Zande model knife

Zande model knife
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Congo, Democratic Republic of , Sudan
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1899
Iron Metal , Wood Plant , Copper Alloy Metal , Plant Fibre , Animal Hide Skin
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Carved , Bound , Twisted Knotted , Decorated Incised
L = 243 mm; Handle L = 67 mm, W end = 20.3 mm, th end = 17.2 mm; copper strips W = 2 mm; W blade max = 15.8, min = 11.3 mm, th = 2 (at back) to less than 0.5 (at cutting edge); diam cord bound in copper = 3.5 mm [RTS 31/8/2004].
32.3 g
Other Owners:
Cornelis Marinus Pleyte
Field Collector:
?Cornelis Marinus Pleyte
PRM Source:
Cornelis Marinus Pleyte
Purchased December 1899
Collected Date:
By 1899
Small 'model' knife consisting of a wooden handle with a flat oval top and bevelled sides on a concave sided cylindrical body; this flares out at the base to form a narrow handle guard cut flat at the end and with an oval section. A slot has been cut into this flat edge to receive the tang of the blade; the wood has split slightly down one side of the handle at this point. What may be the other end of this tang can be seen projecting from the centre of the handle top, where it extends out from the surface before being bent over and hammered back into the wood, forming a metal loop. A short length of cord has been fitted through this loop, made from three strands of animal hide, knotted at one end, and cut or broken flat at the other. This has been bound around with a narrow strip of copper or copper alloy (Pantone 876C). There is also a short piece of plant fibre cord tied around the loop; this looks European, but it is not clear if it was part of the original object or added later. The wood is a warm orangey brown colour (Pantone 463C) and has been polished. This has also been decorated with a copper strip, wound several times around the lower body, with the ends of the strip hammered into the wood to be secured. The iron blade has a straight base with rectangular section, the centre of which has been cut away to leave a lentoid-shaped slot. The back of this part is flat, but the front has been tooled to create two grooves running along its length. Above this, a short crescentic spur projects to one side at right angles to the blade itself; this is similarly flat on the back, and grooved along its upper face. The blade then continues in a curve with a thick, blunt back, tooled on the upper face to give a sharp concave cutting edge on the inside - giving the blade a flattened, triangular section. Two thirds along its length, the blade widens, with the inside edge following the same curve, and the outside edge, now sharpened, slightly convex with the two edges tapering to a point at the top. The faces of this thickened tip area are both tooled with a groove that runs towards the tip; this groove sits closest to the concave edge on the upper face, and the convex edge on its underside. The blade has been decorated with a series of incised lines, probably applied as a series of short blows made with a hammer and chisel. This consists of pairs of short oblique lines in opposing directions making a band that runs across the width of the tang, just above the fenestrated area on both faces, with a similar band running across part of the width just below the thickened tip of the blade, but on the upper face only. The area between these two bands is decorated along its back edge on the upper face with a design comprising groups of 2, 3 and then 2 pairs of concentric semicircles, with rows of notching between. The knife is complete, with minor edge damage to the inside of the blade; this is currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 877C). It has a total length of 243 mm (not including the hide cord); the handle is 67 mm long, 20.3 mm wide and 17.2 mm thick across its top; the copper band is 2 mm wide; the tang is 12.1 mm wide and 1.9 mm thick; the spur is 16 mm wide and 8 mm long, and the blade has a maximum width of 15.8 mm at its upper end, and 11.3 mm at its lower end, with a thickness of 2 mm at the back and less than 0.5 mm along the cutting edge. The hide cord bound in copper has a diameter of 3.5 mm. The object has a weight of 32.3 grams.

This object was sold to the museum by Cornelius Marinus Pleyte in 1899; it is not clear if he was also the original collector of the item.

Museum records state that 'this weapon
is usually seen described as the MAKRAKA execution knife or hatchet but may be used by other ZANDE peoples'. Makraka is a term applied both to a place, and also a subdivision of the Zande, and it is not clear which was intended here.

For another Zande model knife, see 1899.85.2. For full sized versions of the same form, see 1884.25.6 (Zande or Mangbetu) and 1905.68.10 (Zande). Comparable knives are found amongst the Zande and Boa; some authors have seen these as having derived from the throwing knife, while Petherick claims these were used as projectiles (W. Fischer and M.A. Zirngibl, 1978,
African Weapons, p. 61; they call this type a 'sabre knife'; C. Spring, 1993, African Arms and Armour , p. 86; he calls these 'scimitars'; see also J. Petherick, 1860, '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. 176). They may have been dual purpose blades. For further full-size examples, said to be from the Democratic Republic of Congo, see 1909.65.5-8 and 1927.54.51.

This object is currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 10B.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [BI, p. 116] - 1899. [p. 117] [insert] 85 [end insert] C M PLEYTE , Leyden - Dec. [insert] 1-2 [end insert] - [One of] 2 toy throwing knives, small but accurate models, Niam Niam [insert] Azande [end insert], Cen[tral]. Africa. 10/-. [insert at base of page] R.R. petty cash 1- 9- 0 [end insert; Price includes all items from 1899.85.1 - .12].
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 117, in column next to entry] - French Equatorial Africa.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 3/2/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - This weapon is usually seen described as the MAKRAKA execution knife or hatchet but may be used by other ZANDE peoples. Toy throwing knife or falchion. ?MAKRAKA, AZANDE, C. AFRICA. Purch 1899. [Tied to object; RTS 31/8/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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