Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Ethnographic Weapons

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 10th November 2013, 02:17 PM   #1
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,430
Default Baggara spear "shalazieh"

Hi

Those who like African weapons might be interested to see this enormous Sudanese spear, length is 10 feet. I wonder how it would be used in combat, it being so unwieldy, being more suited for use from horseback ?

Comments are welcome, also any references or if there are some comparable examples, please post them...
Attached Images
  
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th November 2013, 02:36 PM   #2
Iain
Member
 
Iain's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Olomouc
Posts: 1,676
Default

Hi Colin,

A very nice example. These do appear to have been used on horseback as well as ox back! See the attached photos.

Don't see many of these around, congratulations on getting one with the shaft intact and in such good condition.
Attached Images
    
Iain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th November 2013, 10:34 AM   #3
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,430
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Hi Colin,

A very nice example. These do appear to have been used on horseback as well as ox back! See the attached photos.

Don't see many of these around, congratulations on getting one with the shaft intact and in such good condition.
Hi Iain

Thanks for your comments and the excellent photos. Glad you like the piece. The third image of the man on ox back is particularly striking.

Reading up on the late 19th century Mahdist period and the various military encounters with the Anglo-Egyptian forces, it seems the Mahdists also employed large units of foot soldiers armed solely with these long spears and perhaps a sword. Presumably the idea was to simply overwhelm the opposition with a charging wall of steel, as in European mediaeval times ?

Makes me think a little of the Scottish "schiltrons" and their very long spears...

Looking forward to further comments on this topic.

Regards.
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th November 2013, 11:36 AM   #4
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Room 101, Glos. UK
Posts: 4,098
Default

a hewing spear - use it like an axe, as well as for stabbing.
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th November 2013, 08:18 PM   #5
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 383
Default

Colin,

I have one almost just like yours that I picked up in Kartoum back in the day. Had to shorten the shaft to get it into a duffel of kaskaras and on the plane. Will post a photo as soon as the Ballistol has done its magic on some surface rust.

Since most of the Kalifa's supporters were Baggara, I'd suspect that these spears were predominant in the Battle of Omdurman.

Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th November 2013, 10:27 PM   #6
Iain
Member
 
Iain's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Olomouc
Posts: 1,676
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Hi Iain

Thanks for your comments and the excellent photos. Glad you like the piece. The third image of the man on ox back is particularly striking.

Reading up on the late 19th century Mahdist period and the various military encounters with the Anglo-Egyptian forces, it seems the Mahdists also employed large units of foot soldiers armed solely with these long spears and perhaps a sword. Presumably the idea was to simply overwhelm the opposition with a charging wall of steel, as in European mediaeval times ?

Makes me think a little of the Scottish "schiltrons" and their very long spears...

Looking forward to further comments on this topic.

Regards.
While I'm more familiar with the western Sudan as you know, I imagine the tactics were similar. Heavy spear men functioned a bit like European pike men, being ideally suited to countering cavalry charges.

Smaldone's "Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate" has a nice in-depth chapter on the typical tactics in use.

Of course as reliable repeating firearms became available, they became a defunct force tactically. But they seem to have coexisted at least in the western Sahel along with muskets for quite a while.
Iain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th November 2013, 11:31 PM   #7
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 383
Default Spear Photos

Iain,

Great photo documentation of the Baggara spearmen.

Colin,

See attached photos. As I was oiling the blade I made a tactile discovery. As I rubbed my finger from the center ridge toward the edge the surface seemed to have a slight cup to it and raised to the "bevel" edge at the top of the second photo. The lower surface seemed flat, no bevel. When I turned the blade over and did the same finger rub to the other face, the edge that was flat on one side had a cupping and raised edge on the other. Thus, it seemed that they were able to create a raised edge for beveling on each side of the blade, but on opposite faces. Also, the surface looked like some bluing had remained.

The first photo of the edge looks thicker at where the blade meets the haft. Also, the blade surface is very smooth with no hint of a forger' s hammer.

These observations suggest to me that this spear may have been cut and formed by a mechanical die and the haft cold formed to accept the shaft. The Kalifa had armories in Omdurmun. Could it be that they were cranking out spear heads by the hundreds? The Kalifa's house museum displays a wind-up spring powered carriage. Could his forces possessed a greater technological sophistication than previously considered?

Regards,
Ed
Attached Images
  
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th November 2013, 05:34 PM   #8
Iain
Member
 
Iain's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Olomouc
Posts: 1,676
Default

Interesting thoughts Ed, just a quick suggestion, couldn't the lack of hammer work be down to the polishing/grinding typically done? This is the case on some spears I have/had.
Iain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th November 2013, 06:00 PM   #9
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,430
Default

Thanks to Iain and Ed for their further comments.

Ed, its quite possible the Mahdists used mechanical assistance in making their spears, as they had reasonably modern workshops in Omdurman, having transferred over equipment from Khartoum after the fall of the city and death of General Gordon. I am attaching some extracts from the book "Khartoum Campaign" by Bennet Burleigh 1899, that may interest. Presumably they used European scrap iron ? I have noticed that these shalazieh spears all have bamboo shafts, wonder where the bamboo came from ?

Iain, its quite correct of course, that the advent of modern firearms made spear and sword tactics redundant, more or less. However, if should be noted that the Mahdist Khalifa, Abdullahi made a major error in not attacking the Anglo-Egyptian forces during the night before the Battle of Omdurman, he could easily of done so and the end result might then have been significantly different.
Attached Images
   
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th November 2013, 06:39 PM   #10
Iain
Member
 
Iain's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Olomouc
Posts: 1,676
Default

Very interesting Colin, I had no idea they had that kind of machinery at their disposal. Thanks a lot for posting those extracts.

On the gun side, at least in the western Sahel there was a major effort to limit firearms filtering into the region, meaning that the vast majority were poor quality trade muskets. The captured arms in the Sudanese campaigns must have been quite a few levels above what was normally available.

Still, numbers and tactics as you mentioned, could still swing a battle.
Iain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th November 2013, 06:42 PM   #11
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Member
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Posts: 4,408
Default

Salaams ~ General Gordon of Khartoum.
Attached Images
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st December 2013, 01:59 PM   #12
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,430
Default

After a little further research - it seems the Mahdists used the Baggara spear as a symbol on their coinage, as per attached image of a 20 piastre piece.

Interestingly, spears/long lances from the Arabian peninsula area also had a bamboo shaft as did Sudanese examples. I am posting a couple of extracts from "Traditional Crafts of Saudi Arabia" by John Topham, 1982. Wonder if there is a linkage ?
Attached Images
   
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st December 2013, 06:43 PM   #13
Edster
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 383
Default

Colin,

I think the reeds in question are not "bamboo" as we normally think of them as hard surfaced segmented and usually hollow. Reeds commonly used in riverine Sudan are also segmented, but are solid with straight fiber insides, relatively light, mostly straight, up to two inches in diameter near the base and fairly rigid. Apparently ideal for spear shafts.

When we were in Sudan, my son, being into Taekwando, noticed that fresh cow's tails were stretched over walking/herding/fighting sticks for improved grip. He wanted to use the light but thick reed as a fighting staff, and asked a local butcher to cover a five foot reed with a cow tail. The butcher used five overlapping cow tail segments to match the taper of the tail skin to that of the reed. Applied wet (freshly skinned) they shrink to a very tight fit and reinforce the reed from splitting during impact. It became a formidable weapon.

He experience poses the question: were the reed spear shafts reinforced with cow tail skins to improve their performance? I've never seen evidence of this practice, but my experience is limited. Others may have encountered them.

Regards,
Ed
Edster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st December 2013, 06:47 PM   #14
David R
Member
 
David R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 1,005
Default

The hollowed form of the blade on many African spearheads is apparently a by product of using stone/pebble anvils.
Ref.M.J.Swanton 1973
The Spearheads of the Anglo-Saxon Settlements
ISBN 0 903986 01 9
Chap 6
footnote 6
Where this feature is noted and discussed as appearing on both Anglo-Saxon and African spearheads.
I don't normaly bother much with referrences but some people seem to like them.
David R is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2nd December 2013, 09:32 AM   #15
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Member
 
Ibrahiim al Balooshi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Posts: 4,408
Default

Salaams all... The name of the spear in Arabic is Rhoum. I believe it came from the word for long pointed leaf (Some say it is linked to the city name Rome).. When gunpowder began to take over that weapons role... the name passed to the long rifle also called the Abu Futtilla(the one with the match) or Jezail.

Rhoumi is, thus, the other word for the Arabian muzzle loading rifle.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 3rd December 2013, 08:34 AM   #16
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,430
Default

I havn't seen a cow tail covering on the few Baggara spears that I've come across. However, I've sometimes noticed this on Dinka/Shilluk clubs, but perhaps these were for grip purposes...

Regards.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster

He experience poses the question: were the reed spear shafts reinforced with cow tail skins to improve their performance? I've never seen evidence of this practice, but my experience is limited. Others may have encountered them.
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 03:27 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.