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Old 30th July 2008, 10:13 PM   #1
stephen wood
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Default kaskara - brass quillons

When I recently found this kaskara I was surprised to see that it has brass quillons - they are usually iron/steel, are they not?

The brass is cast and it is ROUGH! The blade itself (32.5") looks older so it might have been rehilted. The interior of the scabbard is cardboard - it doesn't look as old as the sword itself...

...your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

By the way - I saw some fantastic african weapons in the British Museum today - there is a MASSIVE display of throwing knives...
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Old 30th July 2008, 10:46 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Hi Stephen,
I always get excited when anyone posts either takoubas or kaskaras, as we have had many great discussions on them over the years, and I am always looking for clues and information that might be added.
Yours is a nicely representative example of the well established Sudanese kaskara, and is of course a 20th century piece which has clearly been remounted in traditional scabbard and leather wrapped hilt. The blade is possibly earlier, and as most weapons in these desert cultures, the remounting is pretty much standard practice. These are still worn as important elements of traditional costume in varying degree.

Concerning the brass crossguard, I have a Mahdist period example with the thuluth covered blade and brass crossguard, which also seemed atypical to me. It seems that Darfur examples and those of most Sudanese kaskara are indeed of iron. I believe that my example with brass guard may be Hausa as it corresponds to the example shown in Briggs.

In a discussion I had with an authority with the British Museum some years ago, he suggested that the brass guard was likely an apotropaic measure, as in local superstition and folk religion there are certain fears of touching iron. In this perspective, the iron represents death, however the brass is symbolic of life. I believe these concepts also apply with the Tuareg and thier takoubas, in which the hilts are invariably covered in leather. It should be noted that the Hausa are often with the Tuareg blacksmiths, and while the familiar dual crescent moons seen on virtually all takouba blades in some measure, they are seen in the kaskara blades attributed to Hausa.

I hope this will be of some help, its a good question and I think would be interesting to look into it further. The same concept of iron= evil or death and brass or bronze = life, good etc. is applicable in the Hindu weapons philosophy in some degree (see Elgood, "Hindu Arms & Ritual").

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 30th July 2008, 11:04 PM   #3
stephen wood
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...many thanks.

Here is another kaskara - quite different with a much thinner and slightly longer blade. The moons are stamped - different from the abstracted forms usually found.
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Old 30th July 2008, 11:37 PM   #4
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Nice. Much earlier, the dukari nicely spaced astride the fullering.
Interesting how the native smiths adopted these dual crescent moons as a distinctive markings applied to thier blades on takouba, and as noted and shown here, on many kaskara blades.
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Old 1st August 2008, 01:53 PM   #5
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Default dances with kaskaras...

...if you type "sudanese sword" into youtube.com you can see a lot of kaskaras being waved about...some in Eritrea as well. "Barantu Cultural Show" is particularly interesting.

Part of a living tradition...
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Old 1st August 2008, 02:59 PM   #6
Lew
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wood
...if you type "sudanese sword" into youtube.com you can see a lot of kaskaras being waved about...some in Eritrea as well. "Barantu Cultural Show" is particularly interesting.

Part of a living tradition...



Hi Stephen

The brass guarded kaskara seems to have a more recent made scabbard and hilt but the blade seems older. This is not uncommon swords are passed down from father to son and are often rehilted. The other kaskara is an older version 1890-1920s I would think?

Lew

Btw Thanks for the you-tube videos they were great
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Old 1st August 2008, 03:15 PM   #7
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Very interesting!
Another interesting note, which I have brought up over many years in discussions pertaining to kaskaras, is that the term 'kaskara' is completely unknown in the languages of the Sudan, Eritrea and geographic locations where these swords have presence.
Anybody have any ideas?
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