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Old 11th March 2012, 09:13 PM   #1
Iain
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Default Ethiopian alternative straight swords

I was digging around in my image archives today and came across a couple odd images that I was hoping I could learn more about.

The first is a kaskara, but was labeled as Ethiopian. I know of another kaskara with this odd pommel configuration, I believe the MET has it.

The second image is from one of the older churches in Ethiopia I think and is supposedly a king's sword.

Any further examples of this sort of thing - i.e. not the more typical horn hilts?
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Old 12th March 2012, 05:49 AM   #2
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Hi Iain,
These strange pommel configurations, according to personal communications some years ago with archaeologist/curator Timothy Kendall, and an example in his collection with twin, flattened spheres similar to this arrangement, these were used by the mounted nobility in Darfur.
Apparantly these spheres often contained beans or pebbles and were used presumably to rattle over thier heads in victory celebrations or in many cases to terrify captives.
Ref: "History and Antiquities of Darfur" H.C.Balfour Paul, Sudan Antiquities Pamphlet, 1955.
Mr. Kendall is an archaeologist active in Egyptian and Sudanese sites, and his collection was on tour in Austria at the time I spoke with him, around ten years ago.
It would seem this example vestigially recalls these twin pommels.

Not sure on the sword in the second photo, but it seems a number of otherwise relatively inconsequential sword types ended up as regalia swords in Abyssinia during diplomatic contacts late 19th century. I have an article around here somewhere on one of these kinds of swords presented to King Theodore around that time.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 12th March 2012, 09:53 AM   #3
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Hi Jim,

Thanks for the details on the strange kaskara pommels.

The second sword is more interesting to me as I honestly can't place from an outside source. Strange form.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 12th March 2012, 07:10 PM   #4
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I agree Iain, the blade seems to favor the kaskara blades we were looking at which were Clauberg type from 1870s or so with that central ellipse fuller, but hard to say for sure. The hilt with those apertures at the crossguard ends is curious as well, and of course reminds me of something I cant place, it almost looks like a bayonet kind of hilt.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 12th March 2012, 08:08 PM   #5
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Jim and Iain,
To me the hilt of the Ethiopian regalia sword looks very much like the hilt of a sword sold through Hermann Historica, pictures saved in this thread:

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread...ight=historica

There, it was described as a late medieval sword from Egypt. I agree with Jim that the single fullered blade looks very much like a Solingen made blade from the mid 19th century, but the hilt may be quite older. Or, the "mameluke" sword may be from a later period.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 13th March 2012, 07:33 AM   #6
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Salaams Iain ~ I am interested in the influence if any of Schiavona blades on African and Red Sea regional weapons. The double edge style are quite similar.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Old 13th March 2012, 09:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams Iain ~ I am interested in the influence if any of Schiavona blades on African and Red Sea regional weapons. The double edge style are quite similar.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Ibrahiim, double edged straight swords, like the one Teodor linked, have been in use by the Mamluks well before schiavonas.


Teodor, I think you might have something with that link, the guard style is remarkably similar and with these swords I've seen a variety of flattish pommels used. There is a long history of contact between Mamluk Egypt and Ethiopia. Most of it not at all friendly! This makes for interesting reading.


Jim, this particular blade has the wrong profile for a German trade blade, at least any that I've seen. The fuller is too long and narrow. Whereas the typical export patterns had broader fullers and much shorter. The edge geometry is also wrong for a trade blade I think, this is much flatter. For those reasons I am really starting to think Teodor hit the nail on the head and this is quite possibly a Mamluk sword.

Cheers,

Iain
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Old 13th March 2012, 09:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Ibrahiim, double edged straight swords, like the one Teodor linked, have been in use by the Mamluks well before schiavonas.


Teodor, I think you might have something with that link, the guard style is remarkably similar and with these swords I've seen a variety of flattish pommels used. There is a long history of contact between Mamluk Egypt and Ethiopia. Most of it not at all friendly! This makes for interesting reading.


Jim, this particular blade has the wrong profile for a German trade blade, at least any that I've seen. The fuller is too long and narrow. Whereas the typical export patterns had broader fullers and much shorter. The edge geometry is also wrong for a trade blade I think, this is much flatter. For those reasons I am really starting to think Teodor hit the nail on the head and this is quite possibly a Mamluk sword.

Cheers,

Iain
Salaams Iain ~ I quite agree and according to the museum in Istanbul it belongs to Ottoman then Mamluke and before that back to Abbasiid and before that to their respected Greek influence ( they were fanatical about most things Greek)... It is related to the Abbasiid weapon to which I link the Old Omani Battle Sword by timeline and design. I am simply probing the Schiavona link in addition.. I hope thats reasonable.
Salaams,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 14th March 2012, 03:42 AM   #9
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Excellent call Iain! I think I must be getting too cautious in my old age as I hesitated to be that optimistic, but looking at it, your astute eye has pretty well caught the key points. I think that with that being the case this could very well be an old Mamluk blade.
While many of these swords were taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul, there were certainly many which diffused into surrounding regions over time.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 20th March 2012, 06:32 PM   #10
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This blade seems very similar in profile.
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Old 20th March 2012, 06:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
This blade seems very similar in profile.
Salaams Iain ~ I agree . It looked like it had been rounded at the tip which was originally pointed. I suspect stiff blades like these which are fighting blades originally floated down the red sea and onto swords in Ethiopia, Yemen and Saudia.... Probably onto Bedawi weapons and rehilted onto various others like this Karabela. I see these as being cousins(?) when hilted on long Omani hilts though I question the ability to use as dancers in the Omani style.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 20th March 2012, 06:46 PM   #12
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The mounts on the Ethiopian example are still a bit of a puzzle. I wish there were more photos... However from what I can see I think the Mamluk option is the most likely.

The hilt seems to correspond well to this example.
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Old 20th March 2012, 07:05 PM   #13
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The symbol on the blade is 3 crescents and 3 stars, I thought at first that it could be a reference to Mohammed Ali dynasty (Khediwi's) but it could be something else.
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Old 20th March 2012, 07:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
The mounts on the Ethiopian example are still a bit of a puzzle. I wish there were more photos... However from what I can see I think the Mamluk option is the most likely.

The hilt seems to correspond well to this example.

Salaams Iain~ Do you attribute these to Ottoman or Mamluke or Abbasid ? I have them down as Ottoman>Mamluki> Abasiid ~ they are most certainly from the earlier style and could go back as far as the Greek... I wondered where on the ladder you were linking these... or perhaps to the entire lineage? Regards Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Old 20th March 2012, 08:03 PM   #15
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The specific sword I posted an image of is Mamluk.
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Old 20th March 2012, 10:27 PM   #16
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Iain, the example you show in post #10 is an interesting example of a type of hilt which resembles the European 'karabela' hilts and is noted as having been found often in Yemen and various Arabian regions. I have one of these exact hilts with a short hanger type blade, and I will try to find photos. They seem to have the exact same features with the horn karabela hilt, roundels and the wire wrapped hilt neck, short crossguard.
It seems many of the short versions of these likely did find use in the maritime trade networks, as I understood when I first obtained this back in the 90s sometime.

The blade on this does resemble German trade blades of the mid to latter 19th century as we have discussed, and could very well have been among the 'blanks' exported for North Africa. It is actually unusual as far as I have known to see this type blade on this style hilt.

Lofty, the cosmological grouping seems to be a variation of the marks used by the Solingen Schimmelbusch and Kirschbaum families, who produced blade through the 19th century. Thier mark was basically a shooting star surrounded by stars, usually groupings of six, however there were numbers of variations including the tail of the shooting star perceived as a crescent, which led to multiples of crescents and stars. As with many of these marks, it is believed importers would add thier interpretations to these blades, which were seen as talismanic by native traders and buyers.

Ibrahiim, these blades probably were among those which entered the Red Sea trade typically through the Egyptian entrepot, and while most went into the Sudanese markets for kaskara, many seem to have entered Arabia via Yemen. Here it seems some of the blades were mounted in San'a, and of course some blades went via caravan to the east. These straight blades would seem more likely to have been destined for the Omani sayfs, but of course here is one which apparantly stopped short of that destination.

As we have seen, the other heavily channeled blade with three fullers and known to be Ethiopian (also Solingen import) was another blade form which seems to have been hilted in these Yemeni regions.

The suggestion on the possible influence of 'schiavona' blades in the Red Sea trade actually does have merit in that Italy was indeed a source for North African blades from end of the 16thc into the 17th (Briggs. p.90). The primary points of entry seem to have been Tunis, Tripoli and Benghazi. Here they entered caravan routes and of course diffused in various directions.
Though it seems that they were superceded by German imports, it remains unclear how extensively Italian blades continued. The volume of German blades certainly overtook that of the Italian.

Just to clarify though, again with terminology, the term 'schiavona' refers primarily to the trellis hilt swords used typically in Venice, and these particular swords though usually backswords, did on occasion have broadsword blades. The presence of broadswords among Italian swords of various forms is of course well established, most of these considered and called by the term 'arming swords', which included rapier type hilts with heavier blades for military rather than civilian use.

I am curious which Greek swords you are noting in the previous post on the Mamluk sword.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 21st March 2012, 10:15 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Iain, the example you show in post #10 is an interesting example of a type of hilt which resembles the European 'karabela' hilts and is noted as having been found often in Yemen and various Arabian regions. I have one of these exact hilts with a short hanger type blade, and I will try to find photos. They seem to have the exact same features with the horn karabela hilt, roundels and the wire wrapped hilt neck, short crossguard.
It seems many of the short versions of these likely did find use in the maritime trade networks, as I understood when I first obtained this back in the 90s sometime.

The blade on this does resemble German trade blades of the mid to latter 19th century as we have discussed, and could very well have been among the 'blanks' exported for North Africa. It is actually unusual as far as I have known to see this type blade on this style hilt.

Lofty, the cosmological grouping seems to be a variation of the marks used by the Solingen Schimmelbusch and Kirschbaum families, who produced blade through the 19th century. Thier mark was basically a shooting star surrounded by stars, usually groupings of six, however there were numbers of variations including the tail of the shooting star perceived as a crescent, which led to multiples of crescents and stars. As with many of these marks, it is believed importers would add thier interpretations to these blades, which were seen as talismanic by native traders and buyers.

Ibrahiim, these blades probably were among those which entered the Red Sea trade typically through the Egyptian entrepot, and while most went into the Sudanese markets for kaskara, many seem to have entered Arabia via Yemen. Here it seems some of the blades were mounted in San'a, and of course some blades went via caravan to the east. These straight blades would seem more likely to have been destined for the Omani sayfs, but of course here is one which apparantly stopped short of that destination.

As we have seen, the other heavily channeled blade with three fullers and known to be Ethiopian (also Solingen import) was another blade form which seems to have been hilted in these Yemeni regions.

The suggestion on the possible influence of 'schiavona' blades in the Red Sea trade actually does have merit in that Italy was indeed a source for North African blades from end of the 16thc into the 17th (Briggs. p.90). The primary points of entry seem to have been Tunis, Tripoli and Benghazi. Here they entered caravan routes and of course diffused in various directions.
Though it seems that they were superceded by German imports, it remains unclear how extensively Italian blades continued. The volume of German blades certainly overtook that of the Italian.

Just to clarify though, again with terminology, the term 'schiavona' refers primarily to the trellis hilt swords used typically in Venice, and these particular swords though usually backswords, did on occasion have broadsword blades. The presence of broadswords among Italian swords of various forms is of course well established, most of these considered and called by the term 'arming swords', which included rapier type hilts with heavier blades for military rather than civilian use.

I am curious which Greek swords you are noting in the previous post on the Mamluk sword.

All the best,
Jim

Salaams Iain and Jim ~ The passage of design appears to be Greek Abbasid Mamluke Ottoman and then diffused generally around the Mediterranean region etc... The Abbasids were Greek fanatics and in everything from the stars to mathematics architecture to weaponry they copied vast amounts of Greek work. The Abbasids then were a conduit passing on the designs through dynastic handing on / copying and mirroring through the passage of time into Ottoman styles. The Abbasid sword ca 9th C at the Istanbul museum is similar in many respects to the Omani Sayf Yamaani.. the latter "design froze" in Oman etc etc

See http://users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/turk/TopkapiArms2.html for a museum view of the swords.

It appears that there is a fusion of Greek Persian and Roman(Gladius) style in the Abbasid weapons and perhaps, though tenuous, a Greek root to the Arabic word Sayf (XIPHOS). A short concise history of the Abbasid is attached for reference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scimitar

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/LX/NAM...nBronze01.html

The Abbasid Caliphs came to the throne after declaring a revolution against the Umayyads. The core of the revolution was the province of Greater Khorasan (now in Iran and Afghanistan). They successfully destroyed the army of the Umayyad Caliphate in the Battle of Zab River in 750. Following the battle, they seized Damascus, the seat of the Umayyads, and exterminated most (but not all) of the Umayyad royal family. Abu al-'Abbas as-Saffah was declared as the 1st Abbasid caliph. He made the city of Anbar (now in Iraq) the capital of the new Abbasid Caliphate. His empire extended from Iberia to the borders of India and China. When he died, he was succeeded by his brother, caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur. During his reign, al-Mansur built Baghdad and encouraged his court to translate the books of the Persians and Greeks. Also during this period, Abd ar-Rahman, a remaining Umayyad prince, escaped to Iberia and established an independent emirate there.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 21st March 2012, 10:35 AM   #18
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Just to clarify I think in this particular sense its probably more clear to write Byzantine than Greek. At least in a modern sense that's the more common terminology. If you want to get archaic we can just call it the Roman Empire as it was known at the time.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 10:13 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
I was digging around in my image archives today and came across a couple odd images that I was hoping I could learn more about.

The first is a kaskara, but was labeled as Ethiopian. I know of another kaskara with this odd pommel configuration, I believe the MET has it.

The second image is from one of the older churches in Ethiopia I think and is supposedly a king's sword.

Any further examples of this sort of thing - i.e. not the more typical horn hilts?
Salaams Iain~ I have been looking at this thread since it arrived and have to say I consider this one of the most important possibilities (the Mamluke link etc) I have yet encountered here. The connotations are legion including the rehilting of these blades onto Omani longhilts, fusion with Saudia and Yemeni hilts and so on. Intriguing also are the fancy decorations of moons etc on the other blade ~Luckhouse and Gunter plus other German makers have a hand in some of these as well as possible local copies. I see some with woolf marks in Muscat. On passing, I am reviewing the blade scene for Schiavona rehilts in Red Sea variants...

Anyway this thread is looking good and I hope it develops. Thanks.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Old 21st April 2012, 09:49 PM   #20
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...the straight-bladed kaskara-like swords were associated with the Coptic priesthood which was administered from Alexandria until 1959.
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Old 21st April 2012, 11:05 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wood
...the straight-bladed kaskara-like swords were associated with the Coptic priesthood which was administered from Alexandria until 1959.
Interesting, I assume you are referring to the type show in the second image at the start of this thread. A reference would be good on this apparently known association...
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Old 4th November 2012, 06:14 PM   #22
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Hi Stephen, I just wanted to bump this up again in case we could get more info on the connection with the coptic priesthood you mentioned?
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Old 4th November 2012, 09:48 PM   #23
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Now thats patience Iain!!!! 7 months
Im glad you brought this up again though, it would indeed be interesting to discover how these 'straight' kaskara like swords are used in the Coptic Church in thier ceremonial perspective. I am curious if there are curved types as well and if also included in such context.
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Old 4th November 2012, 10:21 PM   #24
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Hehe Jim, I'm in it for the long haul I guess and still intrigued by Coptic connection. I've done a little searching through some period sources but didn't turn up anything yet.

Hopefully Stephen still stops by often enough to see this.
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Old 5th November 2012, 12:18 AM   #25
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I'm with you Iain, and hope he sees this thread, possibly this information was in his presentation on the kaskara some years ago to the Arms and Armour Society in London.
I cannot fathom the connection of these notably Islamic swords with the Coptic Priesthood in Egypt, but have some information and thoughts on the unique style of these dual pommel kaskaras in the meantime.

In an exhibition titled "Sudan in the Age of the Mahdi" by Tim Kendall some years ago, he cited that kaskara with twin flattened hollow spheres filled with small beans or pebbles were common with the mounted nobility in Darfur during Mahdist times. Apparantly they would charge full gallop at captuted troops and stop short, waving thier swords with loud rattling over thier heads to frighten them.
This is sourced :
"Mahdism and the Egyptian Sudan" F.R. Wingate London, 1891, p.137
"Ten Years in the Mahdis Camp 1882-1892", same author , 1892 , on Father Ohrwalders ordeal, p.92

One of the swords in the exhibition was of this type. While the example shown here in the original post has the familiar discoid pommel with secondary disc of lesser propertion, the dual concept seems to reflect in it.

As far as the Ethiopian attribution, there was a form of kaskara type sword produced apparantly for Abyssinia or Red Sea trade which had fullered broadsword blades often with Amharic inscriptions and Lion of Judah made usually by Wilkinson. These seem to have been hilted in Yemen with a different crossguard shape and domed pommel which seems to have been repousse silverwork. Perhaps the hollowed pommel on these may have been source for the Ethiopian association. By the same token, though not directly associated there do seem to have been certain connections between the varying Christian Orthodox Copts and those in Ethiopia. Perhaps these elements may account for the associations...hopefully more definitive answer will ensue.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 8th November 2012, 04:58 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wood
...the straight-bladed kaskara-like swords were associated with the Coptic priesthood which was administered from Alexandria until 1959.

Salaams stephen wood ~ This is interesting if it is in fact the case ~ Perhaps you can elaborate ?

I was looking at the subject and discovered that The Church is ecumenical in outlook, and was a founder member of the World Council of Churches in 1948. The word 'Copt' comes from the Greek word 'Aigyptos', meaning Egyptian.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 27th October 2016, 09:25 PM   #27
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Hi Iain,

I have to resuscitate this old thread.
I asked recently some informations about a tabouka and a blade.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=21988
Because I had something in mind.
I think your first sword is Ethiopian and the museum was right (this time).
I will post some documents tomorrow to prove it.
When I say Ethiopian I mean found in Ethiopia and used by Ethiopians,
The sword was probably captured from a battle between Sudanese and Ethiopians and refitted with a new pommel later by Ethiopians.

Best,
Kubur
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Old 28th October 2016, 07:21 AM   #28
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In fact your sword is not from the MET.
The kaskara from the MET is here.
Your drawing comes from an old French traveller book, the author drawns and collected objects from Ethiopia, objects used by Ethiopians.
Theophile Lefebvre, Voyage en Abyssinie, 1845.
Best,
Kubur
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Old 28th October 2016, 08:55 PM   #29
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Kubur,
Thank you so much for that reference!
These swords have been a puzzle for some time and its great to have this additional support. Much appreciated.

Jim
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Old 29th October 2016, 08:58 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Kubur,
Thank you so much for that reference!
These swords have been a puzzle for some time and its great to have this additional support. Much appreciated.

Jim
Thank you Jim
Regard to the introduction of these swords to Ethiopia.
It's true that the Coptic Church headquarter based in Alexandria was sending missionaries since the Byzantine period. These relations became stronger around 1000 AD and they might introduced some Islamic swords to Ethiopia during this period. Later with the conquest of Dongola in Nubia, the Mamluks introduced or re-introduced these swords in sub-Saharan Africa...
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