Bongo spear-head

Bongo spear-head
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal
Hammered , Socketed
L = 318 mm, W socket = 19.3 x 18.7 mm, max W blade 45.7 mm, max th. blade 4.5 mm [RTS 11/2/2004]
Other Owners:
Probably collected by Petherick between 1856 and 1858, and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction, as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection through Mr Bulloc
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
1856 - 1858
Iron spearhead, made in a single piece, consisting of a socket formed from hammering the end of the shaft flat, then bending this around to form a slightly oval-sectioned cylinder with an open seam down one side, the ends gradually coming together higher up the shaft and touching. There is no locator hole through the socket opposite the seam. The socket tapers in to a swelling at the junction with the blade; this section has been hammered flat on the upper and lower surfaces. The sides then flare out to a narrow leaf-shaped blade with gently curving shoulder, the sides becoming narrower and slightly concave towards the tip of the blade. There is a slight ridge running down the centre of the length on both sides of the blade, giving it a flattened lozenge-shaped section. The object is complete and intact, the metal an uncorroded opaque silver gray colour (approximately Pantone 423C). Total length 318 mm, length of socket 81.2 mm, width of socket at base 19.3 x 18.7 mm, maximum width of blade (at shoulder) 45.7 mm, maximum thickness of blade 4.5 mm, and thickness at cutting edge 0.2 mm.

Collected by John Petherick in the Southern Sudan. John Petherick led three separate trading expeditions that passed through Bongo territory between 1856 and 1858; this material was shipped back to England in 1859. See Petherick 1861,
Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa for more details. Some of this collection was sold 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 ), and Pitt Rivers is known to have purchased several items at this time.

In his discussion of the Bongo, whom he called the Dor, Petherick states that 'The Dor perhaps excel the Djour in smithery; and, possessing no cattle, their valuables consist of objects of iron, mostly in circular plates ... and long ornamented lance-like articles' (J. Petherick, 1861,
Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa , p. 400). Elsewhere, he mentions that they tended to use three or four 'fearfully barbed spears' in conjunction with the bow and arrow; however this appears to be a much simpler type of weapon (Petherick 1861, Journal of the Royal United Service Institution IV no. 13, p. 174 ff). It looks rather like a weapon illustrated in J.G. Wood's Natural History of Man, volume I, 1868, p. 492 fig. 2, although there it is presented with two other objects that are said to be Zande, and a similar item in the Museum of Perugia is also supposedly of Zande origin (see E. Castelli, 1984, Orazio Antinori in Africa Centrale 1859-1861, cat. no. 103 p. 74 - Perugia 49482).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book VI entry [p. 1] - IRON IMPLEMENTS &C Note - Most of these implements are black-brown; completely oxidised & encrusted [p. 3] SPEAR-HEADS (SOCKETED) [insert] 63 [end insert] - Modern spear-head with split socket & leaf-shaped blade; edges slightly concave; rib ridge running up from socket & continuous with its line (31 1/4) ?BONGO. E.C. AFRICA. Petherick coll .
Additional Accession Book VI entry [p. opposite 3] - [drawing] Original label DOR but ? BONGO = DOR!
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 197] [insert] 1884.120.63 [end insert]. (Modern) spear head iron with leaf-shaped blade & socket running into rib E[AST] C[ENTRAL] A[FRICA]. Labelled DOR but ? BONGO. [insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert, by BB].
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 7/4/2004].
?Pre-PRM label - Brown tag (with stamped reinforcing ring marked 'Dennison's Novelty') marked: Br. S2 to compare with Bronze series. ?Bongo. Schweinfurth a.a. pl. 7.' On the reverse is stuck a small rectangular label, which may have originally been attached to the object itself. This is very worn, but seems to read: 'Dor spear [illegible word] of the leaf shaped [illegible word] brought by the negroes of Central Africa. Obtained by Consul Petherick on his first discovery of these tribes. Petherick's sale. [This label is currently still tied to the object, RTS 9/2/2004].
Written on object -
P.R. [near tip of blade] DOR TRIBE. E. CENT: AFRICA. PETHERICK Coll. [on lower blade; RTS 11/2/2004].

Display History:
This is one of only eleven objects from the Petherick collections which are not mentioned in the Black Red or Blue books, it is therefore possible that these eleven objects were displayed at Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums prior to transferring here in 1884. [AP]

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