Dinka spear

Dinka spear

Accession Number:
Khartoum Omdurman
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1913
Antelope Horn Animal , Wood Plant , Plant Fibre
Carved , Polished , Covered , Tooled , Socketed
Total L = 2238; spearhead visible L = 473, max diam = 42 x 34.5; hide sheath L = 155, upper diam = 44 x 39, lower diam = 23.2 x 21.8; shaft upper diam = 20.5 x 17.5, butt diam = 8.5 mm [RTS 19/8/2005].
602.9 g
Other Owners:
Leonard Halford Dudley Buxton
Field Collector:
Leonard Halford Dudley Buxton
PRM Source:
Leonard Halford Dudley Buxton
Donated May 1913
Collected Date:
By 1913
Spear consisting of a narrow, straight point made from dark brown horn with a naturally ridged surface and oval section (Pantone Black 7C), said to be fetal horn from a gemsbok. The base of this has been shaved on one side. This is fitted onto the top of a long straight shaft of orangey brown wood (Pantone 729C), with numerous irregularities along its length and traces of the original bark still present in a number of places across the surface. This tapers to a narrow, slightly rounded butt. The point and shaft have been slightly polished, and the junction between them covered with a brown cylindrical sheath (Pantone 7532C), cut from a section of animal's tail with the hair largely removed. This was stretched over the body whilst wet and then shrunken in place, with the surface tooled all over, leaving a series of long lentoid-shaped impressions in horizontal rows around the circumference. This sheath obscures the exact method by which the spearhead and shaft have been joined; however splits in the base of the horn reveal that it is hollow inside, with fibre cord partially visible. It would seem from this that the hollowed base of the spearhead has been fitted over the end of the shaft, incorporating some kind of cord material. The spear is complete, but there is damage to the surface of the horn and one bad split up the side; there are also some splits along the length of the shaft. It has a weight of 602.9 grams and a total length of 2238 mm; the visible part of the spearhead is 473 mm long, with a maximum diameter of 42 by 34.5 mm; the hide sheath is 155 mm long, with a top diameter of 44 by 39 mm and base diameter of 23.2 by 21.8 mm; the wooden shaft has an upper diameter of 20.5 by 17.5 mm and a butt diameter of 8.5 mm.

Bought by Leonard Halford Dudley Buxton in Omdurman, and donated to the museum in 1913.

Spears tipped with straight, or straightened animal horn are also used by the Nuer (see 1931.66.9 and 1936.10.1), Dinka (1913.15.5), Shilluk (1919.13.17-18 and 1929.58.1) and Mandari (1973.16.2), usually using materials such as antelope or onyx. The Nuer hafted these points as follows: 'The giit ... is fixed at the joint with an unsewn leather collar made from the tail skin of an ox. This is soaked and stretched round the haft, where it shrinks as it dries' (P.P. Howell, 1947, "On the Value of Iron Among the Nuer", Man 47, p. 132-3).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [V, p. 42] - 1913 L.H. DUDLEY BUXTON , Esq., B.A. Exeter College. May. [p. 44, insert, in pencil] 15 [end insert] L.H. DUDLEY BUXTON , cont[inue]d. [pencil insert] 5 [end insert] - Spear with head of gemsbok (?) horn (said to be of fetal horn), Nilotic negroes (? Dinka), b[ough]t in Omdurman.

Card Catalogue Entry - EASTS AFRICA, NILOTIC NEGROES, ?DINKA. Spear with head of gemsbok(?) horn (said to be of tetal [sic] horn). Bought in Omdurman. d.d. L.H. Dudley Buxton, 1913 [RTS 5/4/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan, Omdurman. Nilotic tribes, possibly Dinka. Spear with horn point. d.d. L.H.D. Buxton, 1913.15.5 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 19/8/2005].

Written on object -
Spear headed with tetal [sic] horn artificially straightened. NILOTIC NEGROES. Brought in Omdurman, pres. by L.H.D. Buxton, 1913 [RTS 19/8/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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