Anuak spear

Anuak spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Anywaa [Anuak]
Date Made:
By 1936
Iron Metal , Brass Metal , Wood Plant
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Carved , Stained Polished , Recycled , Decorated Impressed
Total L = 1743; spear-head L = 318 (to top shaft), W = 27 at base, max th = 9.3, shank W = 7.5, th = 11, W between barbs (max) = 32.8; cartridge max W = 20; shaft W = 17.3, th = 16.3 mm [RTS 12/7/2005].
483.6 g
Local Name:
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 an iron spear-head with rounded tip and narrow blade with a raised rib running down the centre of both sides, giving it a lozenge-shaped section. The blade ends in 2 short triangular barbs, with 2 longer spikes set slightly in from these and projecting downwards. It continues as a solid, rectangular sectioned shank with 3 pairs of long, curved, downwards pointing barbs pulled out from the body on either side, before ending in a slightly recessed tang at the base. The shank has also been decorated with a dot and circle motif, impressed into the shank at the centre of each pair, and on both of its faces. The tang slots into the hollowed out top of a long shaft, carved from a single piece of wood that has a slightly irregular body, reflecting the shape of the parent branch with various knots along its length. This is round in section, and has been stained a dark reddish brown (Pantone 4975C) then polished to a high gloss. It tapers to a rounded butt. The junction of spear-head and shaft has been covered with a brass cylinder, made from a recycled brass cartridge case; this tapers in towards its top edge, and has 2 holes through the body and 3 splashes of brown pigment, which may be either decorative or an accidental side effect of staining the shaft. It is currently a metallic yellow colour (Pantone 871C), while the iron has corroded to a dull grey (Pantone 440C). The spear is nearly complete; there is a long chip missing from one side of the lower shaft, although as this has been stained the same colour as the rest of the shaft it may date back to the original manufacture of the object. It has a weight of 483.6 grams and a total length of 1743 mm. The spear-head is 318 mm long, to the top of the shaft; the blade is 140 mm long (not including the barbs), 27 mm wide and 9.3 mm thick, while the spear-head shank is 7.5 mm wide and 11 mm thick, and measures 32.8 mm between the barbs. The cartridge has a maximum diameter of 20 mm, while the shaft is 17.3 mm wide and 16.3 mm thick.

Collected by E.E. Evans-Pritchard during his fieldwork amongst the Anuak, which took place between early March and May 1935 (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940, The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 3).

This type of spear was obsolete in the 1930’s, used only as bride wealth; it is known as
dem. Evans-Pritchard describes these spears in his book on the Anuak: “In old times spears were rare and treasured heirlooms. These old spears, the two chief types, joo [jo] and dim [dem] , being tanged, often form part of bride wealth and are worth between 100 and 150 piastres each” (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940, The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 56) - which was around £1 at that time; this particular spear was worth roughly 30 English shillings. For an example of the type known as jo, see 1936.10.21-22.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

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] 9 [end insert] - Ancient spear, of obsolete type, with multibarbed iron head, now used only as ‘bride-wealth’ (c. 30/- value), ANUAK.
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 409] - 1936.10.9 No given AP l[ength] = 420 mm. now with
arana (spear sheath) [Note that these are errors; the length is that of 1936.10.22, which is the object the sheath mentioned belongs with]. [red biro] A20 F6 3 [note this is the wrong image reference, as the image is of 1936.10.22-23; RTS 12/7/2005].

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

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan. Anuak tribe. Ancient spear type, local name dem , now used as bridewealth. d.d. E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936.10.9 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 12/7/2005].

Written on object -
Dem , ancient spear-type now used as bride-wealth (c. 30/- value). ANUAK. E. SUDAN. d.d. E.Evans-Pritchard, 1936 [RTS 12/7/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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