Dinka bird snare

Dinka bird snare
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Warab Fanamweir
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1933
Wood Plant , Horse Hair Animal , Plant Fibre , Clay
Carved , Knotted , Twisted , Strung , Modelled , Perforated Impressed Decorated
Rod L = 207 mm, W = 10.2 mm, Th = 9.6 mm; lozenge-shaped weight L = 26.5 mm, W = 16.5 mm, Ht = 13.6 mm; ovoid weight L = 36.8 mm, W = 24 mm, Th = 17 mm; diam strings = 0.5 mm, diam cord = 1.5 mm, L string and weight drop below bar = 13.5 to 14.5 mm; L cor
85.7 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Hannah Brayton Slater) on 3rd May 1933 during a shooting expedition [RTS 21/7/2004].
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
Bird snare consisting of a short piece of light yellowish brown wood (Pantone 7509C), round in section, cut flat at either end and with a smooth and regular surface. This has been hung with 14 strings made from wiry cream coloured horsehair (Pantone 7506C), each fastened to the rod with a slip knot, and at their bases passing into the centre of 14 hand made weights of light grayish brown clay with tiny micaceous inclusions (Pantone 7531C). These weights are lozenge-shaped in plan view, with a slightly pointed apex, convex sides and a flat base. The strings pass directly into each weight at its top, and it would appear that the weights were modelled around each string while the clay was still wet and malleable; the clay is soft and has probably been sun dried only rather than fired. Each weight has also been attached to its neighbour by a thick cream coloured plant fibre cord, made from three strands twisted together (Pantone 7507C), and probably an imported product. This cord passes through their sides, just above the base; this may also have been done while the clay was moist. At one end, there is a larger weight, ovoid in section and teardrop-shaped in plan view with a point at one end. The string passes directly into the pointed top end of this weight, which has been decorated with a series of parallel impressed lines that run around the outside edge and in a single column extending down the length on both upper and lower surfaces. The object is complete and intact, and has a total weight of 85.7 grams. The wooden bar is 207 mm long, 10.2 mm wide and 9.6 mm thick. The lozenge-shaped weights are of similar dimensions; a typical example is 26.5 mm long, 16.5 mm wide and 13.6 mm high. The larger pendant weight at the end is 36.8 mm long, 24 mm wide and 17 mm thick. The horsehair strings are 0.5 mm in diameter, and these have a drop of between 13.5 and 14.5 mm below the wooden bar (including the height of the weights). The cord has a diameter of 1.5 mm, and when fully extended is 700 mm long (including the full length of the pendant weight).

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah at Fanamweir on 3rd May 1933 during a shooting expedition.

Powell-Cotton gave the Dinka name for this object as
wiel, but according to Nebel, this term is defined as: "bristle, fibre; hair of elephant or giraffe tail" (plural: wiil - Nebel 1979, Dinka-English Dictionary, p. 93). This suggests that Powell-Cotton’s term describes the material, rather than the object type.

Few authors on the Southern Sudan discuss bird catching; a brief mention of clay pellets 'slung from the end of a pliant twig' being used in bird scaring by the Anuak may refer to a related device (H.H. Austin, 1902,
Among Swamps and Giants in Equatorial Africa, p. 19).

A number of South Sudanese clays seem to contain particles of mica, including those used by the Zande and Bongo
(P.M. Larken, 1926, "An Account of the Zande", Sudan Notes and Records IX no. 1, p. 4; G. Schweinfurth, 1873, In the Heart of Africa Volume I, p. 292; Volume II, p. 25).

Rachael Sparks 8/9/2005.

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] 10 [end insert] - Series of horse-hair bird-snares, united on a line & each weighted with a lump of clay. ib[idem] [FANAMWEIR] (2413).
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 247] - 1934.8.10 No given AP.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 03/03/2004].

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Dinka Tribe". This object appears as item 2413: "Bird trap, horse hair thread with bits of clay attached, native name Wiel , 3/5/33 Fanamweir, 8.55 N, 28.42 E". 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].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Wiel , bird-snare. DINKA, FANAMWEIR. WHITE NILE. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934. 8° 55' N., 28° 42' E., (2413) [tied to object; RTS 21/7/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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