EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Agree, sheet steel, and this certainly seems a piece made 'in the spirit of the Mahdist spectrum of weapons'.
It would be na´ve to think that in the time of the Condominium, post Omdurman, that industrious native sellers would not fashion items for the bustling souvenier markets to satisfy occupying forces.
It seems a well known fact that often the production of certain items were even produced in Birmingham and furnished to vendors in the bazaars for such purpose. After all, Birmingham had been producing armor and such materials to Egypt for the Khedives forces long before this.
However, we do know that these 'souvenier' items which have severely clouded the integrity of the collected weaponry from Omdurman, and in the time thereafter, which was authentically used.
In fact the volume of such authentic weaponry was staggering, and the removal of much of it was seemingly a standard for British forces. Actually, as well shown by Kipling, the British military had great respect for the Ansar of the Mahdist forces as brave warriors, and collected his weapons in that regard. Certainly in the early years, even toward WWI, there was still substantial volume of authentic materials from these campaigns.
The conundrum faced by the ethnographic weapons collector is of course, how to discern whether a 'Mahdist' item is in fact an authentically collected campaign relic, or a facsimile produced for bazaar's or other commercial sale.
It must be remembered that in the time of the Khalifa, after the death of the Mahdi in 1885, there was a great push for weaponry to arm the forces, and the need to carry forward the instilled power of the Mahdi and the cause.
The use of profound embellishment in the form of 'thuluth' calligraphy was instrumental on these weapons, which in effect carried the messages and the 'magic' of the Mahdi.
In forces which were brought in from other regions, their ethnic forms of weapons were retained and even produced faithfully in Khartoum, many more ornate and thuluth embellished and intended for chiefs and tribal leaders of these groups.
Many of these unusual weapons seem to have been of somewhat dubious quality, and there is no doubt that the sheet steel and materials which had been in the shops and factories at Khartoum were used in fabrication of weapons intended more as emblems of authority to such figures. One source I recall noted that it seemed virtually every scrap of metal in the Sudan had ended up in Gordon's industrial complexes.
These are the kinds of considerations which come into play as we examine these kinds of examples, and each item must be judged on its own merits.
It is very hard to gauge from photos of course, and there seems to be few limits to the variations in weaponry which came from these times in the Sudan.