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Old 31st July 2010, 12:01 AM   #1
Martin Lubojacky
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Default Could anybody help with Id of the sword ?

The sword was bought in antique shop in Prague, I think it is comming from Sahara or Sahel (??)
There is copper dot at the top of the blade /going through the blade/.
Regards,
Martin
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Old 31st July 2010, 12:07 AM   #2
Mark
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Sort of like a kaskara, sort of like a takouba. I've never seen one with an integrally welded cross-guard, though.
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Old 31st July 2010, 12:17 AM   #3
ericlaude
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I think Takouba with free style hilt.
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Old 31st July 2010, 02:38 AM   #4
Battara
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My thoughts too.......
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Old 31st July 2010, 09:42 AM   #5
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Hi Martin,

First of all how do you find such things in Prague? :P The only stuff I ever see is beat up military sabres and fake katanas...

This sword I think is not from the Saharan regions. The decorative patterns and geometric shapes remind me very much of Poto or other Congolese area workmanship.

I would agree that the influences of the takouba form are fairly obvious but my best guess would be that this piece from the Congo or perhaps Cameroon?

I'd be interested in the views of those who collect the swords and knives of those areas as the decorative patterns really do remind me strongly of those pieces.
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Old 31st July 2010, 12:42 PM   #6
Martin Lubojacky
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Thank you all. Because of the style of the hilt (leather strips) and dots on the crossguard I would also say it is comming from the arid region south of the Sahara (maybe north Cameroon, Chad). I think they did not use such leather strips for handes too much in equatorial regions. But the blade is really strange, and made of strange steel (it is not possible to polish it - it stays always grey or slightly dark, there are visible signs of folding)
(Dear ispn, there are cca 4 shops in Prague, where you can find such stuff, but only seldom, from time to time...)
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Old 31st July 2010, 07:02 PM   #7
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Peculiar blade tip construction ... and with that brass dot .
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Old 31st July 2010, 09:34 PM   #8
Jim McDougall
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At first sight, what is most compelling visually is the distinct takouba like guard, but most puzzling, the fact that it is integrally forged. The mention of the dull gray characteristic of the steel I am wondering if that would be due to high zinc content?

I agree with the observations by ISPN and Martin, this sword has many features associated with tribal weapons from Zaire, and the elliptical features incorporated with the central raised rib in the blade resemble elements that appear in Ngombe weapons from Zaire (Beaute Fatale, p.77). The linear rocker style work that profiles the blade, resembles blade decoration features from Cameroon, as does the wrapped leatherwork, althought obviously the typical arched pommel is not present.

As often the case, a pastiche of influences from these regions in what may have been a court type weapon, probably from Zaire, and likely of latter 19th century. It would not be unreasonable to consider that the takouba was seen in certain degree in Zaire in the 19th century and later, and local artisans would have been influenced by the crossguard feature.

The interesting copper or gold metal filled dot situated in the symbolic ellipse near the blade point seems to perhaps derive from a gold or yellow copper nail hammered into higher quality Yemeni swords from ancient times. As with many, if not most African weapon forms, there is often deep traditional symbolism brought into them. The Arab influences that came into these areas along with the advent of Islam certainly accounts for many of these features, and it would be interesting to learn about this one, which I believe was mentioned in al-Kindi.
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Old 31st July 2010, 10:41 PM   #9
Tim Simmons
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Very interesting thing, nice!

I can only think the same, that this is a version of tabouka at its most southerly? What a shame there is no scabbard. I have my doubts about Arab influence. If one thinks the tabouka has a west African origin then the inclusion of copper or brass is not exceptional in fact common even in western north Africa. I am no longer in the camp that believes these forms derive from the East with there largely imported kaskara blades. How many eastern blades in the context of the thread have additions of copper or brass dots or other, even from Arabia and India.

As far as this forum goes my guess would be not many.
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Old 1st August 2010, 12:19 AM   #10
Jim McDougall
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Actually, I personally do not think this is a takouba, although it does have 'one' takouba like feature....an elongated rectangular crossguard, which does not suggest this is a takouba variant. It does suggest influence, which is one of the most fascinating, though sometimes almost maddening, features in many African weapons. While we often try to categorize these weapons into distinct typology or regional attrubution, it is of course speculation unless having well documented provenance.

While takoubas and kaskaras were in effect 'cousins' as far as being broadswords, as I have often noted, I think they are quite different in most cases....the takouba blades are typically lighter with rounded tip...the kaskara heavier with more of a spear point. I do not believe the takouba developed from the kaskara, nor vice versa, however, they do share common 'influences' that become noticeable in certain instances and examples.

The blade on this sword is produced entirely different from those of the takouba and kaskara, and the raised geometric designs at forte and blade tip are not seen on any takouba or kaskara blades I have ever seen. The integrally forged interpretation of a takouba like crossguard is different, and something I have not seen on takoubas personally. The flat disc pommel and wrapped leather grip does resemble work I have seen on some Mahdist period kaskaras..but then this type wrapping is known in Cameroon, and probably Chad as well.

Here I would emphasize trade routes that traversed these regions across the Sahara from times immemorial, and were well established and travelled.To imagine that weapons that travelled along these routes did not influence individuals including artisans in these areas is hardly thinkable. It is known that along with migratory or nomadic movements of tribes, those who were craftsmen and blacksmiths moved as well. The hybridization of weapons and all manner of culture were of course products of these influences.

The gold metal inlay which seems strategically placed within the also strategically raised geometric ellipse, seems to represent some type of symbolism or auspicious meaning. Since it is a singular spot placed in a key location, we can probably reason that it is more likely that than some randomly placed motif. What was meant in mentioning the Yemeni practice was simply a comparitive note, and use of such inlays are known in other cases of course......since there was profound Islamic presence throughout these regions, naturally it seemed feasible that this tradition or symbolism might be transcribed to a blade, even in Zaire.

The influences of Islam were thoroughly emplaced through the Sahara and Sahel, and even reached further into Central Africa. The key trade centers, especially Timbuktu in Mali, were also religious and cultural centers, and through them influences from points across Africa were carried constantly.

The possibility of the reason for the inlaid dot is of course unknown, but to discount the suggestion of other influence seems unfortunate, and since it is so obviously deliberately placed, it begs the question, then why is it there?

We know that copper dots are often seen in groupings, as in the jians of China with seven stars, they have been seen in India often in three dots, the mandau or parang ihlang of Borneo has numerous holes along the blade to be filled with gold metal. .....but admittedly these are placed for different reasons and none singly. We know that the early European smiths, the Franks, often used gold or copper inlay in thier blades in single marks, often a cross. These 'influences' are all too far removed for plausible consideration in this case, but what remains is the act of inlaying gold metal into a blade.

We have discussed through the years the very prevalent superstitions and beliefs associated with particular metals throughout the North African regions, and particularly iron or steel.......many Tuareg swords are of course covered in leather or brass, ostensibly to deter the effects of the metal in the sword on the owner. Perhaps such application, even with a single emphasized dot of the metal could have such a purpose?

It really is hard to say, but I do know I enjoy it very much when individuals here are willing to share thier thoughts and ideas, regardless of in disagreement or support. I see a question, look wherever I can to find what I can, and then write what I perceive from the information. When others do the same it is how we all learn, on these pages, and together.
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Old 1st August 2010, 03:43 PM   #11
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Like Jim, I also do not believe this is of form of a Takouba. The central rib and general blade profile is totally different. The cross guard does give it a Takouba-esque look , but, as noted its welded 'attachment' is again not normal for a Takouba, nor is it leather covered....judging by the decoration extending from the blade to the guard it never was, or meant to be. The brass rivet/inlay perhaps, was enough to 'sanitise' / nullify the believed bad effects of the iron.The hilt seems more usual for the Congo and surrounding areas.

The decoration seems similar to a number of blades seen from Mandara. An area of intense mining, smelting and 'smithing'. References suggest this area attracted 'smiths' from a number of tribes and it makes sense that an 'intermingling' of styles of weapons would have developed as a result. Techniques may also have been shared creating a 'melting pot' of ideas ...... improved metallurgy and the skills of the workers.

Martin, I think you got yourself a very interesting sword, it seems extremely well made .....the blade especially, congrats

Regards David
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Old 1st August 2010, 09:49 PM   #12
Jim McDougall
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Mandara was of course situated in what is now Cameroon, and the kingdom of Kanem-Bornu extended into these regions, including parts of Niger, Nigeria and Chad, with these regions all Sultanates . Muslim scholarship prevailed through these areas, however in many cases there were concerns over the nominal observance of Islamic Faith, which led to thre Fulani jihad in the 19th century against Mandara.

The fact that the Bornu state was founded by Arabs, Berbers and Hausa in the 14th century and the continued Sultancys in all of these regions, coupled with the prevalent Arab trade and scholarship in my opinion suggest that there was indeed powerful Arab influence present throughout. Although it has never been suggested that the takouba originated as a sword form in West Africa, it is acknowledged that its presence extends widely through the Sahara, most typically associated with the Tuareg.
The influences from the East are noted in certain scholarly references in which many takouba blades are termed, masri, which means Egyptian, loosely translated from the east.

The trade routes I have mentioned many times have resulted in many instances of sometimes unusual hybrid weapons, and carried influences as well. There are cases of triple channeled kaskara type blades mounted in rondel hilt type swords in Sierra Leone and other West African regions. These did not originate there, but the blades clearly arrived from the east, either from points of entry in the northern littoral or from trade inbound from Chad or Sudanese regions.

Regarding the inlaid copper or brass plug, I have discovered an interesting reference in which Dr. Lloyd Cabot Briggs discusses this phenomenon in his work on Tuareg swords and daggers (p.80). Referring to a takouba with intermediate (south or central) attribution, and with a blade that he notes could be European, he states , "...this blade has been pierced about 3/16 of an inch above its rounded point and the resulting hole is filled by a copper plug 3/16" in average diameter on the obverse and 1/4" on the reverse".
He claims another example has a similar hole, unfilled, and that he has no idea what the pierced mutilations might be for.

The point is of course, that the practice did exist in Saharan regions in at least some degree. The fact that the instances here relate to Tuareg swords, and they of course only nominally accepted Islamic Faith, does suggest non Arabic source was possible for the copper insert....unless one considers the profound presence of Islamic Faith throughout all of these regions, which influenced Tuaregs as well as many other tribal entities who were more devout followers within these Sultanates.

Addendum:

Just found another reference which might be of interest, though a bit ancient for direct influence on these swords, still pertinant to a curious practice:

"...Frankish pattern welded blades taper to a rounded point. When treatment of the blade is completed some of the blades are marked in the upper part with half moons or crosses of bronze or gold, and sometimes a nail of gold is hammered into a hole in the blade".
H.R. Ellis-Davidson noting the al Kindi ref.

This information begs the question, just how old is the broadsword tradition in North Africa? and could these ancient practices have been brought into tribal regions during the early occupations there? It would appear that the Arab world did know of the Frankish practice.....since this reference was from al-Kindi.

Things to ponder.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 08:54 PM   #13
Tim Simmons
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Default Adding more mud to the water.

If we go back to the 1400s, the European arrival on the west coast could have introduced this form, if we are to think in this way. The Portugese in paticular. Perhaps there is an influence up from the Congo? Perhaps the form was adopted by the Arabs after defeat at the hands of Christian Spain? It could even be a native version before the Muslim city states? The picture Mandra and Shi, how far does this go?
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Old 3rd August 2010, 04:17 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
How many eastern blades in the context of the thread have additions of copper or brass dots or other, even from Arabia and India.

As far as this forum goes my guess would be not many.
I for one have a very old Rhino hilted Jambiya with 6 brass plugs in the blade, three either side of the central ridge.

Gav
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Old 3rd August 2010, 04:40 AM   #15
Jim McDougall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
If we go back to the 1400s, the European arrival on the west coast could have introduced this form, if we are to think in this way. The Portugese in paticular. Perhaps there is an influence up from the Congo? Perhaps the form was adopted by the Arabs after defeat at the hands of Christian Spain? It could even be a native version before the Muslim city states? The picture Mandra and Shi, how far does this go?
The appearance of the sword in North Africa has of course history to the Romans and the Vandals, and of course in the 7th century with the expansion of the Muslims from the East. By the 12th century the Almohads empire covered most of the North African regions that now comprise the Maghreb as well as Al Andalus (Moorish Spain). By the 13th century only the Emirate of Granada remained as a Muslim state in Spain, and tribute was paid to Castile by Mali and Burkina Faso kingdoms in gold. By the time of the Nasrids in Al Andalus in the 15th century, the considerable presence of broadswords in North Africa must have been impressive.

Of course the Portuguese had reached inwardly from West Africa in certain degree in the 15th century, and Briggs notes the commercial contacts the Tuareg had with Europeans in Mauretania regions at that time. Other sources noted were from caravans from the northern seaports, especially Tunis and Tripoli but of course other lesser known ports as well. The main center for this traffic in commerce was Timbuktu, and to Jenne and Gao on the Niger.

By the 16th century Gao was a main commercial center for not only European blades, but a blade making center as well. Blades often came in through Tunis and Tripoli as noted, and it is thought that these accounted for many of the Italian blades found in Saharan swords....however the arrival of Spanish blades, while we might presume through Portuguese channels, may have also come from the north, as well as the German blades seen.

In all, the trade blade networks were vast and complex, and we cannot define a singular path of influence for the development of the takouba nor the other edged weapons we have discussed. It should be noted that the influences of Islamic broadswords from East, especially via the Mamluks, cannot be overlooked, and with the influence established, the continuation of this tradition was of course enhanced by the availability of European blades entering these spheres through numerous points of entry.

While the bladesmiths of Toledo were of course renowned, so were the Islamic smiths of Granada....and in earlier times, there was a strong presence of Frankish blades that entered Andalusian regions, where they were held in high esteem. Briggs notes that Lhote believed that the inlaying of makers marks with brass or gold was proof that this was an African trait because it had not been noted by European armourers, yet Briggs notes the many examples including at least 13 in the Wallace collection. As I noted earlier, the Franks used the practice, and the Arab Al Kindi was aware of it noting the Yemeni use of it.

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 4th August 2010 at 04:35 PM. Reason: correction in wording for readers as this drops into archives
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Old 3rd August 2010, 06:08 PM   #16
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Cool

Its true I saw it in THE LONG SHIPS .
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Old 3rd August 2010, 07:11 PM   #17
fernando
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Wow Jim,

What a magnificent section of your treatise on "African" sword blades, in your post #15.



'Nando
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Old 3rd August 2010, 09:50 PM   #18
Jim McDougall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Wow Jim,

What a magnificent section of your treatise on "African" sword blades, in your post #15.



'Nando



Thank you so much Nando!!! That means a lot to hear, and I spent quite a few hours going through old notes, references and rechecking before I came to a comprehensible stage to write it..................geez...I coulda just watched some movies instead???!!!~ but I liked "The Thirteenth Warrior" lots better than the somewhat dated "The Long Ships"

Thank you again Nando for the Kind words, very much appreciated.


All the best,
Jim
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Old 4th August 2010, 03:05 AM   #19
Gavin Nugent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Wow Jim,

What a magnificent section of your treatise on "African" sword blades, in your post #15.



'Nando
Indeed, bravo!!!

Gav

PS I preferred the book
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Old 4th August 2010, 04:33 PM   #20
Jim McDougall
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Thanks very much Gav!

It looks like Martin, ISPN and David's ideas toward this being a sword from Congo, Mandara (Cameroon) regions and a Sahelian sword with takouba like characteristics are pretty much on target. I really enjoyed the research and discussion, and as always, feel like I learned more on the swords of these regions......thank you Martin for sharing this here!

Also, as always, I hope the readers will benefit from the discussion here, and thanks to those who participated.
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