Rumbek Jur harpoon gaff

Rumbek Jur harpoon gaff
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] El Buheyrat Rumbek District
Cultural Group:
Rumbek Jur
Date Made:
By 1929
Iron Metal , Wood Plant , Grass Fibre Plant
Carved , Perforated , Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Twisted Tied Wound Knotted Burnt
L hook and handle = 550; hook L = 170, socket W = 20, socket th = 18.7, body W = 3.7, barb L = 15 mm; handle W = 20, th = 19 mm; toggle L = 145, W = 19.4, th = 8, hole diam = 7 mm; cord L when extended = 2900, diam = 5 mm; smaller cord diam = 2 mm [RTS 10
186.2 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Donated November 1929
Collected Date:
By 1929
Harpoon gaff used for catching fish. This consists of an iron rod, round in section, bent into a sinuous hook with 2 curves along its length, and a sharply pointed end with a small barb chiselled out from the inside face just below. The body thickens to a socketed base with a vertical open seam running down its length; this is currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 424C). The hook has been fitted onto the top of a short handle carved from yellow wood (Pantone 7508C), with 4 knots along the body; the butt end is covered with carving marks and has a slightly pointed tip. A twisted grass fibre cord has been wound around the base of this hook, with its loose ends tucked underneath the resulting coils. This is made from 2 individual sections, that either then combine, or are attached to a thicker cord made from 4 parts, twisted together in pairs of 2; both cords are yellowish brown in colour (Pantone 7509C). This cord is much longer, and hangs down in a tight spiral, presumably due to having been wrapped around the gaff handle for long periods of time. A dark band is visible around the handle where this would have lain, showing how exposure to light has changed the colour of the surrounding wood. A long, flat wooden toggle has been threaded over the end of the cord through a hole burnt into its centre; this toggle is pointed at either end, one of which shows some damage. The cord is knotted on the other side, to prevent the toggle slipping off, with two further knots between this point and its very end. This last stretch of cord has reverted to a simpler, 2 strand composition. The fisherman would hold the toggle in one hand, and hook the fish with the other; on releasing the gaff handle, the cord would allow him to pull back whatever catch had been secured. The object is complete; the handle wood has split in areas along its length, there is a split in the iron socket and the ends of the cord are beginning to fray. It has a weight of 186.2 grams. Handle and hook combined are 550 mm long; the handle is 20 mm wide and 19 mm thick, while the hook is 170 mm long, with a socket measuring 20 by 18.7 mm, the barb is 15 mm long, and the body just above it is 3.7 mm wide. The wooden toggle is 145 mm long, 19.4 mm wide and 8 mm thick, with a hole through the body that measures 7 mm in diameter. The cord, when extended, is 2900 mm long from the point it leaves the hook body, with a diameter of 5 mm; the thinner cord is 2 mm wide.

Collected by Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard in the Rumbek district of El Buheyrat from the Sofi sub-tribe of the Rumbek Jur, who are a Mittu-speaking people, . Evans-Pritchard spent 1 week, in this district; see E.E. Evans-Pritchard 1937, "The Non-Dinka Peoples of Amadi and Rumbek Districts",
Sudan Notes and Records 20, pp 156-158.

A gaff is an iron hook with handle used for securing heavy fish. A similar type of hook is published by Schweinfurth, although it lacks the double bend in the end and the barb is on the outer rather than the inner face (G. Schweinfurth, 1875,
Artes Africanae, pl. II figure 16). Schweinfurth adds that the Jur name for this type of object is golo, and that the Bongo made use of a similar type of hook.

This object is currently on display in the Upper Gallery, case 28A.

Rachael Sparks 29/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VIII, p. 322] - [insert, pencil] 47 [end insert] E.E. EVANS PRITCHARD , Esq. Nov. [insert, pencil] 3 [end insert] - Harpoon-gaff, for gaffing fish; with barbed iron hook socketted onto & detachable from the wooden shaft. A long line is attached to the hook and ends in a wooden toggle, to give a firm grip to the fisherman. Same data, [RUMBEK district, BAHR-EL-GHAZAL PROVINCE, ANGLO-EGYPTIAN SUDÂN] but obtained from the SOFI sub-tribe of the BELI. The above were collected by himself.
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 321] - 1929.47.3 No given AP [red biro] A22.F7.5-6.

Card Catalogue Entry - The card repeats the accession book entry, with the additional details 'BELI ('JUR') TRIBE (MITTU- speaking), SOFI SUB-TRIBE [RTS 27/4/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Fish-gaff with detachable hook & toggle at end of the line [insert] 1929.47.3 [end insert]. BELI ('JUR') tribe, RUMBEK district, BAHR-EL-GHAZAL, A.-E. SUDAN (obtained from the SOFI subtribe of the BELI). Pres. by E.E. Evans-Pritchard 1929 [paper tag stuck to surface of object]. [...] 75 [ faint pencil marking with some areas scribbled out, mostly illegible; RTS 24/11/2004].

Display History:
Former display label - [typed]: BELI ("JUR") TRIBE, RUMBEK DIST., BAHR-EL-GHAZAL, SUDAN. Fish-gaff. Pres. by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1929. [label stored in RDF; RTS 13/1/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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