Item Details

A Late Military Use of the Sphero-conical in the 19th Century Sudan

Issue: Vol 3 No. 2 (2016) The Sphero-conical vessel: Name, object and usage

Journal: Journal of Islamic Archaeology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/jia.v3i2.32829


This paper focuses on a particular type of mace that was used by the Sudanese dervishes during the Mahdist rebellion from 1881 to 1899. These maces were a reuse of Mamluk sphero-conical vessels. They were associated with the standards (alams) of the Mahdist regiments. The association suggests these maces had some talismanic value to the dervishes. The author will examine their origin and propose a new interpretation of the sphero-conical vessels as objects linked to the Indian Ocean’s Spice and Perfume trade.

Author: Stéphane Pradines

View Original Web Page

References :

Egerton, Wilbraham, 1st Earl of Tatton.

1896 [2002]. Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour. Reprint. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

Elgood, R.

2009. The Arms of Greece and Her Balkan Neighbors in the Ottoman Period. London: Thames and Hudson.

Ettinghausen, R.

1965. “The use of sphero-conical vessels in the muslim east.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 24: 218–229.

Gohlke, W.

1912–1914. “Handbrandgeschosse aus Ton.” Zeitschrift fûr historische Waffenkunde 6: 377–387.

Holt, P. M.

1958. “The Sudanese Mahdia and the outside world.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 11: 276–290.

1959. “The place in history of the Sudanese Mahdiya.” Sudan Notes and Records, Khartoum 40: 107–112.

1986. “al-Mahdiyya.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis,
C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P. Heinrichs, vol. 5, 1247–1253. Leiden: Brill.

Khorasani, Manouchehr Moshtagh.

2006. Arms and Armor from Iran. The Bronze Age to the end of the Qajar Period. Tubingen: Legat.

Melikian-Chirvani, A.

1979. “The tabar of a Turkish dervish.” In Islamic Arms and Armour, edited by Robert Elgood, 112–115. London: Scolar Press.

Meloy, J.

2003. “Imperial strategy and political exigency: The Red Sea spice trade and the Mamluk Sultanate in the fifteenth century.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 123(1): 1–19.

Neillands, R.

1996. The Dervish Wars: Gordon and Kitchener in the Sudan 1880–1898. London: Murray.

North, A.

1989. “Swords of Islam.” In Swords and Hilt Weapons, edited by Michael D. Coe, et al., 136–147. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Pradines, S.

in press “The Tunisian Ribats: New perspectives on Abbasid and Aghlabid military architecture.” In Islamic Archaeological Studies, Journal of the Museum of Islamic Art.

Pradines, S. and Khorasani, M.

in press “Sufi in war: Persian influence on African weaponry in 19th century Mahdist Sudan.” Mélanges de l’Institut dominicain d’études orientales du Caire, Cairo, Cairo.

Reed G.

1987. “Kaskara from Northern Darfur, Sudan.” Journal of the Arms & Armour Society 12(3): 171–172.

Searcy, K.

2011. The Formation of the Sudanese Mahdist State: Ceremony and Symbols of Authority, 1882–1898. Leiden: Brill.

Slatin, Rudolf Anton Carl Freiherr, von.

1896. Fire and Sword in the Sudan: A Personal Narrative of Fighting and Serving the Dervishes, 1879–1895, London: Arnold.

Spring, C.

1989. “African hilt weapons.” In Swords and Hilt Weapons, edited by Michael D. Coe, et al., 204–217. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Tirri, A.

2003. Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul. Miami, FL: Indigo Publishing.

Warner, P.

1973. Dervish: The Rise and Fall of an African Empire. London: Macdonald.