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Old 20th February 2014, 02:27 PM   #1
Matt Easton
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Default Tulwar stamped blade mark question

Hi folks,
I come across quite a lot of tulwars here in the UK and many of them have blade markings which I would like to understand a bit more about.

For example, some better quality blades seem to have a sort of stamped design or maker's mark in the forte of the blade, often under one of the langets - is there somewhere I could learn more about these? Are any by known makers or centres of manufacture?

Secondly, some blades have engraved crosses or other marks on them, which some people claim are 'kill' scores - is there any truth to this?

Lastly, what do you make of these stamps attached? They seem to be like a cross between the stamped makers' marks and the incised crosses you sometimes see.

Thanks,
Matt
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Old 20th February 2014, 03:20 PM   #2
Jens Nordlunde
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It's a rule on the forum that you have to show the whole weapon, or you will not get any answers.
Jens
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Old 20th February 2014, 04:32 PM   #3
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An official rule? I'm not really asking specifically about this tulwar, but rather tulwars in general, but anyway, here is the rest of that sword
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Old 20th February 2014, 05:03 PM   #4
Jens Nordlunde
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Thank you.
I have heard about the 'killing marks', but I more than doubt it. If you read the old Indian history, about all the battles and about how many people were killed, a lot of the swords would have nothing but killing marks all over.
Many different markings are used on Indian weapons, some are no doubt smith markings, others, like some of the dot marks. are from the Bikaner armoury. A lot of the marks are copies of European markings, like the 'eyelashes' copying Genovean blade marks, and the Orb and cross, the EIC stamp and a lot of others. To prove to a potential buyer that the blade was 'European' and of a good quality.
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Old 20th February 2014, 05:37 PM   #5
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Thanks.
Yes I have doubted the 'killing marks' explanation for those crosses as well. Though if they aren't that, I wonder what they are?
I have come across Indo-Persian sources talking about testing swords by cutting clay, wet felt and other things. I rather wonder if they are a bit like 'proved' stamps on European swords - to show the number of *somethings* that they have cut through in testing (like Japanese swords also). It seems more plausible than the 'killing marks' theory .
I'm also interested to know where I can find anything more about Indian sword maker stamps. I have a British officer's sword with an Indian-made blade, dating to around 1810-1820 according to the style of the hilt, that has what I believed to be an Indian maker's mark under one of the langets.

Regards,
Matt
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Old 20th February 2014, 06:06 PM   #6
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Hi Matt,
I dont know what the crosses are supposed to represent, maybe copies from some European manufactor - I really dont know. I too have blades with crosses.
In one of my many books I read, that the young Hindus trained their cutting skill on a block of wett clay, so that they would not blamish their family, when they had to cut the head of an ox to sacrifice it.
I do think, but I dont know, if you could test a blade by cutting into a clay block, but I would rather think you could train you blowing force by doing so. I think, testing a blade would be something quite different, that hacking in wett clay, you would hack on metal to see if the edge was good, and if the blade breaked.
Jens

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Old 20th February 2014, 09:20 PM   #7
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Default blade markings

Hi Matt, Here's a link to one discussion about a likely false EIC mark used to Imply East India Co. As a whole most of these marks are noted and discussed, but not much can be garnered from a lot of them, others clearly are Armory markings and numbers. Steve http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ghlight=tulwar
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Old 20th February 2014, 09:32 PM   #8
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Thanks Steve, I'll go and have a read.
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Old 20th February 2014, 10:42 PM   #9
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Hi Matt,
I have asked Jim to join, as he is a master of the different stamps. I do hope he will join.
Regards
Jens
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Old 20th February 2014, 11:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archer
Hi Matt, Here's a link to one discussion about a likely false EIC mark used to Imply East India Co. As a whole most of these marks are noted and discussed, but not much can be garnered from a lot of them, others clearly are Armory markings and numbers. Steve http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ghlight=tulwar
Interesting that - I have seen EIG on firearms:



Though these marks I'm referring to are nothing to do with European or imitation European stamps - as shown above these are quite un-European weird squiggly shapes
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Old 21st February 2014, 04:55 AM   #11
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Jens, thank you very much !
Matt, its good to see your most interesting post on these marks. As you can see there is a great deal of confusion with the markings on arms in India, first because the East India Co. had its own army independent of the government initially. Prior to the dissolution of the EIC after the Indian Mutiny (1857) there was already a great deal of transition going on.
The quartered or flaunched heart balemarks with VEIC initials were replaced by a rampant lion around 1810.
In the Khyber regions however, the spurious marking of arms with these heart balemarks continued through the rest of the 19th c

With these particular marks in linear row of five, they appear to be native applied copies probably of North Italian marks often termed 'twig' marks associated with a number of makers there. It is presumed that these kinds of groupings of spurious European markings are generally used to suggest the blades are European and therefore of superior quality . These twig marks are often seen on earlier Italian blades which often were used in the khandas (called 'firangi' when so mounted) . In many cases they occur in groupings of three or more, sometimes even several lines of them.

There have long been myths about tallying kills on blades etc but these tales are as far as I have ever found, complete folklore. Actually the only instances I have ever found for such 'scores' are in aviation with the familiar kills on the fuselage of the aircraft. Even the tall tales of the wild west where gunfighters are said to have notched their guns are fabricated. None of the celebrated gunfighters weapons have ever had a single notch in them. It is believed that the myth began with Bat Masterson 'creating' souvenier Colts with notches in the grip .

Returning to EIC, and the triangle stamps etc. I believe these were left mostly inconclusive in the discussion a few years ago, however I believe they were EIG for East India Government probably much later in the Raj. There was no East India Co. after 1858, and though most arms and materials went to India through ISD (India Stores Depot) we know huge volume of materials did not.
It seems quite likely that these often poorly applied stamps with EIG may have been legitimately applied in various supply depots, but as noted that remains unclear.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 22nd February 2014, 08:45 AM   #12
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Thanks Jim.
Yes I think the imitation of European marks may well have led to these crosses, just as with the eyelash marks so often seen.

What do you make of marks like this though, lifted from Archer's pulsar thread? I have similar stamps on tulwar blades -

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Old 22nd February 2014, 05:57 PM   #13
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Hi Matt,
You have, in borrowing a well used phrase, 'awakened a sleeping giant', as the conundrum of so many markings and devices on arms of the subcontinent remains unsolved. We can of course speculate with some reasonable accuracy on many, such as the 'sickle' and these 'twig' type marks and a few others
This marking on the tulwar you show is in much the same blade quadrant as many stamped cartouches on these North Indian examples. If I recall, these are often a squared cartouche enclosing typically Urdu characters. Since these are often in the same location adjacent to the langet near the ricasso it may be of course some type of arsenal or acceptance stamp. In a similar instance an Algerian 'nimcha' (Briggs, 1965) illustrates a round cartouche with Arabic characters in similar location near blade edge, and that is presumed again some sort of acceptance or approval mark.

Another possibility is that marks in these locations on Islamic blades may have some sort of talismanic purpose, such as with the well known ' beduh' squares with numeric symbolism. In any case, the mark on your example here is virtually indiscernible, but seems to have the remains of serrated edge. The only European marks similar are the dentated half arcs of the 'sickles' but as far as I know these were never applied in this blade location. By the same token, the pierced langet seen here is typically on the tulwars farther north, particularly Sind, in that case Talpur, but again speculation. Afghan paluoars almost typically have spurious sickle marks on the blade at the near center of the blades length as seen on yours, but whether this curious mark near the blade root is related remains unclear.

Whatever the case it would be interesting to get a better image of the mark, whether in better light or even a sketch delineating the key points of the device. Every marking has the potential of being either a prototype or important anomaly.

All the best,
Jim

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Old 22nd February 2014, 07:25 PM   #14
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Smile Marks

Here are examples from Indian swords that I have in hand .
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Old 22nd February 2014, 09:43 PM   #15
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Outstanding Rick!!! Thank you!
These perfectly illustrate the apparently key location that these marks were often, or perhaps consistently, placed. Matt, note the paired linear groupings and the fullers of that one blade, similar to the single line of these 'twigs' on yours. It is known that various Italian blades used various numbers of these marks in varying configuration , and with the import of many 'firangi' blades into India, the copying of these as indicators of imbued quality was inevitable.
The case of the odd, stippled script in the bottom example are of course the Bikaner armoury type markings, lending support to that type of capacity for these marks in that position.

Turning once again to the placement of certain marks on blades in a more temporal sense, it seems that on many blades in India, certain marks (such as trimurti) are found placed at strategic blade locations such as choil, near point, and others perhaps point of percussion etc. This of course also remains unproven, but intriguing in its apparent deliberate instances.
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Old 22nd February 2014, 11:47 PM   #16
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I suspect that out of all the marks I have; the first one shown would most likely be an actual maker's mark .

It looks like a half-strike however .
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Old 15th May 2016, 10:02 PM   #17
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Reviving an old thread...

I was cleaning my very unspectacular munitions-grade tulwar and noticed a stamped mark under the langet I hadn't seen before (because I was too lazy too clean under there ).

Both the marks look rather like the numeral '3', one in European numerals, the other in Arabic/Hindi/Persian- only with both, neither are quite right, the one approximating the eastern 3 being backwards.

Any ideas? I've checked the forum and can only find 'eyelash' and 'kata' stamps, admittedly on superior blades.
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Old 16th May 2016, 02:36 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumpel
Reviving an old thread...

I was cleaning my very unspectacular munitions-grade tulwar and noticed a stamped mark under the langet I hadn't seen before (because I was too lazy too clean under there ).

Both the marks look rather like the numeral '3', one in European numerals, the other in Arabic/Hindi/Persian- only with both, neither are quite right, the one approximating the eastern 3 being backwards.

Any ideas? I've checked the forum and can only find 'eyelash' and 'kata' stamps, admittedly on superior blades.
Rumpel, thank you for reviving this old thread! and especially for taking an interest in these markings. It seems there is not nearly quite enough known on these Indian markings, and presently we have some good threads going on both guns and swords of India.

Thank you also for the great pics and the panel of script characters to use in analyzing these markings.

First I would note to any readers who go back to cover this full thread, the linear 'crosses' in the original post in my opinion may be native interpretation of the Italian 'marca mosca' marks (often termed mill rind or twig in European parlance).
These occurred in many variations in the mark groupings and configurations on Italian blades, which of course were widely copied by native armourers and trade entrepots.

In post number 14, the stippled numbers on that tulwar blade are for Bikaner armoury in Rajasthan, and possibly Punjabi script letters.

It seems possible these two stamps on your blade may be from the Gurmukhi script used in the Punjab and by Sikhs.
The placement seems to align with the year date letters and inspection stamps used by the EIC but later possibly in some degree with EIG (East India Government).

These are simply speculations until we can find a good match in one of the many dialects throughout India.

Thanks again! Well posted!
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Old 17th May 2016, 11:49 PM   #19
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Thank you so much Jim, stupidly I hadn't even considered non-Indo-Persian alphanumeric systems.

Gurmurkhi looks the closest match so far.

Many thanks again.
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Old 18th May 2016, 02:06 AM   #20
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Not at all Rumpel!!!
If I could even remotely estimate how many things completely go past me, and I've been at this stuff a couple of years or so

There are so many dialects and languages in India's subcontinent and of course the influences of many outside sources it is a real challenge to tackle many of these markings.
I agree that Gurkmukhi is a good fit, and a Punjab oriented script which was most notably associated with Sikhs. This example may well be associated with Sikh arsenal stamps or other numeric significance which I would defer to those most knowledgeable on those topics.
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Old 18th May 2016, 04:41 AM   #21
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I suppose the thing is that- unlike kaskaras, say, where a bring-back date is often going to be very late 19th c- for UK collectors tulwars could have come from almost anywhere in N India, at almost any time, with very little info to help us sort out the fine details.

I assume most old tulwars in western collections have radiated out from the UK, of course.
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Old 18th May 2016, 07:48 AM   #22
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That would be a most plausible assumption as during British colonial presence and the Raj covering well over a century and a half, there were huge numbers of souveniers brought into Great Britain and throughout the Commonweath.
There were the largest dispersals at the clearing of many of the arsenals in many of the princely states in the latter 19th century, but hard to say just what period or circumstances brought the most of these into general circulation.

The thing with Indian arms is that after Egerton, and in minor degree certain other established collections in museums, they were not widely collected by general public nor particularly studied as with European arms and armor .

It was not really until Rawson (1967) that the field began to attract specific attention by private arms collectors, but that remained restrained in degree by the lack of resources and information, beyond the venerable work of Stone (1934). Thankfully in the years since Rawson, authors like G.N.Pant; Jaiwent Paul; Robert Elgood and others including researchers like our own Jens Nordlund, have added great dimension to the corpus of knowledge we have on these arms.

As always, the research never stops, so thank you for joining the quest!!
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Old 24th May 2016, 01:45 PM   #23
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By happy chance I was going to post up my new tulwar (my second) when I saw this thread resurface.

Like the subject of Matt's query, my latest addition also carries the cross marks to the blade.

I assumed that they were pseudo-European markings, placed as a mark of quality.

Having hunted around, I cannot seem to see a specific term for a tulwar hilt without guard, is there such a term?

My first Tulwar posting on this board led to some very interesting discussion, I hope this one will also help me to learn more.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=20246

Kind regards,

Chris
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Old 24th May 2016, 03:59 PM   #24
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Great info here guys. Those charts will be most helpful for many collectors.

Thanks for your efforts.
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