Nuer axe

Nuer axe
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Wahda near Lake No
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By November 1923
Iron Metal , Brass Metal , Wood Plant , Resin Plant?
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Carved , ?Stained , Wound Decorated Incised
Total L = 1136, diam handle = 14.5, diam bands = 18.6, L axehead = 152, W = 27.2, th = 4.7, W bands = 2 and 5 to 7 mm [RTS 22/10/2004].
874.9 g
Other Owners:
Collected by W. Sherlock Lennon on 17th February 1923 [misread as 17th November 1923 when making the accession book entry], donated to the PRM by his sisters Kathleen Constance Averina Knowles and Mrs Cameron in August 1946 [RTS 26/8/2005].
Field Collector:
W. Sherlock Lennon
PRM Source:
Kathleen Constance Averina Knowles & Mrs Cameron
Donated August 1946
Collected Date:
17 February 1923
Axe consisting of a wooden handle, carved in a single piece with a rounded top and circular section. The surface is a reddish brown colour and may have been stained (Pantone 497C). A narrow iron axehead with socketed base has been hafted onto the upper shaft. This has been made from a rectangular bar, folded over double, with the back opened up to form a circular socket with concave sides. The metal has been hammered together on the other side to form a narrow blade with rectangular section; the top edge is slightly convex and the lower edge slightly concave. These sides splay out slightly to form the cutting edge, which is also convex. The front and back of the blade have been decorated with incised designs, consisting of two vertical bands of crosshatching near the socket end, then three oblique bands of crosshatching running along the length of the blade. This pattern is the same on both faces. The axehead is a metallic gray colour (Pantone 420C), and is currently only loosely set on the shaft. There are traces of a dark brown, possibly resinous material, coating the upper and lower socket edges of this axehead, possibly in an attempt to make it fit more securely.

The wooden shaft has several metal strips wound around its body; the ends of each strip sit flush with the surface of the wood rather than being hammered into it. Above the axehead, there is a narrow iron strip, then below, the upper part of the handle is bound with two brass strips (Pantone 871C) alternating with two iron strips. After a gap, there are two more iron strips with a brass strip between, then at the base of the handle, a short iron strip with tapering ends, that extends slightly beyond the bottom of the shaft. With the exception of the narrow iron strip at the top, which is only 2 mm wide, these metal bands range from 5 to 7 mm. The axe is complete, except for a minor chip at the top of the handle, where there are some splits in the wood; however the iron has begun to rust across its surface. It has a weight of 874.9 grams. The handle is 1136 mm long and has a diameter of 14.5 mm in the centre, and 18.6 mm including the metal binding; the axehead is 152 mm long, 27.2 mm wide and 4.7 mm thick, while the socket has a width of 29.5 mm.

Collected by W. Sherlock Lennon on 17th February 1923, near Lake No, and donated to the PRM by his sisters Kathleen Constance Averina Knowles and Mrs Cameron in August 1946.

For similar axes, see 1946.8.92-4, all Nuer and collected by Lennon at the same time.

This object is currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 60A.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 143]- LADY KNOWLES, 3 BRADMORE ROAD, OXFORD & MRS. CAMERON. Specimens collected by their brother, CAPT MAJOR W.S. LENNON, from the NUER TRIBE, SUDAN, 1923. Labelled by G. R. CARLINE. Coll. 17 Nov. 1923. [p. 144] 1946.8.91 - WHITE NILE, near LAKE NO. Axe, iron [Drawing]-shaped blade decorated with bands of crossed lines, incised, wooden shaft bound round most of its length [insert] at both ends [end insert] with heavy [insert] spiral [end insert] bands of iron & cop brass. length 3' 9", length of blade c. 5", max width 1".
Additional Accession Book Entry [page facing 143] - Major W. S. Lennon was District Commissioner in the Sudan.

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

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - NUER TRIBE. A.E. SUDAN, WHITE NILE, near L[AKE]. NO. Coll. by Major W.S. Lennon, D.C. in SUDAN. d.d. Lady Knowles & Mrs Cameron, 1946.8.91 [rectagular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 21/9/2004].

Written on object - NUER [...] L. NO, WHITE NILE. Coll. by Major W.S. Lennon, 17 Feb. 1923. 194[...].8.91 [faded ink].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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