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Alexander Hinman




Location: washington, dc
Joined: 08 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 10:14 am    Post subject: Ethiopian Swords         Reply with quote

So, I've decided to dig a little deeper into the history of medieval Ethiopia, and while there is plenty of interest, there is one thing that puzzles me. I've often seen the curved shotel described as the typical Ethiopian sword, but this does not seem to be borne out iconographically. Consider these representations of archangels, from the late-15th to late-17th centuries:
http://art.thewalters.org/detail/5751/diptych...d-a-saint/
http://art.thewalters.org/detail/6357/icon-of...th-angels/
http://art.thewalters.org/detail/23397//
http://art.thewalters.org/detail/24629//

Now, a few observations:
Iconography of this type is, obviously, not meant to reflect reality in perfect facsimile. However, what detail comes through shows the use, exclusively, of straight swords. The langets on the swords in the first three images, bring to mind the Sudanese kaskara and, given the mutual borders of the Empire of Ethiopia and the kingdoms which would form modern Sudan, such similar weapons would be expected.

The patterning on the pommels of the swords is also interesting, and makes me wonder if they, like those of some kaskara, would be made of organic material as well as metal.

Does anyone have any better information than what I've been able to infer from a few icons and some educated guesses?
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
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Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2014 1:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Ethiopian Swords         Reply with quote

Alexander Hinman wrote:
Iconography of this type is, obviously, not meant to reflect reality in perfect facsimile. However, what detail comes through shows the use, exclusively, of straight swords. The langets on the swords in the first three images, bring to mind the Sudanese kaskara and, given the mutual borders of the Empire of Ethiopia and the kingdoms which would form modern Sudan, such similar weapons would be expected.


Also closely related to earlier Syrian and Egyptian swords (from which the kaskara derives).

Alexander Hinman wrote:
The patterning on the pommels of the swords is also interesting, and makes me wonder if they, like those of some kaskara, would be made of organic material as well as metal.


Could be. But there are examples with patterned pommels (matching patterned grips), of metal. See posts 1, 30, 37, 57, 62 in http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=10557 ; see also post 60.

Also see attached hilt, from http://users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/turk/TopkapiArms.html , described as "Mamluk sword hilt, 14th to 16th century".

No surprise to see little relationship between Ethiopian swords of the 16th century and 19th/20th century Ethiopian swords. Compare European 16th century swords with 19th/20th century European swords.



 Attachment: 86.15 KB
TopkapiSwordHiltFancy.JPG
http://users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/turk/TopkapiArms.html

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Iain Norman





Joined: 14 Jul 2005

Posts: 67

PostPosted: Sat 03 May, 2014 1:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An interesting topic. Straight bladed swords in the Mamluk style seem to have been used. Here's an image taken from a tourist's blog showing a Coptic priest exhibiting a supposedly very old king's sword.



The hilt styling is a close match to other Mamluk swords such as the example below, originally sold at Christies for a very large sum!

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