Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1896 Oromo cavalry
Subject: cavalry
Culture: Oromo/Galla
Setting: Ethiopian empire 19th-early 20thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Were/Wilson 1984 p61
"The Galla traditional political structure was connected with an age-set system which was based on ten groups.  Once a male entered one of the groups, he remained with the same men for the rest of his life, although the group as a whole went through different stages. ... Boys started training as warriors at an early age and carried the warriors' spears and shields into battle.  As a result the Galla became fierce fighters and were respected over a wide area."

* Jonas 2011 p213-214
"The appearance of Oromo cavalrymen [at the battle of Adwa], known at the time as Galla, had a notably dispiriting effect [on the Italian soldiers].  The Oromo were mounted infantrymen. They rode into position, dismounted, and fired.  Oromo cavalry had achieved quasi-mythical status in the weeks leading up to the war thanks in part to a tendency of the European press to sensationalize stories out of Ethiopia.  Stories on Oromo cavalry and illustrations with captions reading 'Mow them down!' fed the imaginations not only of civilians but also of soldiers shipping out. ...
​    "The Oromo functioned with such grim efficiency that they hastened the demoralization of the crumbling Italian army.  Baratieri would later claim that fear of the Oromo -- and the belief that the Oromo castrated only soldiers caught with weapons -- prompted dozens of retreating soldiers to cast down their weapons come pazzi -- like madmen."


* McLachlan/Ruggeri 2011 p45 (reconstructing an Ethiopian Oromo horseman, Adowa campaign 1896)
"He wears a goatskin cape over a simple shamma robe and white trousers; note the 'big toe' style of using the stirrups.  His horse harness is colourfully decorated even though he is plainly dressed and equipped -- with several spears and javelins, and a simple shield with an upturned rim for catching spear-points."  

* Jonas 2011 p213
"Their lion's mane headdresses, which amplified their reputation for ferocity in combat, made them fearsome."

* Diagram Group 2000 p173
"Clothing varies from one subgroup to another.  In isolated areas traditional dress predominates.  This includes, for men, a waya, a togalike garment, or a short kilt ....  Men generally wear their hair short ...."

* Racinet 1988 p50 f10
"A Galla chief. These fierce tribesmen cover themselves only with a loincloth of leather or animal hide. Their hair, thickly buttered, is either worn loose or in plaits. The ivory bracelets are a count of enemies defeated."


* McLachlan/Ruggeri 2011 p45 (reconstructing an Ethiopian Oromo horseman, Adowa campaign 1896)
"Additional typical weapons were a shotel and/or a large knife, and there are mentions of riders at Adowa firing pistols.  Some period photos show Ethiopians with revolvers.  Like their rifles, these would have been of a variety of makes; relatively few would have been used in battle, where a rifle was much more useful."


* Stone 1934 p563
"SHOTEL.  The Abyssinian sword.  It has a double-edged blade of diamond section curved almost in a half circle.  The blade is about thirty inches in a straight line from hilt to point and about forty around the curve.  It has a simple wooden hilt without a guard.  The scabbards are of leather and are made to fit the blade closely.  The Abyssinians have no idea of fencing and use this extremely awkward weapon to strike over, or around, the shield of an opponent."

* Spring 1993 p




* Spring 1993 p103
"Many of the Galla peoples who provided cavalry for the Christian empires had never been armed with anything more than spear and shield, though the use of the bow was widespread among other southern Ethiopian peoples."

* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Hide buckler (1945.9.25)
"Since the Galla traditionally fought on horseback with lances and knives, .. [the upturned shield] rim may have been intended to catch spear points."

* Benitez/Barbier 2000 p


* Spring 1993 p106
"The daggers, qujo, worn by the Kaffa, Arussi, southern Galla and adjacent peoples of southern Ethiopia may be seen as the fourth and final distinctive group from the region.  The blade curves slightly, and various accessories were attached to the leather sheath including tweezers, tinder, bunches of herbs and perhaps a razor.  The cylindrical grip, like the hilts of Somali belawa were often built up from alternate layers of metal and bone.  A conical pommel is also distinctive feature of many of these knives."