrimage you speak of was according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandinka_people in 1324AD after which middle east Muslims were attracted to visit West Africa..

In Manding Society I thought the Leathersmiths had a strong position as they converted earlier than the other artisan groups and certainly the leather work on the sword is the highlight of the sword and richly ornate particularly the Baldric straps...hilt etc whereas the blade is imported..French Cav and German.

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Old 6th April 2019, 01:26 PM   #19
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Good paper on Sudanese fighting styles is "Oral Traditions Among the Shukriyya" Ibrahim al-Hardallo in Directions in Sudanese Linguistics & Folklore, Institute of African & Asian Studies, Univ Of Khartoum, 1975. I only have a xerox copy.

Article describes traditions of battles between the Shukriyya and the Batahin, Hamaj and others in the Butana plain (east of the Nile) c.1720. Often tribes fought preliminary battles between opposing champions and mounted knight groups before the tribes went at it in a maley (sic).The matter could be settled without a lot of bloodshed. Arms were 3-6 javelins, a spear and sword. Sometimes they fought mounted and others on foot. In a certain battle Abu Ali of the Shuk. cut off Sigmud's head. Another battle including guns and seven Shuk. knights. Shuk. won and captured many swords, spears and quantities of horse-armour.

I don't think there is any doubt about the fighting role of swords in Eastern Sudan. No doubt "swords'" cross-guards evolved into those we know as kaskara sometime before 1879 the Shuk. knight shown in the Fig. 30 in this thread.

Best,
Ed
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Old 7th April 2019, 02:56 AM   #20
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Outstanding research by Ed with very important information!

Similarly, excellent discussion by Ibrahiim and Ian.

The entire text is well deserving permanent placement into the Classics section.

My hat is off to all participants. A+++!
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Old 7th April 2019, 12:36 PM   #21
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Thanks Ariel. It took all those involved to make it work.

Best,
Ed
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