Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Morava - Olomoucký kraj - Czech Republic
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I agree with Colin, as always your entries are remarkably observed and well detailed with references, very much appreciated! These are most valuable in learning more on these weapons.
It is really hard to determine more on the thuluth covered arms, as it is tempting to classify them as souveniers. However, it seems that there is compelling consideration toward these weapons being produced during the time of the Caliph just after the Mahdi's death in 1885. In arming his growing forces, many comprising slave elements and others he used this profound device in carrying forth the religious fervor of the Mahdi even though he had passed. It seems that the workshops in Omdurman were essential in assemblage of weaponry, though I have seen references suggesting weapons (the trowel type) were made in Khartoum (where the armory and some shops remained intact).
While we know these thuluth covered arms were produced for the continuation of the Mahdiyya, it is hard to say how many might have been produced during the post Omdurman Condominium as I am not aware of any documented evidence addressing that.
It seems reasonable that the 'X' on the cross center on hilts probably were produced during the Mahddiyya, but seem certainly more unusual in examples I have seen. It is in Reed (1985) where these predominate on the swords he describes from Darfur, and as the forms which apparently became popularized during Ali Dinar's time in early years pre WWI. These had these X guards and often embossed harlequin/lozenge decorated silver hilts.
Regarding thuluth, I'm not implying they are all post 19th century junk, but there are certain standardized patterns of quite short kaskara without fullers, sheet metal blades and thuluth combined with low quality brass guards that I am certain were made for the tourist market.
Obviously there are plenty of examples that are indeed from the Mahdist period, but my point was simply that a lot of the examples that come up frequently for sale are in my opinion not of the age often prescribed to them.
About the hilts with the Xs. Yes these do seem to be something of a Darfur specialty, but offhand several in Blair castle have them. So I think its really not specific to the post 19th century period and much of the arms used in the Mahdist period, particularly good quality swords were doubtless produced before. Also we know the cross guards were also imported from Germany (see "Le Soudan: Ses rapport avec le commerce Europeen" from 1871 and written by a French civil servant).