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Old 28th June 2021, 05:32 PM   #1
Marc M.
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Default new kaskara

Greetings

Just bought my 3rd kaskara, hadendoa/ beja, the blade has a single wide fuller from tip to the handle, a good flex but stiff at the handle, its sharp and light.
Blade was covered in thick active rust, cleaned it, dark spots still visible.
Sword is 104 cm long, blade at the handle, wide: 4;6 cm, thick: 0;6 cm, long: 90,5 cm.A nice crossgard, handle covered with reptile skin and a green tassel.
Scabard in a good condition, fairly recent as usually.
Found on the forum similar examples and blades like these were probable German trade blades.
Comments are welcome.

Best regards
Marc
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Old 28th June 2021, 10:20 PM   #2
Edster
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Hi Marc,

Nice Beja kaskara. I agree it's likely European blade, but it appears much better quality than munitions grade blades supplied in the mid-late 19C. There are other Formites better qualified to characterize blades, but I'll contribute what little I can.

The type channels the Oakeshott type X style with both distal & profile tapers. The wide fuller is seldom seen on a Kaskara and when they do they usually come from Ethiopian blades. Do you see any markings under the langets that might give a clue to its origin?

The crossguard is of the older style, but not up to the wide tapers seen on Darfur types.

The tassel is likely newer than the grip cover as it shows only little wear.

I just finished re-reading "Karari, The Sudanese Account of the Battle of Omdurman" by 'Ismat Hasan Zulfo (1972-Arabic, 1980-English) Well worth reading to get a broader account of the battle from the Mahdist's perspective. It also gives a perspective on Osman Digna and his Bega fighters. They fought mainly in Eastern Sudan and participated in the Battle of Atbara. They had a minor, but famous role in the Battle of Omdurman/Karari along with W. Churchill & the 21st Lancers. He lost few warriors at either Atbara or Omdurman, and after Omdurman his men went back home. The point is your sword was likely not a battlefield pick-up or war trophy, but may have been from that era. Many Mahdist blades had votive figures and Quran quotes scratched into the blade. It was likely assembled and collected in the intervening years in Eastern Sudan between Kassala and Suakin.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 29th June 2021, 06:28 PM   #3
Marc M.
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Originally Posted by Edster View Post
Hi Marc,

Nice Beja kaskara. I agree it's likely European blade, but it appears much better quality than munitions grade blades supplied in the mid-late 19C. There are other Formites better qualified to characterize blades, but I'll contribute what little I can.

The type channels the Oakeshott type X style with both distal & profile tapers. The wide fuller is seldom seen on a Kaskara and when they do they usually come from Ethiopian blades. Do you see any markings under the langets that might give a clue to its origin?

The crossguard is of the older style, but not up to the wide tapers seen on Darfur types.

The tassel is likely newer than the grip cover as it shows only little wear.

I just finished re-reading "Karari, The Sudanese Account of the Battle of Omdurman" by 'Ismat Hasan Zulfo (1972-Arabic, 1980-English) Well worth reading to get a broader account of the battle from the Mahdist's perspective. It also gives a perspective on Osman Digna and his Bega fighters. They fought mainly in Eastern Sudan and participated in the Battle of Atbara. They had a minor, but famous role in the Battle of Omdurman/Karari along with W. Churchill & the 21st Lancers. He lost few warriors at either Atbara or Omdurman, and after Omdurman his men went back home. The point is your sword was likely not a battlefield pick-up or war trophy, but may have been from that era. Many Mahdist blades had votive figures and Quran quotes scratched into the blade. It was likely assembled and collected in the intervening years in Eastern Sudan between Kassala and Suakin.

Best regards,
Ed
Hi Ed
Thank you for your comment, no markings under the langet, i've read your outstanding essay about the kaskara and that on this blade type makers marks are rare, so no markings are to be expected, which makes it difficult to identify, you can only go for the quality of the forged blade.
I'm a blacksmith so i know a little bit about forging. the sellers pictures where not so clear and blade was rusted, but it looked good so i took the risk.Seller had it 15 years got it from a friend who brought it back from Sudan
Do you have any idea about the function and meaning of the tassel, the different colors (status, rank).
Best regards
Marc
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Old 29th June 2021, 07:49 PM   #4
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I don't know anything about the meaning of the heavy tassel other than its the signature for the Beja swords. Although they may help with a more secure grip. They seem to look the same whether they are on simple or grips with silver. There must be tassel makers in the suk since the tassel is added after the grip treatment is complete. Colors are mainly black or sun faded to a greyish. Other kaskara sometimes sport a more stringy tassel, but they seem to be for higher end swords of the Nile Riverine tribes. You'll notice on other kaskara a maybe 1-inch section at the top of the grip, below the pommel that looks like its made for tassels regardless of style.

Take care,
Ed
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Old 29th June 2021, 08:32 PM   #5
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Congratulations for your kaskara,

A beautiful impressive sword !

as said, the blade is old and of really good quality !
It seems european , any stamp/engraving ?
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Old 29th June 2021, 08:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster View Post
I don't know anything about the meaning of the heavy tassel other than its the signature for the Beja swords. Although they may help with a more secure grip. They seem to look the same whether they are on simple or grips with silver. There must be tassel makers in the suk since the tassel is added after the grip treatment is complete. Colors are mainly black or sun faded to a greyish. Other kaskara sometimes sport a more stringy tassel, but they seem to be for higher end swords of the Nile Riverine tribes. You'll notice on other kaskara a maybe 1-inch section at the top of the grip, below the pommel that looks like its made for tassels regardless of style.

Take care,
Ed
Hi Ed
Thanks for the info, on one of my other kadkara the tassel and the pommel is missing but you still can see the print in the leather where the tassel was fixed on the handle. Indeed if i compair the grip between the two , the one with the tassel has a better grip, my hand has a firm grip between the crossgard and the tassel with no play.

Best regards
Marc
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Old 29th June 2021, 08:59 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by francantolin View Post
Congratulations for your kaskara,

A beautiful impressive sword !

as said, the blade is old and of really good quality !
It seems european , any stamp/engraving ?
Hi Francantolin

Thanks, the blade has no markings.

Best regards
Marc
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Old 29th June 2021, 10:48 PM   #8
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Nice kaskara Marc! Glad to see some more Sudanese blades on the forum. While black tassels are most common, I believe the green braided tassels suggests that the owner has performed the hajj. Also, the color green is a symbol of jannah (heaven) and life, and is the color most associated with Islam. Below, I have attached photos of a silver hilted kaskara from my collection also bearing a green tassel.

Regards,
Geoff
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Old 30th June 2021, 02:45 AM   #9
Battara
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What a great piece! Love these when they are in silver and in filigree. Belonged to a noble?
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Old 30th June 2021, 02:03 PM   #10
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Default Stamped Makers Marks

Marc,

This is off topic, but since you are a blacksmith you no doubt have experience in applying stamps to metal. Your experience could help in identifying dates & origins of imported and locally made blades. The question: would a maker's mark or other stamp be applied with the strike of a hammer to a relative soft sword blade just after forging or after the blade had been quenched and drawn? We see marks attributed to a retailer after a European blade was imported, or maybe as fake marks to impute quality, etc. Also, some marks are a identified as rack or inventory stamps applied in an amory, etc.

Would a sword blade be softer at forte area that may not have been quenched and accept a stamp better? This may be why makers marks are often seen under langets.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 30th June 2021, 03:18 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster View Post
Marc,

This is off topic, but since you are a blacksmith you no doubt have experience in applying stamps to metal. Your experience could help in identifying dates & origins of imported and locally made blades. The question: would a maker's mark or other stamp be applied with the strike of a hammer to a relative soft sword blade just after forging or after the blade had been quenched and drawn? We see marks attributed to a retailer after a European blade was imported, or maybe as fake marks to impute quality, etc. Also, some marks are a identified as rack or inventory stamps applied in an amory, etc.

Would a sword blade be softer at forte area that may not have been quenched and accept a stamp better? This may be why makers marks are often seen under langets.

Best regards,
Ed
Ed, marks can be cold or hot stamped. Cold stamping can occur on a heat treated blade. Cold stamps will generally have thinner lines while hot stamps tend to be deeper and wider. I had a long conversation about this with an Italian smith who was also of the opinion cold stamps were often applied after the fact by resellers. A good example of this are cold stamped Ferara blades.
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Old 30th June 2021, 05:21 PM   #12
Marc M.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster View Post
Marc,

This is off topic, but since you are a blacksmith you no doubt have experience in applying stamps to metal. Your experience could help in identifying dates & origins of imported and locally made blades. The question: would a maker's mark or other stamp be applied with the strike of a hammer to a relative soft sword blade just after forging or after the blade had been quenched and drawn? We see marks attributed to a retailer after a European blade was imported, or maybe as fake marks to impute quality, etc. Also, some marks are a identified as rack or inventory stamps applied in an amory, etc.

Would a sword blade be softer at forte area that may not have been quenched and accept a stamp better? This may be why makers marks are often seen under langets.

Best regards,
Ed
Hi Ed
Ian's answer is correct , the steel of a swords blade has to be able to parry a blow from a sword, cut, chop and stab the oposant, so it should not be to hard so it is soft enough to do the cold marking.
As Ian said hot markings are deeper, done with hammer or press.
If i had to choose a place to put the marking on the blade, it would be the ricasso/ forte if their is one or near the crossgard, that area should not be to hard, edge's shoult be harder, not the place to make a mark.
So both techniques where used. Hopefully this answers your question a little
bit.
Best regards
Marc
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Old 30th June 2021, 05:43 PM   #13
David R
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Interesting that you see this as being a trade blade. My own has exactly the same style, and I took it to be a local product.... No stamps, which is one of the reasons I did no think it a trade item.
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Old 30th June 2021, 05:44 PM   #14
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Interesting that you see this as being a trade blade. My own has exactly the same style, and I took it to be a local product.... No stamps, which is one of the reasons I did no think it a trade item.
The piece in the original post looks to have a ricasso. Not something I recall seeing on locally made blades. I'd attribute your example as local manufacture as you supposed.
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Old 30th June 2021, 06:34 PM   #15
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I don't see a ricasso, I see thickened edges where the langets are, but not the actual squared off section that you have with a ricasso. Perhaps the author can confirm or deny.
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Old 30th June 2021, 06:34 PM   #16
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Thanks Iain & Marc for the clarifications. In my ignorance I would have thought the heat treated blade would be considerably harder than one freshly forged and considerably resist a hammer blow on a stamp die. I guess commercial dies as one piece with complex designs were applied either cold or hot per their depth often with a hydraulic press. Makers marks like those used by Kassaka smiths were made with a series of small simple dies also cold applied. No doubt smiths only wanted to "sign" their work after it was complete and proven of quality.

Thanks again,
Ed
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Old 30th June 2021, 06:38 PM   #17
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I don't see a ricasso, I see thickened edges where the langets are, but not the actual squared off section that you have with a ricasso. Perhaps the author can confirm or deny.
Thats the element I was referring to. Never see it on native blades.
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Old 30th June 2021, 10:42 PM   #18
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Thats the element I was referring to. Never see it on native blades.
Over the years I have had a couple (perhaps 3 even) trade blades and they did not have a ricasso, merely a blunt, less sharp, thickened area at the base. A ricasso proper is a distinct squared off base, like this...
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Old 1st July 2021, 09:08 AM   #19
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Over the years I have had a couple (perhaps 3 even) trade blades and they did not have a ricasso, merely a blunt, less sharp, thickened area at the base. A ricasso proper is a distinct squared off base, like this...
I'm aware of what the term means, in the case of the blade under discussion it is not simply unsharpened, but has not been ground for the profile of the blade, it is the remains of the ricasso 'block' but the fuller has been extended through it.

I've had and seen plenty of trade blades in African mounts with ricasso, quite often they are hidden under the guard when they are mounted in this context.
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Old 1st July 2021, 05:10 PM   #20
Marc M.
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Originally Posted by G. Mansfield View Post
Nice kaskara Marc! Glad to see some more Sudanese blades on the forum. While black tassels are most common, I believe the green braided tassels suggests that the owner has performed the hajj. Also, the color green is a symbol of jannah (heaven) and life, and is the color most associated with Islam. Below, I have attached photos of a silver hilted kaskara from my collection also bearing a green tassel.

Regards,
Geoff
Hi geoff
Thank you for the additional info on the tassel.
The last few years i got interested in takuba and kaskara swords , also got a few armdaggers, all this beside my Kongo arm collection.
That's a very beautiful kaskara you have there, a silver one is still on my wish list.
Best regards
Marc
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Old 1st July 2021, 05:43 PM   #21
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I don't see a ricasso, I see thickened edges where the langets are, but not the actual squared off section that you have with a ricasso. Perhaps the author can confirm or deny.
Hi David
There is no classic ricasso, the fuller stops against the crosshandle. I see this as a ricasso where the fuller runs through.
I recall reading an older thread about the same type of ricasso on a single wide fuller blade like on my kaskara, probably an european import blade.
The blade on your kaskara looks to be of a good quality.
Its not so important for me if it's european or native, as long as it's used and well made.
Best regards
Marc
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Old 1st July 2021, 11:41 PM   #22
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I am happy with blades of either origin, so long as they are a decent piece. I do like the one I posted, a lot. It is surprisingly light and handy to wield by virtue of a good and well done distal taper, and a fair old edge to it as well.

47 years ago I worked on a dig in Shropshire with a very old veteran of the Sudan administration in the 1920's. He told me that the favourite ploy was to feint a strike down, and then backhand up into the inner thigh to hamstring or to cut the femoral artery.... He sat in on the native court where they decided on the blood money owed to a man who lost a leg to that blow. 9 black camels was the final award.
Strikes to the outside of the arm or leg counted as intent to wound, cuts to the inside arm or leg were adjudged to be intent to kill, and compensation graded accordingly. (RIP Max,we will never see your like again).
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Old 3rd July 2021, 12:53 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David R View Post
I am happy with blades of either origin, so long as they are a decent piece. I do like the one I posted, a lot. It is surprisingly light and handy to wield by virtue of a good and well done distal taper, and a fair old edge to it as well.

47 years ago I worked on a dig in Shropshire with a very old veteran of the Sudan administration in the 1920's. He told me that the favourite ploy was to feint a strike down, and then backhand up into the inner thigh to hamstring or to cut the femoral artery.... He sat in on the native court where they decided on the blood money owed to a man who lost a leg to that blow. 9 black camels was the final award.
Strikes to the outside of the arm or leg counted as intent to wound, cuts to the inside arm or leg were adjudged to be intent to kill, and compensation graded accordingly. (RIP Max,we will never see your like again).

Thats a great story David! and a nice tribute to someone who sounds to have been a fascinating man. It is interesting that in many tribal societies there were indeed these kinds of compensatory matters handled by tribal courts.
My similar experience with one of the 'old guard' was with a British Brigadier who led one of the last British mounted cavalry charges in 1931 on the Khyber Plains. One treasures the moments they shared these amazing stories.....
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