Zande throwing knife

Zande throwing knife
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria Yambio District
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1930
Iron Metal , Plant Fibre
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Incised , Twisted , Bound
L = 466 mm, W handle = 27.1 mm, Th handle = 17.5 mm, W central stem = 26.5 mm, Th stem = 1.5 mm, th cutting edge 0.5 mm, L lower blade = 217 mm, W lower blade = 45 mm (just above spur), L second blade = 180 mm, W second blade = 43 mm, L top blade = 130 mm
467 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Probably collected by Evans-Pritchard himself during his fieldwork amongst the Zande, which took place during 1927, part of 1928 and 1929 and for several months during 1930 [CM; RTS 6/7/2004]. Passed onto Charles Gabriel Seligman and donated to the PRM by
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Charles Gabriel Seligman or Brenda Zara Seligman
Donated 1940
Collected Date:
1927 - 1930
Iron throwing knife consisting of a narrow rectangular central stem which continues as a plate tang which has been bound round many times with cord made from twisted yellowish brown plant fibre (Pantone 7508C), in a horizontal zigzag pattern. A double row of cord has been woven in and out of the horizontal rows to form a frame that runs around the sides and end of the handle on one side. This binding provides a comfortable, padded grip for the knife. It is likely that the metal tang beneath this covering has been roughened along its edges to provide a stronger seating (see for example 1915.45.1). There may also be further fibre padding between the cord and metal, as there loose fibrous ends just visible at the top of the grip on one side. The central stem has a rectangular section and is blunt along either edge. A narrow rectangular slot has been cut into the top part of this, and the area around it has been decorated with a series of incised lines, consisting of a semicircle across the top, its edges formed by a series of four parallel lines; short oblique cuts forming a crosshatched area that covers the stem on either side of the slot, and then five parallel lines running horizontally across the width of the stem, just below the base of the slot. Three cutting blades extend from this central stem. The lowest of these projects at an acute angle from just above the handle grip. This has a straight inside edge that curves around to the tip of the blade, then tapers out to its base where there is a long rounded projecting spur with a second, broader angled spur below. The outer edges of this blade and its spurs have been bevelled to slop down to a cutting edge on the upper face. At the end of the central stem, a second blade is attached at right angles; the lower edge of this is slightly concave, and the upper edge convex, while the blade has a tapering point with slightly rounded tip. There is a small angled notch between the base of this blade and the main stem. A third, broader blade continues up from the end of the stem, with strongly convex outer edge and a triangular spur at the base of its concave inner edge. As with the lower blade, these blades are have bevelled outer edges on the upper surface only. The underside of the knife is flat and undecorated. The object is complete and intact, with some slight wear in the form of minor nicks along the edges. There is a slight swelling just above the central stem, which may represent the area where the upper blades were joined as a separate piece. The iron is currently an opaque metallic gray colour (Pantone 420C). The throwing knife has a total length of 466 mm, and weighs 467 grams. The lower blade is 217 mm long and 45 mm wide; the second, upper blade is 180 mm long and 43 mm wide, and the top blade is 130 mm long and 50 mm wide. The central stem has a width of 26.5 mm and a thickness of 1.5 mm, while the cutting edges of the blades coming off this are approximately 0.5 mm thick. The handle is 27.1 mm wide and 17.5 mm thick.

Probably collected by Evans-Pritchard during his fieldwork amongst the Zande, which took place during 1927, part of 1928 and 1929 and for several months during 1930. The provenance is thought to be somewhere in the Yambio district. It was passed onto Charles Gabriel Seligman and donated to the PRM by himself or his wife Brenda in 1940.

This object represents the southern type of throwing knife, which is found in northern Gabon, and from eastern Cameroon almost to the White Nile; it was used by the Zande and by groups who fell under their influence, including the Adio, Bongo and Kreish. This specific variety, which corresponds to Westerdijk's type SP VIII.1b, is found in the region inhabited by the Zande and neighbouring groups in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. The decoration seen on this example is typical, and it is this form which is known to the Zande as
kpinga (P. Westerdijk 1988, The African Throwing Knife, p. 207-8).

Rachael Sparks 18/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession book entry [p. 468] - ' The late Professor C.G. SELIGMAN, M.D., F.R.S . Miscellaneous collections presented in part by himself, June 1940, and in part, after his death, by Mrs. B. Z. Seligman, October, 1940. [p. 501] 1910.12.609 [drawing], [p. 502] 1940.12.609 - Throwing-knife, AZANDE type, probably from YAMBIO DIST[RICT]., BAHR EL GHAZAL PROV[INCE]. Colld. by E.E. Evans Pritchard. 18 1/2 ins. high.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 3/2/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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