Toposa spear

Toposa spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1940
Iron Metal , Cane Plant , Animal Hide Skin , Plant Fibre
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Bent , Plaited , Bound , Carved
Total L = 1408; blade L = 590, max W = 75.5, max th = 6; crossbar W = 43, th = 16.4, handle L = 437 (from crossbar down), W = 18.4, th = 18.2; loop end diam = 55.5, iron ring diam = 55, W = 4 mm [RTS 20/2/2004].
894.7 g
Other Owners:
Samuel P. Powell
Field Collector:
Samuel P. Powell
PRM Source:
Samuel P. Powell
Loaned July 1940
Collected Date:
By 1940
Stabbing spear consisting of a large, leaf-shaped blade with rounded shoulders, 2 cutting edges and a raised midrib running down the centre of both sides; it is currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 421C). This continues as a long tang that has been bent over to form a loop at the end, at right angles to the body and in line with the front of the blade. The metal has a rectangular section at this point. The body of this handle has been covered with narrow strips of orange cane (Pantone 470C), wound round with brown hide thongs that are plaited together as double ridges that run down the sides, giving the handle an almost square section (Pantone 4695C). There is a short horizontal cross bar of thick hide fitted over the top of the tang, and stitched down, and another piece of hide wrapped over the handle butt and sewn down using twisted plant fibre cord. Finally, an iron bar has been bent into a loop and fitted over the handle ring. The spear is complete, except for a small area of the hide binding that has broken; there are slight traces of rust on the blade. It has a weight of 894.7 grams and is 1048 mm long. The blade has a length of 590 mm, maximum width of 75.5 mm and maximum thickness of 6 mm; the crossbar below is 43 mm wide and 16.4 mm thick, and the bound handle is 437 mm long, 18.4 mm wide and 18.2 mm thick, while the loop at its end is 55.5 mm in diameter, and the fitted iron ring has a diameter of 55 mm and width of 4 mm.

Collected by Samuel P. Powell and given to the museum on loan in 1940.

Discussions of the Toposa may be found by Captain G.R. King in L.F. Nalder (ed.), 1937, A Tribal Survey of the Mongalla Province, pp 65-81 and A.C. Beaton, 1950, "Record of the Toposa Tribe", Sudan Notes and Records XXXI . For another spear of this type, described as a 'stabbing' spear, see 1939.7.108; for the shield apparently used with this type of spear, see 1939.7.120.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [Loans II, p. 308] - ESTATE OF S.P. POWELL, C/O N.H. HASLAM, Esq. Manager, Westminster Bank, Stony Stratford, Bucks. Collected by himself. Data from his labels and notes. [p. 312] 1940.7.077 - 'Handspear'. TAPOSA (neighbours of the Didinga to the north - J. Driberg, ["A Preliminary Account of the Didinga"] Sudan Notes and Records vol. 5 p. 211).
Additional Accession Book Entry [page opposite 312, in pencil] - Listed but not labelled - this is the only specimen which appears to correspond to the description.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 23/7/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan. Toposa Tribe. Hand spear with heavy iron blade. Loaned S.P. Powell. 1940.7.077 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 25/7/2005].Pitt Rivers Museum label -

Related Documents File - Appears on undated typed list: "Taposan heavy bladed hand spear". List is annotated by hand on back: "List of Curios" and "Far from complete" [RTS 16/12/2003].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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