Zande knife

Zande knife
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal , Plant Fibre
Total L = 489 mm, W handle end = 38.8 mm, th handle = 13.9 mm, max W blade = 83.6 mm, th cutting edge ca. 0.1 mm [RTS 19/3/2004].
Other Owners:
Collected by John Petherick in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently 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
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Knife consisting of a short, dark brown, polished wooden handle with strongly concave sides (Pantone 440C), and a handle guard of similar width to the end; the handle is lentoid in section throughout. A piece of yellowish brown plant fibre string (Pantone 465C) has been bound around the handle just below the guard to form a grip, with the ends tucked underneath. This has a very greasy surface. The end of the handle guard has a long rectangular slot cut into it to receive the blade tang. This extends through the body of the handle, and out through the other end, where it has been hammered over back into the wood to secure it. On one side of this, two smaller metal tabs protrude from the wood, one of which has also been hammered over. There is a split in the wood on the other side, where another tab may once have existed. The hafting has not been entirely successful, as the handle is split down the centre of one side, and one arm of the guard has broken away. Above the handle, the iron blade is in better condition, currently a silver grey colour (Pantone 422C), and consists of a long, slightly convex sided rectangular tang, turning into the concave sided shoulders of the blade itself, which is broadest at the shoulders, then tapers to a sharp point at the other end. The blade has an ogee-shaped section, with the upper and lower concave surfaces covered with a series of incised grooves that follow the shape of the cutting edges on each side. These edges have been bevelled on the undecorated faces. The rectangular sectioned tang has similar grooving covering half the upper and half the lower surface - in each case, the side opposite the blade grooving. The blade is pierced by two groups of two holes, one just above the shoulder, and the other set on the opposite side, closer to the point. Total length of object 489 mm, length of handle 83.7 mm, width of handle end 38.8 mm, thickness of handle 13.9 mm, width of tang 32 mm, width of blade at shoulders 83.6 mm, maximum thickness of blade 1.7 mm, and thickness of blade at cutting edge 0.1 mm.

Collected by John Petherick, a businessman who lived in Khartoum from 1853 to 1858, mounting several trading expeditions into the Sudanese interior during this period. He entered Zande territory for the first time on 24th February 1858, while on his fifth such expedition, visiting the villages of Mundo, Kangamboo and Baranj. This object was probably collected during that trip, as Petherick did not venture into this region again. His collection was shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently 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 contained at least 5 Zande knives, several of which had associated sheaths. This object became part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884.

While not published, this knife
appears in Petherick's unpublished sketchbook, which seems to have been compiled by 1861 (Wellcome library MS 5789, p. 14).

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry [p. 86] [insert] 1884.34 [end insert] OGEE BLADES [insert] 1 [end insert] - Two-edged knife, large blade, sharp point: 4 holes in blade (Petherick coll. 1858) AZANDE.
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [...] [insert] 1884.34.1 [end insert] Large blade 2 edged knife (ogee blade), small handle, 4 holes in blade, sharp point. Azande, 1858. P.R coll.
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 3/2/2004].
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - AZANDE. E. CEN. AFRICA. Consul Petheric [sic] coll. 1858. P.R. Coll. [tied to object, RTS 19/3/2004].
Written on object -
NEAM NAM WHITE NILE, PETHERICK 1858 [on blade, black ink] NEAM NAM E. CENT. AFRICA. PETHERICK COLL. 1858. 1884.34.1.

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].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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