Moru wheel trap

Moru wheel trap
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1934.8.35 .1
[Southern Sudan] Bahr el Jebel Mongalla
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1933
Wood Plant , Plant Fibre , Cotton Yarn Plant?
Carved , Bent , Bound , ?Repaired (local) , Twisted , Knotted
Diam = 530 mm, Diam frame = 470 mm, W frame rods = 20 mm, L spikes = 230 to 310 mm, W spike baes = 14 to 23.5 mm, W binding strips = 10 to 20 mm [RTS 26/7/2004].
2400 g
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Hannah Brayton Slater) on 12th February 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:
12th February 1933
Wheel trap of a type used in conjunction with a noose (see 1934.8.35.2). The object has a circular body made from two wooden pieces, partially covered with their dark brown surface bark, bent into loops of similar diameters to form the framework for the wheel. These pieces appear to be semi circular to almost round in section, and may have overlapping ends. The two loops were placed together and a series of 84 large wooden spikes passed through the gap between the rings, their broader, faceted cut ends left protruding from the outside edge and their sharpened pointed tips meeting at or near the centre of the object, where they overlap one another. This forms the hub of the trap, which would break when trodden on by an animal, to leave its hoof trapped by the surviving spikes and held by the accompanying noose. Each spike varies from irregularly rectangular to ovoid in section, and is a light yellow to reddish colour (Pantone 7508C). The wheel framework was secured by winding flat strips of reddish brown plant fibre - possibly palm or banana - around the two rings. Some strips are split just above each spike with the two ends passing on either side to secure it to the frame. There is further binding made of twisted string, probably of European origin, knotted in place at several points around the circumference; this is a light yellowish brown colour (Pantone 7508C). This may represent a local repair, as some of the plant fibre bindings are broken. Otherwise the trap is largely complete, although a couple of the spikes have damaged ends and one has broken off below the tip. The wheel has an external diameter of 530 mm; the circular frame has a diameter of 470 mm and its constituent rods are 20 mm wide, while each spike measures from 14 to 23.5 mm across its base and ranges from 230 to 310 mm in length. The fibre binding strips are between 10 and 20 mm in width. The trap weighs a total of around 2400 grams.

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah on 12th February 1933 during a shooting expedition, from the town of Mongalla. He did not record its Moru name, but tells us that this example was used for catching giraffes.

Wheel traps of this type are discussed by K.G. Lindblom. They were used by a number of Sudanese groups, including the Nuer, Lango, Acholi, Bari and Baggara, for catching antelopes as well as larger animals such as giraffe and rhinoceros - with the size of the animal determining the size of the trap. This particular example is said to have been used for giraffes. The trap would be placed over a hole, dug into the ground, with a noose laid over the top and secured to either a tree or a wooden block. The trap was then covered with earth to hide it. When an animal trod on the trap, the spikes secured the wheel to the foot and allow the noose to tighten around the leg (K.G. Lindblom, 1928,
The Spiked Wheel-trap and its Distribution, Statens Etnografiska Museum, Smärre Meddelanden 5).

For similar wheel traps, see 1922.25.6 (an Acholi trap used for catching giraffes), 1936.10.26 (Anuak, for catching 'Kob, Tiang, Waterbuck etc) and 1936.10.99 (Anuak).

Rachael Sparks 28/8/2005.

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. 250] From the MORU tribe, MONGALLA & AZUMVUBA [insert] 35 [end insert] - Large spiked wheel-trap with stout hide noose [for noose, see 1934.8.35.2], for catching giraffes. MONGALLA (245 and 249).
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 249] 1934.8.35 Number given MdeA 24/7/1997.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 2/6/2004].

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Moru Tribe". This object appears as item 249: "Wheel trap, 2' diam.", collected on 12/2/33 at Mongalla, with coordinates given as 5.42 N, 31.53E. The noose that belongs was it was obtained at the same time. 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].

?Pre-PRM label - D 249 [Rectangular reused card, tied to object; RTS 26/7/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label -
Wheel-trap, used with rawhide noose for giraffes etc. MORU tribe, MONGALLA, E. SUDAN. 5° 42' N., 31° 53' E. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 (249) [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 26/7/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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