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Jim McDougall 16th September 2020 10:45 PM

Dukari moon marks on North African blades
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I recently came across this illustration which is of course a Scottish basket hilt in what is regarded as a 'ribbon hilt' (or beak nose) and dates into late 17th c.
What is remarkable in that the typical Solingen type blade used in most of these swords has the twin opposed 'man in the moon' marks placed astride the longer central of three fullers.

I have long wondered where the idea for these twin moon marks used almost consistently in native made blades in Saharan regions, mostly of Hausa origin.
It is unclear how long these marks which are known as 'dukari' on these Saharan blades have been used, but it certainly began sometime in 19th c but perhaps even earlier.

We have presumed that the markings on European trade blades coming into North Africa influenced native blade markings, and were perceived with meanings in accord with the folk religion and symbolism.

The 'moons' on this clearly German made blade on a Scottish sword of the latter 17th century provides a compelling suggestion that European blade marks indeed influenced blade fullering as well as these moon markings.

Has anyone seen other examples of these twin moons on European blades?

Gavin Nugent 17th September 2020 09:28 AM

G'day Jim,

I've had a look through half a dozen volumes here, just a cursory glance and not too much of a deep dive read.

Sir James Mann, Wallace Collection catalogues Vol II, entries A545, A557, A582 & A675 all carry variants of these moons with A582 being closest by design. What the alignment of these stamps within each blade is, I cannot ascertain.

David H Caldwell, Scottish Weapons and Fortifications 1100-1800, figure 9, late 16th, early 17th basket hilt, National Museum of Antiquities Scotland (LA[1966]) notes half moon stamps on each face, single or double is unknown to me. Firmly dated 1570-1630. The entire chapter is a very detailed and well research treatise of early Basket Hilts in Britain.

Had Mazansky in his work on British Basket Hilted Swords gathered blade data, I suspect others would be revealed too.


Yvain 17th September 2020 12:19 PM

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Hi Jim !

You raise a fascinating question here, with a very interesting specimen ! The origin of dukari marks on North African trade blades has been discussed on this forum before, if I'm not mistaken, and the consensus went toward the idea that they were locally applied, even on imported blades. However, your example here, the leads suggested by Gavin, and this specimen: https://collections.royalarmouries.o...ect-31725.html that I'm adding to our corpus seem to challenge that idea, as we now have two blades that most likely never left Europe carrying those dual dukari marks.

Although it is obvious that some dukari were locally applied in North Africa on local or imported blades, by the means of engraving, some, on the other hand, seem to have been stamped on the metal (as is the case of my takouba, of which I'm joining a close-up of its dukari), and could thus maybe have been marked this way in Europe. I don't know if it was possible to punch a blade this way when it was cold, with the means available in North Africa at the time, or if it needed the blade to be red hot, but I'll try to ask a friend of mine who is one of the most talented swordsmith working in our day (using traditional techniques), as he might have an idea on the matter.

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