Shilluk spear

Shilluk spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1929
Wood Plant , Antelope Horn Animal , Animal Hide Skin , Animal Hair , Animal Tail , Brass Metal
Carved , Stained , Covered , Tooled , Decorated Impressed , Recycled
Total L = 2231, upper shaft diam = 22 x 21.5; point L = 500, max diam = 45.5 x 35.5; sheath L = 189, upper diam = 47.5 x 28.2 mm [RTS 5/8/2005].
730.2 g
Other Owners:
Charles Armine Willis
Field Collector:
Charles Armine Willis
PRM Source:
Charles Armine Willis
Donated 1929
Collected Date:
By 1929
Spear consisting of a narrow, straightened point made from oryx horn with a naturally ridged surface and oval section; the surface is a streaky yellowish brown and dark brown colour (Pantone 466C and Pantone 440C). The base of this rests against the top of a long, straight shaft of orangey brown wood (Pantone 730C), also slightly oval in section that tapers to the butt. Both point and haft 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 all over, leaving a series of long lentoid-shaped impressions in horizontal rows around the circumference. The lower part of the shaft has been decorated with a brass cylinder, cut from a recycled cartridge and fitted over the wood (Pantone 871C), and a small tassel of brown hair (Pantone 7532C), made from a cut segment of animal tail, just below. The spear is complete, except for a small hole at the base of the point, with a weight of 730.2 grams. It has a total length of 2231 mm, with an upper shaft diameter of 22 by 21.5 mm; the point measures 500 mm from its tip to the top of the sheath, and has a diameter of 45.5 by 35.5 mm; the sheath below is 189 mm long with an upper diameter of 47.5 by 38.2 mm.

This object was collected by Charles Armine Willis from the 'Upper Nile' at some time before 1929, when it was donated by him to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Although the term 'Upper Nile' is now used to refer to a modern administrative district, covering a stretch of the Bahr el Abiad from Geigar to Malakal, and the Sobat River to Nasir, at the time this object was collected the term was used differently. Up until 1981, it was the name of a province that covered the districts now known as Upper Nile, Jonglei, Wahda and part of el Buheyrat. It may also have been used to describe the Bahr el Abiad and/or Bahr el Jebel rivers.

For other Shilluk spears with horn points, see 1919.13.17-18. 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 [donations VIII, p. 332] -[insert pencil] 58 [end insert] C. ARMINE WILLIS , Esq., Governor of the Upper Nile Province, Sudan [insert, pencil] 1 [end insert] - Spear with long wooden shaft & point made from a straightened oryx horn. SHILLUK, UPPER NILE.

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

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, SUDAN. Shilluk tribe. Wooden spear with horn point. d.d. C.A. Willis 1929, 1929.58.1 [plastic label, tied to object; RTS 5/8/2005].

Written on object - SHILLUK spear with horn (?Oryx) point, UPPER NILE. d.d. C.A. Willis, 1929 [RTS 25/7/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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