Zande currency blade

Zande currency blade
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria Yambio
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1933
Iron Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered
L = 652 mm, L tang = 111 mm; max W blade (near end) = 121 mm, W blade at shoulders = 41 mm, W blade at centre = 35.3 mm; Th blade = 2 mm (side edges) and 1 mm (curved end edge); max W tang = 14.8 mm, Th tang = 5 mm [RTS 16/6/2004].
661.8 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Hannah Brayton Slater) on 27th April 1933 during a shooting expedition.
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:
27th April 1933
Knife blade hammered from a single piece of iron, used as bridewealth and therefore lacking a handle grip. This consists of a short tang, pointed at the end and originally with an oval section, that becomes rectangular as the tang widens, to its junction with a long blade with rounded, narrow shoulders and a narrow body. The blade is also rectangular in section with largely blunt edges. The sides are roughly parallel for much of the length, and slightly concave, flaring in from the shoulder, then splaying out at the other end to form a broad 'cutting' edge with curved end, with the metal thinning to the splaying edges. The object is complete, but has edge damage along part of the curved end of the blade and a dent in the flat surface near this point, as well as a small cut or flaw in the blade edge near one shoulder. It is currently a dark metallic gray (Pantone Cool Gray 11C), with some reddish surface corrosion. The total length of object is 652 mm, while the tang is 111 mm long, 14.8 mm wide at its broadest point, and 5 mm thick. The blade is 41 mm wide at its shoulders, 35.3 mm wide at the centre, and 121 mm wide near the end, with a thickness ranging from 2 mm, along the side edges, to 1 mm at the curved end. It has a weight of 661.8 grams.

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

This blade was used as bride money, and has the local name
bananan. Evans-Pritchard describes the Zande custom of paying bride wealth to the father of a prospective bride in the form of spears; these are handed over at intervals after betrothal, which occurs when the girl is a child; at least ten spears would be considered normal before a marriage would take place. Marriage spears continue to be presented to the father as long as the marriage lasts (C.G. and B.Z. Seligman, 1932, Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan, chapter X: The Azande, pp 511-513). Although this blade represents a different form of bride wealth, it would have been used in a similar way.

For a similar Zande currency blade, see 1930.86.55. The University of Leeds also have a comparable blade in their Anthropology collections, equipped with handle, which is attributed to Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo (FL 1965.388, WHMM 53562).

Rachael Sparks 22/8/2005.

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] 131 [end insert] - Conventional, tanged sword-blade, bananan , with expanded & rounded end, blunt edges; used as ‘bride-money', ib[idem] [YAMBIO] (940b).

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

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Zande Tribe". This object appears as item 940b: “Bride Money spear, 2'2", blade 5", native name Bananan, 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 - (940b). Bride-money. Conventionalised sword-blade, ZANDE, YAMBIO, BAHR-EL-GAZAL, 4 34' N., 28 23' E. Pres. by Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object, RTS 16/6/2004].

Written on object - 940 D [pencil, on blade. Note also that there is an outline on the blade where a rectangular label was stuck at some time in the past; this label is no longer with the object; RTS 16/6/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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