Baja dagger overall
This item has been sold.
Overall length

38 cm

Blade length

25.2 cm

Blade thickness

Base 3 mm

At bend 3 mm

Tip 3.5 mm

Blade width

Base 35 mm

At bend 38 mm

Tip 49 mm

Weight

340 grams

Point of balance

33 mm

from base of blade

Materials

Steel, wood, silver

Origin

Hadendoa people

(Southeastern Egypt to eastern Sudan and the northwestern part of Eritrea)

 

Dating

Early 20th century

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Introduction

These handsome daggers were worn by the nomadic Hadendoa people, their name has been interpreted as meaning "Lion Clan" or "Children of the Lioness". They are a subdivision of the Beja people from which these daggers derive their name. They inhabit the deserts of southeastern Egypt to eastern Sudan and the northwestern part of Eritrea.

The Hadendoa fought Anglo-Egyptian ruled Sudan between 1883-1898 and were known for their bravery. Their most famous chief was Osman Digna, who played a part in the demise of Charles "Chinese" Gordon, well-known among my Chinese sword-collecting readers. In the second world war, they joined their former foes, the British, against the Italians.

 

The daggers bear a striking resemblance to the South Indian chilanum and is probably related to them, as Indian traders had frequented the ports of the eastern coast for centuries. Apart from the hilt, the ricasso is also a very Indian design trait not seen on nearby Persian arms.

 

Hadendoa man with his dagger

Hadendoa man with his dagger.
Date and photographer unknown.

 

This example

The blade starts straight, then has a sharp bend after which it widens and gently curves back. The blade is of very fine quality for one of these, with a well defined central ridge, and a secondary edge bevel, all ground with precision. Four stars are punched into the blade.

The hilt in typical X shape, finely carved of dark hardwood. The center section is wrapped with silver wire. The hilt is further adorned with 10 silver circular ornaments with embossed crosses.

 

Comparable examples

Two daggers, one of which very similar in form to ours but without the hilt decoration were collected by Charles Armine Willis Charles Armine Willis (1881-1975). A British Intelligence officer who served in Sudan. According to the museum records he collected it in 1913. Now in the Pitt-Rivers collection numbers 1932.30.12 .1-6.

There is also a dagger with nearly identical blade but less ornamental hilt in the British Museum. Accession number Af1935,0307.1. It was donated to the museum in 1935 by Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton, explorer and naturalist and founder of Quex Museum, Birchington.

 

Conclusion

A very good example of its type, in near-perfect condition.
Comes with an upright stand.

African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger
African Bedja dagger

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