Dinka spear

Dinka spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Warab ?Kornuk
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1933
Iron Metal , Wood Plant
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Carved
Total L = 1808; spearhead L = 543; blade L = 405, max W = 56.5, max th = 4.7, socket base diam = 19.3 x 19; shaft diam = 14.5, butt L = 182, diam at top = 15.4 x 16, diam at tip = 9 x 8 mm [RTS 8/7/2005].
628.4 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife in May 1933 during a shooting expedition, possibly on May 25th [RTS 8/7/2005].
Field Collector:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton & Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Brayton)
PRM Source:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton
Donated 1934
Collected Date:
May 1933 (possibly 25th May 1933) [RTS 8/7/2005].
Spear consisting of an iron spearhead with large, leaf-shaped blade, thickened to form a midrib at the centre of each side, with the rib becoming more pronounced towards the shank, where it meets a raised ridge running around the circumference immediately below the rounded shoulders of the blade. The shank continues, with a circular section, then widens to form a socket that tapers out towards the end, with a slightly open seam running up the front. This has been fitted onto a wooden shaft, carved from a tree branch and with the slight surface irregularities that this entails, including a large knot on one side; this has a circular section, and is a yellowish brown colour (Pantone 729C). The base of the shaft has been fitted into an iron spear-butt, with a socketed top and slightly open seam running down the side; the butt narrows and becomes solid about halfway down its length, where the section becomes slightly oval, continuing to a flat tipped end. The spear is complete. The spearhead has several nicks down the blade edges, and considerable surface rust; there are some splits down the body of the shaft, and further rust on the butt. The iron parts are otherwise a metallic grey colour (Pantone 877C). The spear has a weight of 628.4 grams, and a total length of 1808 mm. The spearhead is 543 mm long, of which the blade part is 405 mm in length, with a maximum width of 56.5 mm and thickness of 4.7 mm; the socket base is 19.3 mm wide and 19 mm thick. The shaft measures 14.5 mm in diameter, while the butt is 182 mm long, with a top diameter of 15.4 by 16 mm and a diameter at its tip of 9 by 8 mm.

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

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 head. Coll. P.H.G. Powell-Cotton 1933, no. 2666. 1934.8.4 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 8/7/2005].

Written on object - 2666. Spear. DINKA tribe, WHITE NILE. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton 1934 [RTS 8/7/2005].

Related Documents Fil e - 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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