Dinka club

Dinka club
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] [White Nile]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1865
Wood Plant , Animal Hide Skin
Carved , Stained , Polished
L = 790, max W = 37.3, th = 28 (near head); handle W = 29.5 x 18 mm; hide ring diam = 26.8, W = 10 mm [RTS 11/5/2005].
289.9 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected in Sudan by John Petherick, sometime between 1853 and 1859, or 1861 to 1865. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers by 1868, perhaps via auction as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, Lon
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
1853 - 1859 or 1861 - 1865
Club carved from a single piece of wood and consisting of a slightly bulbous head with flat cut end, swelling out below to a curved shaft, that gradually tapers and straightens towards the handle end. This has an irregular shape that seems to reflect the natural form of the parent branch, varying in section from triangular, near the head, to oval at the base of the handle. The wood has been stained a reddish orange colour (Pantone 4635C) and then polished. A deep groove has been cut around the circumference of the lower shaft just above a cylindrical knob end with flat base. This has been fitted with a simple ring, constructed from a strip of brown hide wound around a core of unknown material (Pantone 440C); this is currently loose and able to slide part way up the shaft, although the knob prevents it from being removed. The club is complete but has several large splits along the length. It has a weight of 289.9 grams and is 790 mm long, with a maximum width of 37.3 mm and thickness of 28 mm, just below the head, and a diameter at the handle end of 20.5 by 18 mm. The hide ring has a diameter of 26.8 mm and width of 10 mm.

Petherick was based in Khartoum between 1853 and March 1859, during which period he mounted five trading expeditions into Southern Sudan, travelling down the Bahr el Abiad, Sobat, Bahr el Ghazal, Jur and Bahr el Jebel rivers. He encountered at least two main groups of Dinka during this period; one group in the area east of the Bahr el Abiad and north of the Sobat river – where Petherick established a trading station – and another group, whom he calls the ‘Raik’, around the Bahr el Ghazal/Jur rivers. Material could have been collected from either source, and shipped to England with his other collections in 1859.

This object had been acquired by Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862 (see the
Catalogue of the very interesting collection of arms and implements of war, husbandry, and the chase, and articles of costume and domestic use, procured during several expeditions up the White Nile, Bahr-il-Gazal, and among the various tribes of the country, to the cannibal Neam Nam territory on the Equator, by John Petherick, Esq., H.M. Consul, Khartoum, Soudan ). This auction included some 30 clubs, of which 1 was said to be Dinka (included as part of Lot 8). Alternatively, it could have been acquired by Petherick when he returned to the Southern Sudan in 1861, and mounted another expedition down the Bahr el Jebel, then overland to Gondokoro. Although he does not mention Dinka by that name, it is possible that the Kytch, whom he had dealings with, were from this group (Cic Dinka?). If further material was obtained during this period, it would have been shipped back to England in 1865. In any case, the club belonged to Pitt Rivers by 1874, when it seems to have been sent to the Bethnal Green Museum for display. It was later displayed in the South Kensington Museum, and transferred from there to become part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884.

Petherick describes the use of similar clubs: 'The pastoral Dinkas use ... [as a substitute for a shield] a heavy stick with which they cleverly ward off a coming lance, using it as a club ... and with it drive their cattle of which they possess large herds
' (J. Petherick, 1861, 'On the arms of the Arab and Negro tribes of Central Africa, bordering on the White Nile', Journal of the Royal United Service Institution IV no 13, p. 173, fig. 3). Another group, said to be related to the Dinka, use '...a stiff club ... made from the root of a tree, which they are expert in casting as well as fencing with ...' (op.cit. p. 174, fig. 12); '[the Dinka club] held in the left hand, is used as a shield to ward off the lances, and to brain the fallen enemy' (Petherick, 1861 Egypt, the Soudan and Central Africa , 391); None of the illustrated examples have the curvature seen on this object.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry [p. 15] - [insert] 3-figure numbers are P.R. printed catalogue of weapons numbers [end insert] [insert] 1884.12 [end insert] WEAPONS CLUBS [insert] 14 [end insert] - 365 - Light club, lissan , or throwing stick. DINKA. Petherick coll.
Additional Accession Book IV Entry [page opposite 15] - [drawing].
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 195] [insert] 1884.12.14 [end insert] - Light club, lissan , or throwing stick [Drawing] DINKA. C[ENTRAL]. AFRICA. (PR 365).
Black book entry [p. 15] - 324. Club curved (or Lissan) Central Africa. Obtained by Petherick. [insert] 1884.12.14 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue II entry [p. 202] - Development of mushroom headed and other forms of clubs. Australian, N. American etc etc. [p. 203] - Club, wood, curved. White Nile. 365. Screen 12 [cases?] 246 & 247.
Pitt Rivers Catalogue Entry (1874) [p. 63] - No. 365, the curved Lissan of the Dinka tribe, resembles some of the representations on the Egyptian sculptures. [p. 73] SCREEN 12. CLUBS. [p. 75] 365. Curved LISSAN. Dinka Tribe, White Nile. Obtained by Consul Petherick. Similar in form to some of the clubs represented in the Egyptian sculptures.
Card Catalogue Entry [tribes and clubs] - C[ENTRAL] AFRICA. DINKA. 365/ Petherick coll. Light wooden club, lissan , or throwing stick. PR IV.15, A.L.F. 1874, 365, Coll. Misc. XI.195. Original Pitt Rivers Coll. [RTS 03/03/2004].
Pitt Rivers Museum label - 365. CURVED LISSAN DINKA TRIBE. WHITE NILE. SIMILAR IN FORM TO SOME OF THE CLUBS REPRESEN[...] [...] THE [EGYP]TIAN SCULPTURES [paper label with serrated lower edge, stuck to object; one end is damaged, as is the lower part; the other end is partially missing]; AFRICA, Sudan. Dinka tribe. Wooden club with hide ring on shaft. Coll. John Petherick. Pitt Rivers Founding coll. 1884.12.14 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 11/5/2005].
Written on object
- Lissan . DINKA, C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. (?7), P.R. coll. .. (365). HB cat. XL [ink, on handle; RTS 6/4/2005].

Display History:
Displayed in Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museum (V&A). [AP]

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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