02 | 11 | 2017

Arab Skeletons from Omdurman in Great Demand, in London.

In London just at present the faddists and the curio collectors are vying with one another for the possession of the skeletons of dervishes that have been brought back from the bloody plains before Omdurman. Some 150 to 200 dervish skeletons are on the London market ; and experts in bones declare that their superiority over the average skeletons of commerce will cause no little stir in anatomical circles.

One of the principal dealers in London states that these fine, athletic dervishes make the finest skeletons ever put on the bone market.

“It is not so easy to insure a supply of well developed skeletons,” he says, “for many of those are obtained from the stunted, half-starved type which ends its days—unclaimed and uncared for—in a casual ward or hospital. The dervish offered a rare opportunity in skeletons, and although the expense of transport is very great, the type of skeleton he makes is sure to command a price sufficiently high to cover the extra cost of freight.

“Only a small percentage have come to London—the rest have been distributed among the other large European cities, such as Vienna, Berlin, and Russia. Great care has to be taken in selecting specimens from a battlefield, for those with shattered or broken bones will not furnish an entire skeleton.

“Of course there is always a sale of skulls and single bones, but the aim of those who supply anatomical dealers is to obtain entire and perfect skeletons, for these naturally bring a higher price. After the Franco-Prussian war the skeleton trade bade fair to be overstocked, and dealers ‘held back’ their surplus stock lest prices should be too much ‘cut.’ There was not a single German skeleton offered—it is always the vanquished that come to an anatomical end.

“It’s a curious thing,” continued the connoisseur in bones, “that the skeletons of Frenchmen should be so much whiter than British bones. The large importation of French skeletons after the war quite changed the public taste as to the colour of bones, for there are fashions and tastes in bones as in other marketable wares.

“It doesn’t matter how much you artificially bleach English bred bones. They always remain yellower than those of our friends across the Channel. And a very white skeleton invariably fetches a pound or two more than a brownish yellow one, though, of course, time and exposure to air will darken and discolour the very whitest bones.”


~"The Cambridge Graphic", 1900 ~

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