Lot 79
  • 79

Mahdist Replica Throwing Knife, Sudan

6,000 - 9,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • metal, domestic goat hide
  • Length: 16 3/8 in (41.6 cm)


Susan and Richard Ulevitch, San Diego

Catalogue Note

For closely related replica knifes see two in the Manchester Museum, University of Manchester (inv. nos. "0.8720" and "0.5036", Phillips 1995: 134, cats. 2.15a and 2.15b) and one in the Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva (Elsen 2003: pl. 15).

In his discussion of the two Manchester replica knifes, Christopher Spring (in Phillips 1995: 134) notes: "The increasing unrest among the peoples of central and eastern Sudanic Africa during the 19th century culminated in the rebellion of 1881 in Kordofan Province, Sudan, led by Muhammad Ahmad, who declared himself Mahdi ('The Rightly Guided One'). By 1885 he had overthrown the corrupt Turco-Egyptian government in Khartoum and had established the Mahdist state. [...] Peoples from a vast area of north-eastern and central Africa joined the Mahdist armies, either of their own free will or as slaves. Workshops set up in towns such as Omdurman produced a range of artefacts, including regalia, weaponry and armor, which in one way or another reflected the Mahdist ideology, but which occasionally also displayed stylistic influences from much more diverse sources. Among such objects were these non-functional, replica throwing knives, cut out of sheet metal and covered with the acid-etched Arabic script known as thuluth, in which exhortations to the faithful from the Koran are written. [... Most likely] they were given as Islamicised (though still potent) status symbols to the leaders of those elements of the Mahdist armies that consisted mainly of central African slaves." The offered lot dates before the Mahdist state was effectively dissolved in 1898.