With the finest bi-colored patina and exceptionally rare engraved decorations throughout, this large and heavy functional cast mace head is undoubtedly a weapon that was reserved for a commanding warrior or nobleman of the highest social class. It is attributed to the ancient Ghaznavid Empire of the early Islamic Conquest, and dates from the 10th to 12th century A.D.. We have had the pleasure of offering some of the rarest and finest ancient militaria over the decades and this MUSEUM-CLASS mace will always rank as one of the finest pieces in our catalog. Not only does it feature classic Islamic floral design engraving throughout, it was made with a multi-color feature in ancient times to further embellish this mace head with as much beauty as possible. The mace was cast from arsenical copper and then surface-enriched with additional arsenic to create a bi-color effect that has now patinated black and red. In ancient times, it would have originally been a gold hue transitioning to red at the non-treated copper base.
This mace head is of exceptional weight for its size, and most certainly was employed by a high-ranking military cavalry commander as elaborate maces like this were most often used as visual symbols of rank to command soldiers in the chaos of battle. The radiating protrusions even show evidence of actual combat use with one slightly bent over to one side and one tip dented from impacting the hard armor of an enemy!
Ancient militaria of this level only very rarely makes it to the public market. This is an extremely rare offer and is the finest ancient Islamic mace head we have ever handled. It will provide a lifetime of pride to the knowledgeable advanced collector that makes it theirs, as it once did to the ancient warrior that carried it in his belt.
This artifact has been professionally cleaned and conserved in our lab, being treated with a special sealer developed and formulated by us specifically for ancient metal preservation. The patina shows beautiful traits only found in authentic ancient weapons. It is a patina like this that the finest ancient bronzes are prized for and it is a patina like this that brings a premium in price and value of the specimen. There is no active bronze disease. Bronze disease can develop on ancient bronze that is not properly cleaned and conserved. It produces a corrosive powder that will literally eat away an artifact over time and destroy it.
The Ghaznavid Empire was named after the city of Ghazni in modern Afghanistan where its founder was freed from slavery and led a subsequent revolt, freeing a great number of people from the former Samanid Dynasty. It emerged from Turkic mamluk soldier slaves of the Samanids and included a unique blend of eastern and western influences. The Ghaznavids flourished in power from 977 - 1186 A.D.. In its height, the Ghaznavid Empire included all of Persia, Transoxania and Northern India.
The Ghaznavid Empire is most notably associated with Mahmud, the son of its founder Sebuktigin. As a devout Muslim, Mahmud reshaped the Ghaznavids from their pagan Turkic origins into an Islamic dynasty and expanded the frontiers of Islam. With fierce military power and tactics, he created an empire that stretched from the Oxus to the Indus Valley and the Indian Ocean. Amongst many achievements, he is attributed with the development of the Urdu language which is a mixture of Farsi, Turkish, Arabic and Sanskrit. Urdu became the language for India and Pakistan in Arabic script.
In the Indian subcontinent, Mahmud is most famously (or infamously) known for supplanting Hinduism with Islam by devastating military campaigns. Indian invasions of Mahmud were specifically directed to temple towns as Indian temples were depositories of great wealth and the economic and ideological centers of gravity for the Hindus. The Ghaznavids brought Islam to India by "fire and sword" as Mahmud once put it, and returned with fabulous riches taken from both Indian princes and temples. During this time visitors to and residents of Ghazni wrote with wonder of the ornate architecture of its buildings, the great libraries, the sumptuousness of the court ceremonies and of the wealth of precious objects owned by Ghazni's citizens. The seemingly never-ending victories of Mahmud the Ghazni brought incredible wealth and opulence into his power and he transformed the city of Ghazni into a jewel in the crown of the Islamic Caliphate of the 11th century A.D.. By 1040 A.D., a turning point for the worse came with a horrible defeat of the Ghaznavids by the Seljuk Turks which removed all the Iranian and Central Asian region from Ghazni power. By 1130 A.D., another crushing defeat took away the control of all the Indian territories and the Ghaznavid Empire did all it could to survive until its total eradication in 1186 A.D..
The Ghaznavid military was a formidable power. Its elite palace guard comprised 4,000-6,000 heavy cavalry. The remaining force brought the total army count to around 30,000 strong. The Ghaznavid cavalry was armed with recurve bows, maces, battleaxes, long curved swords, and even lances but this varied by soldier depending on their ethnic origin. Maces were particularly considered a weapon of military prowess and heroism. Their horses were either lightly or not armored at all.
Regular infantry wore chain mail coats and carried metal shields covered in leather. They were equipped with long recurve bows and spears and for close hand-to-hand combat, they carried a mace or short sword on a belt. The regular foot auxiliary soldiers sometimes fought on camels, horses or mules but often would dismount and fight on ground once fully deployed. Subordinated Hindu princes were required to pay tribute in elephants and large annual counts were held where as many as 1670 "battle-ready" elephants were documented. A standing force of 1000 elephants was kept at Ghazni. Historians have recorded forces of 400-700 elephants in individual battles, with each elephant bearing a crew of four spearmen or archers. The Ghaznavid baggage trains also employed elephants. Their war elephants were fearsome military weapons, heavily armored with castle-like structures on their backs housing the soldiers and with heavy plate armor protecting their bodies. Their tusks were even equipped with poison covered giant blades. War elephants were often used as individual mobile independent forces with a supporting mini-army and cavalry of warriors. Riskier but more effective tactics employed the elephants in solid battle lines where they charged into the center of an enemy force and literally crushed and destroyed paths of all that got in their way.