Anuak bone spear

Anuak bone spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Anywaa [Anuak]
Date Made:
By 1936
Animal Bone , Wood Plant , Animal Hide Skin , Plant Fibre , String , Animal Hair
Carved , Grooved , Covered , Stitched , Stained , Polished
Total L = 1722; spear-head L = 385, diam = 16.4 x 15; sheath L = 65, diam = 22; shaft diam = 16.5 x 15.3 mm, tassel L = 240 mm [RTS 12/7/2005].
324.1 g
Other Owners:
Presumably collected by Evans-Pritchard during his period of fieldwork amongst the Anuak between early March and May 1935 [RTS 18/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Donated 1936
Collected Date:
March - May 1935
Spear consisting of a spearhead carved from a light cream coloured giraffe's leg bone (Pantone 7401C) with pointed tip, and a narrow oval sectioned body that tapering out and then in again towards its base, where shallow groove has been cut around the circumference before the body steps inwards to form a recessed tang that extends into the top of a wooden shaft, hollowed out for the purpose, with 2 rectangular slots cut into either side. A thick piece of brown rectangular hide has been wrapped around the upper shaft, just below the join, with the edges stitched together using twisted plant fibre (Pantone 7533C). Shallow lines appear to have been tooled in rows around this sheath, possibly for decorative effect. The shaft itself has been carved from a wooden branch with the bark removed, and a few slight surface irregularities down its length; this is slightly oval in plan view, and stained an orangey brown colour (Pantone 730C). It has been decorated just above the end with a series of animal hair tassels, cut from disc-shaped sections of animal tail with the hair still in place, and threaded onto the shaft. The hair is quite thick and extends upwards along the shaft body in a mix of brown, yellowish brown and reddish brown colours (Pantone 7533C, 7508C and 4695C). The spear is complete, but there are cracks down the bone point and the wooden shaft. It has a weight of 324.1 grams and is 1722 mm long; the spear-head has a length of 385, to the top of the shaft, and a maximum diameter of 16.4 by 15 mm. The sheath is 65 mm long, and 22 mm in diameter, while the shaft has a maximum diameter of 16.5 by 15.3 mm and the tassel is 240 mm in length.

This spear was collected in the Sudan by Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard, presumably between early March and May 1935 when he conducted fieldwork amongst the Anuak (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940,
The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 3).

For other spears in the collection tipped with giraffe bone points, see 1936.10.4 (Anuak, collected by Evans-Pritchard), 1925.67.2 and 1919.13.19-20 (Possibly Dinka, purchased at the Stevens Auction Rooms). Evans-Pritchard also states that the Nuer occasionally made use of giraffe bone for spears: 'Till recently they possessed very few iron spears, cherished as heirlooms, but used instead the straightened horns of antelope and buck, ebony wood, and the rib-bones of giraffe, all of which are still used to-day, though almost entirely in dances ...’ (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940,
The Nuer, p. 86).

Rachael Sparks 5/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 410] - 1936 [insert] 10 [end insert] E. EVANS-PRITCHARD, M.A., Exeter College, Oxford. - Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, while travelling with a Grant from the Rockefeller Leverhulme Trustees, viz: [insert] 4-5 [end insert] - [One of] 2 Spears with long points of giraffe’s leg-bone, ANUAK, NUER-ANUAK border.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 30/1/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan. Anuak tribe. Spear with giraffe bone point. d.d. E.E. Evans-Pritchard 1936 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 12/7/2005].

Written on object -
Spear, tipped with giraffe's bone. ANUAK, E. SUDAN. d.d. E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936 [RTS 12/7/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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