Dinka spear

Dinka spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Warab ?Kornuk
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 25th May 1933?
Iron Metal , Wood Plant
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Carved , Stained
Total L = 1734; spearhead L = 471, blade L = 228, max W at shoulders = 40, max th at midrib = 4.3; shank W = 10.5, th = 7.3; socket diam = 18 x 17.2; shaft diam = 16 x 15.6; butt L = 175, butt socket diam = 13.2 x 12.8, tip diam = 7.5 mm [RTS 11/7/2005].
434.7 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah, probably at Kornuk on 25th 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:
25th 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 with 2 angular wings projecting from either side as a decorative detail. Almost immediately below, this widens and has been hammered flat to create a rectangular sectioned segment, before reverted to a round sectioned base, slightly swollen at the top, then expanding to form a socket with an open seam running up the front. The spearhead is currently a pale metallic grey colour (Pantone 400C). The socket has been fitted onto a wooden shaft, carved from a tree branch with some surface irregularities and a circular section, stained a reddish brown colour across the surface (Pantone 469C). A section of this is a lighter orangey brown colour, where there may have originally been some binding that protected this part of the shaft from darkening, now missing. An iron spear-butt has been fitted onto the base of this, with socketed top and a slightly open seam running down the side; as the seam closes, the body becomes solid and narrows to a flat tipped end. The spear is complete. There is considerable surface rust on the iron elements. The spear has a weight of 434.7 grams, and a total length of 1734 mm. The spearhead is 471 mm long, of which the blade part is 228 mm in length, with a maximum width of 40 mm and thickness of 4.3 mm; the centre shank is 10.5 mm wide and 7.3 mm thick, while the socket base is 18 mm wide and 17.2 mm thick. The shaft measures 16 by 15.6 mm in diameter, while the butt is 175 mm long, with a top diameter of 13.2 by 12.8 mm and a diameter at its tip of 7.5 mm.

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah at Kornuk on 25th May 1933, during a shooting expedition.

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, Kornuk? Dinka tribe. Spear with iron blade. Coll. P.H.G. Powell-Cotton May 1933, no. 2597. 1934.8.2 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 8/7/2005].

Written on object - Spear, DINKA tribe. WHITE NILE. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 (2597) [RTS 8/7/2005].

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. 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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