Dinka or Shilluk hoe

Dinka or Shilluk hoe
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
?Dinka ?Shilluk
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered
L = 218 mm, W = 138 mm, Th = 1.2 mm; W socket = 25.4 by 22.2 mm [RTS 21/7/2004].
320.9 g
Other Owners:
Collected by John Petherick in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Sold on at auction, lot 42 to Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. This may have been the auction of 27th June 1862, conducted by Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London (see the Catalogu
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Iron hoe blade, used as currency and consisting of a small flat, spade shaped blade with rounded top; the lower edges curve in to the centre of the base where a separate piece of iron has been attached. This is flush with the surface of the blade on one side; on the reverse, it has been hammered partially flat, leaving a small tapering ridge that runs up the centre of the blade. This thickens towards the lower part of the blade, where the sides become more convex. Initially solid, this becomes a hollow, open sided socket 10 mm below the base of the blade, with a seam that gradually widens from 3 mm at its top to 15 mm at the socket's end, as the socket body itself splays outwards. The object is complete and intact; the surface is currently a dark reddish brown colour, due to some surface rust (Pantone 440C); numerous hammering marks are visible across the surface. It has a weight of 320.9 grams, and is 218 mm long, 138 mm wide and 1.2 mm thick at the edges; the socket measures 25.4 by 22.2 mm across its broadest point.

Collected by John Petherick in the Southern Sudan in 1858 ; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition south from Khartoum, down the Bahr el Abiad, Bahr el Ghazal, Jur and part of the Bahr el Jebel rivers. This route took him through Shilluk territory (the villages of Kaka and Gova), Raik Dinka territory (the villages of Coq-quel-a-ken, Moi Chin, Agoig, Affoock), and Jur territory, among others. T his material was shipped back to England in 1859. An account of this expedition is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa .. Sold on at auction, as part of lot 42 to Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. This may have been the auction of 27th June 1862, conducted by Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London (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 ). Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display, as part of the first batch of objects sent there, probably in 1874. This object 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.

A similar object, used as a hoe and mounted onto a wooden handle, was illustrated in his Petherick’s 1869 volume, Travels in Central Africa and Explorations of the Western Nile Tributaries, on p. 249, where it is attributed to the Jur. He also describes how the Jur manufacture such items and trade them on to the Dinka (See J. Petherick 1861, pp 395-6). The implication of this is that this even although this object may have been used by Dinka or Shilluk individuals, it was probably manufactured by the Jur. However the same type of object appears to be more widespread. Schweinfurth illustrates an almost identical blade, collected from the Bongo, which he calls 'loggoh' and says functions as currency; and from the Jur, where it is described as a hand spade for weeding (G. Schweinfurth, 1875, Artes Africanae, pl. IV figure 14; pl. II figure 20; see also 1873, The Heart of Africa Vol. 1, p. 279). J.G. Wood also talks about the use of hoe blades, or 'molotes' amongst the Latuka for both agriculture and as currency (J.G. Wood, The Natural History of Man Volume I, 1868, p. 508, and figure on p. 475).

This object is currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 74A.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 30] 1884.99 CURRENCY [Insert] 3, 4 [end insert] - [1 of] 2 Melote , hoe-blades. DINKA & SHILLUK. ditto [Petherick coll.] c. 1858 (lot 42).
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [...] [insert] 1884.99.3-4 [end insert]. 2 'Melotes', hoe-blade (as currency), Dinka & Shilluk, 1858 (Lot 42). P.R.
Black book entry [p. 26] - 730732. Hoe blades, iron, Dinka & Shillook tribes E. coast of Africa. Obtd by Petherick. [insert] 1884.99.3 + 4 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue II entry [p. 261] - Spear heads etc [... this entry will be one of the following] Iron hoe, Central Africa, 730 [or] Iron hoe oval ? or Iron hoe - circular, Central Africa ?, [all in] Glazed case 318.
Card Catalogue Entry - AFRICA, DINKA & SHILLUK. 2 'melotes', hoe-blades used as currency. Petherick 1858 (lot 42), P.R. [RTS 6/4/2004].
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - A Hoe. Dinka & Shillook. Brought from Central Africa by Consul Petherick, in 1858 [rectangular brown card tag, handwritten in ink; tag is stamped 'temporary label'; not kept with object, stored in RDF]; [...] RBRO[...] [Part of a badly damaged cardboard tag or label, stored in RDF]; Melote , native-made hoe-blade used also as a standard of value and exchange medium, DINKA & SHILLUK, WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Colld by Consul Petherick, 1858. P.R. Coll (lot 42) [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 19/5/2005

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

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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