Spear, possibly Shilluk

Spear, possibly Shilluk
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1919
Wood Plant , Antelope Horn Animal , Animal Hide Skin
Carved , Polished , Covered , Tooled , Decorated Impressed
Total L = 2300, upper shaft diam = 24.7 x 24.3; visible L spear-head = 418, diam lower spear-head = 45 x 37.8; sheath L = 164, upper diam = 48.3 x 39 mm [RTS 5/8/2005].
740.9 g
Other Owners:
Bought by Louis Colville Gray Clarke at Stevens Auction Rooms on 11th March 1919 (lot 361) and donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum the same year [RTS 5/8/2005].
PRM Source:
Louis Colville Gray Clarke
Donated 1919
Collected Date:
By 1919
Spear consisting of a narrow, straightened point made from polished dark brown horn with a naturally ridged surface and oval section (Pantone 440C). The base of this appears to have had 2 flat sections shaved from its sides, before joining with a long narrow shaft of orangey brown wood (Pantone 7510C) that gradually tapers to a pointed butt. Both spearhead and shaft have been polished, and the junction between them covered with a dark brown cylindrical sheath (Pantone 440C), cut from a section of animal's tail with the hair removed. This was stretched over the body whilst wet and then shrunken in place, with the surface tooled to create a series of lentoid-shaped impressions in horizontal rows around the circumference. These have been rubbed smooth in a few places through use. The spear is complete, but the spearhead has split badly in 2 places. It has a weight of 740.9 grams, and a total length of 2300 mm, with an upper shaft diameter of 24.7 by 24.3 mm; the point measures 418 mm from its tip to the top of the sheath, and has a diameter of 45 by 37.8 mm; the sheath below is 164 mm long with an upper diameter of 48.3 by 39 mm.

Bought by Louis Colville Gray Clarke at Stevens Auction Rooms on 11th March 1919 (lot 361) and donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum the same year. It was said to be a Shilluk object from the White Nile; the original collector is unknown. Throughout the twentieth century the term ‘White Nile’ has been used to denote an administrative district immediately south of Khartoum. However at the time this object was collected, the term was also used more loosely to refer to the Bahr el Abiad and Bahr el Jebel rivers, or the areas immediately around them. It is not clear in which sense it is being used here, although association with the Shilluk might indicate the river is being referred to rather than the administrative district.

For other Shilluk spears with horn points, see 1919.13.18 and 1929.58.1. 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) 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 5/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VI, p. 119] - 1919 [pencil insert] 13 [end insert] LOUIS C.G. CLARKE Mar[ch]. [pencil insert, p. 120] 17-18 [end insert] [pencil insert] B[ough]t at Stevens 11 March 1919 lot 361 [end insert] - [1 of] 2 wooden spears with straightened antelope horns as points, said to be SHILLUK, WHITE NILE.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 23/7/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label ? - " Αιθιοπεσ .... αιχμασ ειχον, επι δε κερασ δορκαδοσ επην οξυ πεποιημενον, τροπον λογχησ ." The Aethiopians..... had javelins tipped with antelope's horn, sharpened, like a lance. Herodotus, vii, 69 [rectangular paper label, stuck to surface of object]; AFRICA, SUDAN. Shilluk tribe. Wooden spear with horn point. d.d. L.C.G. Clarke 1919, 1919.13.17 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 5/8/2005].

Written on object -
SHILLUK spear with antelope-horn point. WHITE NILE. Pres. by L.C.G. Clarke, 1919 [RTS 25/7/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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