Zande throwing knife

Zande throwing knife
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1930
Iron Metal , Plant Fibre
Hammered , Forged (Metal) , Incised , Bound , Twisted , Decorated
L = 436 mm, W handle 26.3 mm, th handle 17.7 mm, th at cutting edge = 0.1 mm [RTS 9/3/2004].
Other Owners:
Probably collected by Evans-Pritchard himself during his fieldwork amongst the Zande, which took place during 1927, part of 1928 and 1929 and for several months during 1930 [CM; RTS 6/7/2004]. Purchased from Edward Evans-Pritchard for the PRM by Henry Bal
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Purchased 31 December 1930
Collected Date:
1927 - 1930
Iron throwing knife consisting of a rectangular plate tang with rectangular section, covered with plant fibre to provide padding, then bound over the top with twisted strands of plant fibre string to form a comfortable hand grip. The binding goes horizontally around the handle, with the string knotted in at least three places; the metal tang is just visible at the end. This binding extends up to the point where the lower angled blade joins the body; it is a light yellowish brown in colour (Pantone 465C). The central stem, which is a silver gray colour (Pantone 420C), continues as a single narrow piece from the tang with parallel sides that widen slightly at its upper end. Neither edge is particularly sharp; the section continues to be rectangular. It is decorated at the top of the stem, on its upper surface, with two parallel rows formed of short oblique lines running in opposing directions, creating two rows of a broken zigzag pattern. Three additional blades are angled away from the central stem, and were probably separate pieces that have been forged into place. The lower of these projects at an acute angle from the body just above the handle. The edges of the blade have been hammered on both sides to form a bevelled sloping surface down to the cutting edge on all sides. The blade has straight sides that taper in towards the rounded tip; there is a rounded, projecting spur at the base of the outer edge, with a smaller convex spur below that has not been sharpened (unlike that seen on 1934.8.120). A second blade projects from the end of the central stem at right angles; this is curved and tapers to a point at the end; the outer edge is concave and the inside edge convex. A third, broader blade extends up from the end of the stem, with a triangular spur on the inner edge, then a curved blade above with concave inner edge and strongly curved convex outer edge. The surfaces of these blades are also bevelled down to their cutting edges, which run around all sides. The underside of the knife is flat, except where it has been hammered thinner at the edges. Complete and intact; there are some minor nicks in the cutting edges of all blades that may be the result of use wear. Length 436 mm, width of handle 26.3 mm, thickness of handle 17.7 mm; width of central blade 22.6 mm, thickness of central blade 1.8 mm; length of lower angled blade 205 mm, width of lower angled blade 41 mm; length across second and third blades 250 mm, width of second blade 40 mm, width of third blade, including spur, 81.4 mm, and thickness at cutting edges 0.1 mm.

Collected by Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard during his fieldwork amongst the Zande, which took place during 1927, part of 1928 and 1929 and for several months during 1930.

This object 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 VIII.1A, is found in the region inhabited by the Zande and neighbouring groups in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. This is supposedly the form which is known to the Zande as
kpinga , although Petherick called it a gangoo, and Powell-Cotton’s informants gave it the name sapa (J. Petherick 1861, Egypt, the Sudan and Central Africa, p. 481; P. Westerdijk 1988, The African Throwing Knife, p. 207-8).

Petherick describes the Zande carrying two or three throwing knives at a time, hung from a disc on the back of the shield (J. Petherick 1861,
Egypt, the Sudan and Central Africa, pp 469; C. Spring, 1990, African Arms and Armour, pp 69-70; 79-80). They were used as projectile weapons: “The iron weapon, when employed, is thrown with great force, and in such a manner as to revolve upon its centre when spinning through the air” (J. Petherick, 1861, 'On the arms of the Arab and Negro Tribes of Central Africa bordering on the White Nile', Journal of the Royal United Services Institution IV no. 13 , p. 176).

Rachael Sparks 17/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [BIV, p. 138] - 1930 [insert] 86 [end insert] E.E. EVANS PRITCHARD 31 Dec. Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, etc. [...] [insert] 10 [end insert] - Throwing-knife with several blades, AZANDE. [Base of p. 139, total of items 1930.86.1-65] - P[ai]d by cheque 31 Dec £ 25-0-0 .
Added Accession Book Entry [page opposite 138] - 1930.86 See Related Documents File for letter from Henry Balfour to Evans-Pritchard concerning the purchase of this collection. [Unlabelled sketch, of this knife].

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 3/2/2004].

Related Documents File
- This contains a letter from Balfour to Evans-Pritchard, dated 31 December 1930 that specifies the objects which he would like to purchase for the Pitt Rivers Museum, and suggests a price of £25, which was one quarter of his annual budget. The list matches the objects ultimately accessioned quite closely. 1930.86.10 appears on the list as "1 throwing knife (Zande)" [RTS 17/5/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Throwing-knife. AZANDE, BAHR-EL-GHAZAL, E.CENT. AFRICA. Evans, 1930.

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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