Acholi wheel trap

Acholi wheel trap
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Eastern Equatoria Magwe? Panikware Rest House? Imuruk?
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By February 1922
Wood Plant , Plant Fibre
Carved , Bent , Bound
Diam = 410 mm, Diam wheel = 360 mm, W frame rod = 18, spikes L = 210 to 223 mm, W end = 4 to 10 mm [RTS 26/7/2004].
893.3 g
Other Owners:
Collected by C.G. Seligman and his wife Brenda Zara Seligman in 1922, when conducting fieldwork in the Southern Sudan. This included work at a large Acholi village called Magwe between February 23rd and the 2nd of March 1922, then visits to smaller villag
Field Collector:
Charles Gabriel Seligman & Brenda Zara Seligman
PRM Source:
Charles Gabriel Seligman
Donated July 1922
Collected Date:
23rd February to around 4th March 1922 [RTS 4/7/2005]
Wheel trap, of a type usually used in conjunction with a noose. This is circular and is made from two wooden rods, each bent into a loop of similar diameter with overlapping ends to form the framework for the wheel. These rings were then placed together, and a series of 106 wooden spikes passed through the gap between the rings, their broader, flat cut ends left protruding from the outside edge and their sharpened pointed tips meeting at or near the centre of the object, where they overlap one another. This forms the hub of the trap, which would break when trodden on by an animal, to leave its hoof trapped by the surviving spikes and held by the noose that would have accompanied this object. The wheel framework was secured by winding flat strips of reddish brown plant fibre, possibly palm or banana, around the two rings. Some strips are split just above each spike, with the ends passing around both side to secure it and the frame; others are left intact and pass between the spikes. Some areas have a glossy, possibly resinous material evident on the surface of both binding and the framework beneath, possibly a coating intended to further secure the strips. The wheel is complete and no spikes appear to be broken, although a few may have old termite damage. The fibre binding is a reddish brown colour (Pantone 469C), while the spikes are a light, yellowish brown (Pantone 7508C). The wheel has an external diameter of 410 mm; the circular frame has a diameter of 360 mm and its constituent rod is 18 mm wide, while each spike measures from 4 to 10 mm across its base and ranges from 210 to 223 mm in length. The fibre binding strips are between 5 and 10 mm in width. The trap weighs a total of 893.3 grams.

This object was collected by C.G. Seligman and his wife Brenda Zara Seligman in 1922, when conducting fieldwork in the Southern Sudan, which incorporated research at a large Acholi village called Magwe between February 23rd and the 2nd of March 1922, then visits to smaller villages in the district, including a stay at the Panikware rest house (2nd-4th March), and Imuruk (4th March). This places their research, and the probable collection place in the modern district of Eastern Equatoria (based on information collected by Fran Larson from the unpublished diaries of C.G. and B.Z. Seligman, in the Archives of the London School of Economics, Seligman manuscripts, files 1/4/1 and 1/4/6).

Wheel traps of this type are discussed by K.G. Lindblom. They were used by a number of Sudanese groups, including the Nuer, Lango, Acholi, Bari and Baggara, for catching antelopes as well as larger animals such as giraffe and rhinoceros - with the size of the animal determining the size of the trap. This particular example is said to have been used for giraffes. The trap would be placed over a hole, dug into the ground, with a noose laid over the top and secured to either a tree or a wooden block. The trap was then covered with earth to hide it. When an animal trod on the trap, the spikes secured the wheel to the foot and allow the noose to tighten around the leg (K.G. Lindblom, 1928,
The Spiked Wheel-trap and its Distribution , Statens Etnografiska Museum, Smärre Meddelanden 5).

For similar wheel traps, see 1934.8.35.1 (a Moru trap used for catching giraffes), 1936.10.26 (Anuak, for catching 'Kob, Tiang, Waterbuck etc) and 1936.10.99 (Anuak).

Rachael Sparks 5/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 46] - 1922 [pencil insert] 25 [end insert] Dr C.G. SELIGMAN , F.R.S., Court Leys, Toot Baldon, Oxon. July - Specimens collected by himself during 1922, viz: 1922.310 [pencil insert] 6 [end insert] - 'Star-' or 'wheel-' trap for catching giraffes, ACHOLI.
Additional Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 25 top, in pencil] - blue numbers not valid & not on specimens. Inserted by an assistant in error.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 30/1/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - 'Star' trap for sitting over hole in the ground; used in conjunction with a noose for catching giraffes by the leg. ACHOLI, UPPER WHITE NILE. Pres. by Dr. C.G. Seligman, 1922 [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 26/7/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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