Dinka spear

Dinka spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Warab ?Fanamweir
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
3rd May 1933?
Iron Metal , Wood Plant
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Carved , Stained ?
Total L = 1789; spearhead L = 446, blade L = 189, max W = 37, max th = 3.4; shaft W = 16.2, th = 7.5; socket diam = 17.1 x 17; shaft diam = 16.5; butt L = 226, top diam butt socket = 13.7, base diam butt = 8.2 mm [RTS 11/7/2005]
467.3 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah, probably at Fanamweir on 3rd May 1933 during a shooting expedition [RTS 11/7/2005].
Field Collector:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton & Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Hannah Brayton Slater)
PRM Source:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton
Donated 1934
Collected Date:
3rd May 1933?
Spear consisting of an iron spearhead with a leaf-shaped blade, thickened to form a midrib down the centre of each side, with rounded shoulders that curve in to a solid, round sectioned shank that has been hammered flat almost immediately below to form a long area with rectangular section. A series of downwards pointing barbs has been chiselled out of 2 sides of this, on opposite faces of the shank, then 2 upward pointed barbs curve out from the base. This joins with a long socket that expands towards the base, with an open seam running up the front. The blade is currently a metallic grey colour (Pantone 877C). The socket has been fitted onto a wooden shaft, carved from a tree branch with some surface irregularities and a circular section, stained an orangey brown colour across the surface (Pantone 730C). An iron spear-butt has been fitted onto the base of this, with socketed top and a slightly open seam running down the back; as the seam closes, the body becomes solid and narrows to a flat tipped end. The spear is complete. There is some surface rust on the iron, and the shaft has some splits down its lower body. The spear has a weight of 467.3 grams, and a total length of 1789 mm. The spearhead is 446 mm long, of which the blade part is 189 mm in length, with a maximum width of 37 mm and thickness of 3.4 mm; the shaft is 16.2 mm wide and 7.5 mm thick, while the socket base measures 17.1 by 17 mm across. The shaft is 16.5 mm in diameter, while the butt is 226 mm long, with a top diameter of 13.7 mm and a diameter at its tip of 8.2 mm.

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah, during a shooting expedition. It was obtained at either Fanamweir or Kornuk, in the Southern Sudan.
The sequence of Powell-Cotton numbers suggests that this object came from the former settlement, and if so, it may have been acquired on 3rd May 1933.

Powell-Cotton did not record the Dinka name for this type of spear, but a generic term that was in use seems to have been
tong. Nebel defines the term Tòng, plural tòòng , as ‘spear, war, fight’ (Nebel 1979, Dinka-English Dictionary, p. 84). The Dinka often modify the term tong by a second word that describes the appearance of the spear, such as tong alol , tong anerich, tong magang or tong achokwe (see 1979.20.76-79, 1979.20.94, 96-97, 107-108, 110). Langton comments on the accession book entry for 1979.20.76 that the spears used by the Dinka Tuich were obtained in trade, with the better-made more traditional examples produced by the 'Jur Lao', and usually inferior 'copies' made by Arab smiths at Omdurman.

Rachael Sparks 24/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 248] 1934 [insert] 8 [end insert] - MAJOR P. H. G. POWELL-COTTON , Quex Park, Birchington, E. Kent. Specimens collected by himself & Mrs Cotton, during hunting trips, 1933, viz: - From the DINKA tribe, FANAMWEIR & KORNUK, WHITE NILE [insert] 1-4 [end insert] - [One of] 4 spears with iron blades and butts (2360, 2597, 2633 & 2666.

Card Catalogue Entry - EAST AFRICA, WHITE NILE, FANAMWEIR & KORNUK, DINKA TRIBE. 2360, 2597, 2633., 2666. 4 spears with iron blades and butts. Coll. by himself and Mrs Cotton during hunting trips, 1933. d.d. Major P.H.G. Powell Cotton, 1934 [RTS 5/4/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan, Fanamweir? DINKA tribe. Spear with iron spearhead and butt. d.d. P.H.G. Powell-Cotton 2360. 1934.8.1 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 8/7/2005].

Written on object - 2360. Spear. DINKA, WHITE NILE, AFRICA. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 [RTS 11/7/2005].

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Dinka Tribe". This object appears as item 2360: "SPEAR". This has been added by hand, under the 'Dinka tribe' heading, and immediately after a group of items collected at Kornuk on 25/5/33, although the collectors number used here fits within the sequence of items actually collected at Fanamweir on 3rd May 1933 rather than this latter group. Also contains details of a cine film 'some tribes of the Southern Sudan', taken by Powell-Cotton during this 1933 expedition, copies of which are now in the National Film and Television Archive and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent [RTS 14/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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