'On a recent trip to Iraq, I was fortunate enough to visit the soon-to-reopen National Museum. The interior is a wonderland of ancient art and artifacts from Paleolithic tools to giant Assyrian statues. In the garden, however, I found something a bit more modern.

Scattered around the poorly tended lawn were half a dozen Ottoman artillery pieces. The Ottomans ruled Iraq from 1534 to 1918. They had only nominal control over the rural tribes and kept most of their armed forced defending the cities and major roads, making occasional forays to pacify troublesome tribes. More often than not, the Ottomans preferred to use diplomacy to keep the tribal leaders on side.

Artillery like this was a key to Ottoman rule. The locals outnumbered them but lacked the military discipline and artillery the Ottoman army could bring to the field. These pieces probably guarded the walls of Baghdad or were kept in an armory in case the Ottomans had to go out and show the locals who was boss. I was immediately struck by the variety of their fine designs and was able to get my guide to translate a couple of the dates for me. Here they are below.


This mortar dates to the Muslim year 1137 (1724 AD)



Cannon with an unusual but not unique spiral design.


Another view of the same.


Another view of the same.


Two more cannons.


This one is dated to the Muslim year 1047 (1637 AD). The carriage looks late nineteenth/early twentieth century.

I know next to nothing about Ottoman artillery. As you can tell from my books for Osprey, I tend to dwell west of the Mississippi or south of the Sahara. So if anyone can tell me more about these interesting pieces please share in the comments section. I can also send you hi-res images if you want to take a crack at translating the writing!'

Sean McLachlan has written numerous books for Osprey is the author of the novel A Fine Likeness, set in the American Civil War. You can read more about his travels in Iraq in the online series Destination: Iraq and in a previous post for Osprey about the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery.