Zulu artefact auction in Lewes

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An internationally significant accumulation of Zulu artefacts is coming under the hammer in Lewes in January.

The late David Smith’s Collection of Zulu and other ethnographical items will be auctioned by Wallis and Wallis,

the Arms and Militaria specialists based in West Street.

The sale date is January 22, 2014 – the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana and the beginning of the attack on Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War of 1879.

The collection is being catalogued by Ian Knight, the writer and historian, who is regarded as a world expert on the 19th century history of the Zulu kingdom, and in particular the Anglo-Zulu War.

Among a wealth of items that will be offered is a good 1879 period Zulu regimental war shield, isihlangu, 46ins x 24ins, the colour originally all black with white lacing denoting a young, unmarried ibutho (regiment), perhaps the inGobamakhosi.

There’s also an exceptionally large and heavy two tone hardwood Zulu knobkerrie (iwisa), possibly an executioner’s weapon, and a large bladed Zulu stabbing spear (iklwa), of classic form, showing signs of prolonged wear by sharpening. Other lots will include a good 19th century Zulu hardwood status staff with small ball head and raised snake motif around the shaft, commonly the preserve of men of hand rank, and another status staff, the centre of the haft set as three entwined bands.

The Battle of Isandlwana occurred 11 days after the invasion of Zululand and was a disaster for the British, who lost more officers in the engagement than at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. A Zulu force of some 20,000 warriors attacked a portion of the invading main column consisting of about 1,800 British, colonial and native troops and perhaps 400 civilians.

The numerically superior Zulus, armed predominantly with only traditional assegai spears and cow-hide shields, overwhelmed their opponents, killing more than 1,300. Later that day a Zulu force of some 4,000 warriors launched a series of relentless attacks on the mission station at Rorke’s Drift in a battle that was to continue through the night and was immortalised in the 1963 film Zulu.

Just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison, winning 11 Victoria Crosses for gallantry.