Zande knife

Zande knife
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria Yambio
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1933
Iron Metal , Wood Plant
Hammered , Carved , Polished
Total L = 161 mm, L handle = 64.4 mm, diameter handle = 32.4 mm, max W blade = 31.8 mm, max th blade 1.3 mm [RTS 15/3/2004].
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife on 27th April 1933 during a shooting expedition.
Field Collector:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton & Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Brayton)
PRM Source:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton
Donated 1934
Collected Date:
27th April 1933
Small knife consisting of a wooden handle with flat circular end, bevelled around its edge, then flaring in to a slender handle with oval section, splaying out at the other end to form a handle guard cut flat at the end of either arm and on the end, where a lentoid slot has been cut into the wood to secure the tang. The other end of this tang can be seen projecting from the top of the handle, where it has been bent over and hammered back into the wood to fix it in place. The handle is a light yellowish brown colour (Pantone 1395C), and has been polished. The iron blade is in good condition, currently a silvery grey colour (Pantone 421C). It has a broad angular shoulder, with sides then tapering in to a rounded point at the other end. There is a broad flat midrib running down the length both surfaces, with the blade thinning on either side of this to form two cutting edges. There is some slight damage to the handle end, and the blade has bent slightly near the point; the object is otherwise complete and intact. Total length 161 mm, length of handle 64.4 mm, diameter of handle end 32.4 mm, width at centre of handle 14.5 mm, thickness at centre of handle 12.2 mm, width of handle guard 34.5 mm, thickness of handle guard 11 mm, maximum width of blade (at shoulders) 31.8 mm, maximum thickness of blade 1.3 mm.

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah at Yambio on 27th April 1933, during a shooting expedition.

They did not record the Zande name for this type of knife, but it has a similar shape to Zande knife
1934.8.123, which they call sapamara . This is also probably the type of small knife discussed by Larken, although this particular examples is undecorated and lacks a sheath: "Attached to a man's waist-belt is the sheath in which he carries his dagger-like knife. It is called a puka, and is made of leather, with a longitudinal seam running down one side, flat and pointed. A thong attaches it to the belt. The point and top are usually bound round with brass wire, or with brass or iron or copper beaten into a narrow flat ribbon; or the whole puka may be so embellished. It will be from three to six inches in length, and from one to two in width at the top, according to the knife. The knife ( sape ) is firmly clasped by the sheath, and though it hangs head down seldom falls out. It is small, and spear-shaped, double-edged, with a simple design incised on the blade. A tongue of metal is passed through the wooden handle, which has a narrow waist, like an elongated cotton-reel, and is two or three inches in length. The top is circular, the guard straight. The metal tongue of the blade comes out at the top and is turned over. The handle is often decorated with a binding of finely-twisted wire, or brass-headed nails. A smaller knife is often carried as a razor" (P.M. Larken, 1926, "An Account of the Zande", Sudan Notes and Records IX no. 1, pp 38-39).

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

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: [...] [p. 260] - From the ZANDE tribe, LIRANGO, YAMBIO, DINGBA & TAMBURA [...] [insert] 122 [end insert] - Small broad-bladed sheath-knife with wooden handle, ib[idem] [YAMBIO] (904).

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

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Zande Tribe". This object appears as item 904: “Knife 6 1/4", 27/4/33 Yambio, 4.34 N 28.23 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 - Knife. ZANDE, YAMBIO, E. SUDAN. 4° 34' N., 28° 23' E. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 (904). [label kept with object, RTS 15/3/2004].

Written on object -
904 1 [pencil on end of handle; the '1' is within a circle; RTS 15/3/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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