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From Sudan With Love

Magdalena Woźniak makes a discovery at the Textile Research Centre (TRC)...

The TRC Collection is very much like Ali Baba’s cave – each box contains hidden treasures. While working for the last few days on Grace Crowfoot’s ethnographic collection from Sudan, I had the immense pleasure of discovering a cotton cloth labelled ‘Dammur’ woven from ‘Tree’ cotton at Hillet Mahmud, Sennar.

Why is this so exciting? Because ‘dammur’ was mentioned by European travellers from the 19th century as a substitute for currency. Here is an extract from an account by the Swiss geographer and Orientalist, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784-1817), who visited Sudan in 1813…

'The common currency of the country at Berber, and all the way from thence to Sennaar, is Dhourra, and Spanish Dollars; […] Besides the Dhourra, another substitute for currency is the Dammour, a coarse cotton cloth, which is fabricated in the neighbourhood of Sennaar, and principally used by the people of this country for their shirts: one piece of Dammour is exactly sufficient to make one shirt for a full grown man; this is called Tob, or Thob Dammour.' - J. L. Burckhardt, Travels in Nubia, London, 1819:234

So it would appear that the TRC example is a genuine piece of ‘Dammur’ cloth, which was still woven in Sennar a century after Burckhardt’s visit to the region…

Magdalena Woźniak is from Poland and studying Nubian textiles at the TRC.

You can read about her discoveries in full here.



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