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 , Bound , Bent
Total L = 1616; spearhead L = 400, W = 9.8, th = 8, socket diam = 16.7; shaft diam = 13.7 x 13.4, butt L = 85, butt diam at top = 15.4 x 15.2, at base = 8.5 mm [RTS 11/7/2005]
337.0 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 round sectioned point tapering out to a long narrow body with rectangular section on a socketed base with a slightly open seam running up the front. A series of oblique cuts have been chiselled down opposite edges and faces of the body, beginning as light incisions but then getting deeper and producing a row of short, downwards pointing barbs. At the base of this section this changes for decorative effect, with 2 pairs of oblique incisions in opposing directions being cut on both edges, with 2 further pairs below, facing the other way - producing a lozenge-shaped area between. 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 an orangey brown colour across the surface (Pantone 730C). A narrow strip of iron has been spirally wound around the base of the shaft to form a spear-butt, that tapers in towards the end. The spear is complete, with some surface rust, and several splits down the length of the shaft. It has a weight of 337 grams, and a total length of 1616 mm. The spearhead is 400 mm long, with a maximum width of 9.8 mm and thickness of 8 mm; the socket base is 16.7 mm in diameter. The shaft measures 13.7 by 13.4 mm in diameter, while the butt is 85 mm long, with a top diameter of 15.4 by 15.2 mm and a diameter at its tip of 8.5 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 point and iron bound butt. d.d. P.H.G. Powell-Cotton no. 2633. 1934.8.3 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 8/7/2005].

Written on object - 2633. 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. 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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