Zande throwing knife

Zande throwing knife
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Sudan , Congo, Democratic Republic of
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1915
Iron Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Incised , Punched
L = 443 mm, W handle = 27 mm, th handle 1.7 mm, W central blade = 32.2 mm, th cutting edge = 0.5 mm [RTS 2/6/2004].
529.8 g
Other Owners:
From the F. Darling collection; sold by antique dealer G.O. Hughes to the PRM October 1915.
Field Collector:
?F. Darling
PRM Source:
G.O. Hughes
Purchased October 1915
Collected Date:
By 1915
Iron throwing knife with a narrow rectangular plate tang, splaying out at the end which has been cut flat and has a small projecting tab that has been hammered at the end and slightly bent. A series of short barbs run down the length of this handle area, formed by hitting the metal along the edges with a tool such as a chisel in a series of short, oblique blows. These barbs are on the upper surface on one side of the tang, and on the lower surface of the opposite edge, and were probably designed to keep a handle binding in place, although there is no binding currently present. These barbs run up the tang as far as the junction of body and the lower, angled blade. The central stem continues above this, and has a triangular section with thick, blunt back, opposite a sharpened cutting edge. The surface of this edge has been bevelled on either side. The back edge of this stem is slightly convex. There are three blades extending from this central stem. The lowest of these projects at an acute angle from the body, just above the handle. This has an almost leaf-shaped body coming to a point at the end, with a small rounded spur projecting from near its base, and a second, smaller and broader spur just below; the lower edge of this is almost flat. The rest of this blade has a sharpened cutting edge; the broader spur remains blunt. A second angled blade extends away to one side from the top of the central shaft, with a shallow, angular spur at its base. This blade has a slightly concave lower edge, with the body tapering to a pointed tip then the opposite edge curving convexly round to join with a third triangular blade continuing from the top of the central stem. Both blades have sharpened edges. Apart from the cutting edges, which have been hammered to form a broad bevelled area on both upper and lower surfaces, the underside of the knife is flat. The upper surface has been decorated with a series of punched motifs that outline the shape of the two upper blades and part of the central stem. This consists of three sets of two lines each, made up of short lentoid depressions, that run parallel along the edges of the curved upper blade, creating a semicircular space in the centre of the blade which is framed by a row of short arcs around the edge. Four double lines cut this design off near the junction with the triangular blade, where the centre has similar framing of pairs of dotted lines around a central four leaf rosette. The lower part of this frame has a scalloped edge. The central stem is decorated from the back to mid body with four rows along the length; the two outer rows being made up of running arcs, the central rows of running lozenge shapes. Three vertical lines with two sets of two horizontal lines between add as a terminal motif to the base of this design. The object is complete and intact, with several small nicks along the edges of the upper blades. The iron is currently a metallic gray colour along the edges (Pantone 422C), and a duller matt gray elsewhere. The throwing knife has a total length of 443 mm, with the lower blade being 145 mm long and 33 mm wide, the second blade being 213 mm long and 57 mm wide, and the third, triangular blade being 109 mm long and 70 mm wide. The handle is 27 mm wide and 1.7 mm thick, the central stem is 32.2 mm wide and 0.5 mm thick at the cutting edge, and the object as a whole weighs 529.8 grams.

This object came originally from the Collection of the Reverend F. Darling, and is said to have been obtained in Nubia, although it probably originated from further south. It was sold to the Pitt Rivers Museum by the antiques dealer G.O. Hughes in October 1915. It represents the southern type of throwing knife, which is found in northern Gabon, and from eastern Cameroon almost to the White Nile; it was used by the Zande and by groups who fell under their influence, including the Adio, Bongo and Kreish. This specific variety, which corresponds to Westerdijk's type SP VII.1, is found in the regions inhabited by the latter three groups (P. Westerdijk 1988,
The African Throwing Knife, p. 191).

Rachael Sparks 18/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 111] - 1915 . [insert] 45 [end insert] Oct. Mr G.O. HUGHES , dealer in antiquities, 2a the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells. 1915.B24 - Many-bladed throwing-knife, obtained in Nubia but probably derived from the Cent[ral]. Equatorial region (From the Rev. F. Darling's collection). 7/-.

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Throwing-knife, obtd in NUBIA, but probably derived from the CENTRAL EQUATORIAL REGION. Purch. 1915 (G.O. Hughes) Rev. F. Darling. ?AZANDE (NIAM NIAM) [tied to object; RTS 2/6/2004].

Display History:
Former display label - ?AZANDE. Obtained in NUBIA. Rev. F. Darling. Purch. '15 [handwritten, found in upper gallery drawer U.82.4, now stored in RDF; RTS 18/5/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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