Mandari spear

Mandari spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By the end of 1950s
Ebony Wood Plant? , Wood Plant , Animal Hide Skin
Carved , Polished , Stained , Covered , Tooled , Decorated Impressed
Preserved L = 1231; spear-head visible L = 475, max W = 28.2, max th = 27.4; upper sheath L = 18; lower sheaths L = 170; shaft diam = 21 x 20.8 mm [RTS 26/7/2005].
546.8 g
Other Owners:
Collected by Jean Carlile Buxton, then bequeathed to Ronald Godfrey Lienhardt
Field Collector:
Jean Carlile Buxton
PRM Source:
Ronald Godfrey Lienhardt
Donated 20 February 1973
Collected Date:
Spear consisting of a narrow, straight point made from polished dark reddish brown wood, most probably ebony (Pantone 4625C). This has an oval section. This joins at its base with a long narrow wooden shaft, more circular in section and stained a dark reddish brown colour (Pantone 469C). The lower end of this has been sheared off and is missing, something that was probably done by the collector to facilitate transportation. The junction between these two parts is covered with 3 cylindrical sheaths, cut from sections of animal tail with the hair removed. These were stretched over the body whilst wet and then shrunken in place, obscuring the exact manner by which the spearhead is secured. They consist of a very short sheath section, around the lower part of the spearhead, then 2 longer sheaths fitted one on top of the other. The surfaces of the short upper sheath, and longer outer sheath have both been tooled in rows around their circumferences, leaving angled lentoid-shaped impressions in the hide. They are a dark brownish black colour (Pantone Black 4C). The spear is incomplete, with damage to the tip and one side of the point and some paint adhering to the edges of the break; the upper sheath has a number of torn areas across its surface, exposing the second sheath below, while the lower part of the wooden shaft has been cut off. The spear has a weight of 546.8 grams and a surviving length of 1231 mm. The visible part of the spearhead is 475 mm long, with a maximum width of 28.2 mm and thickness of 27.4 mm; the upper sheath is 18 mm long, while the lower 2 sheaths cover a combined length of 170 mm. The shaft has a diameter of 21 by 20.8 mm.

Collected by Jean Carlile Buxton, then bequeathed to Ronald Godfrey Lienhardt; it was subsequently donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1973.

Spears tipped with ebony points are also used by the Nuer (see 1931.66.7-8); the manufacture of these is described by Howell, who says: 'The giit ... is fixed at the joint with an unsewn leather collar made from the tail skin of an ox. This is soaked and stretched round the haft, where it shrinks as it dries' (P.P. Howell, 1947, "On the Value of Iron Among the Nuer", Man 47, p. 132-3). See also 1940.12.620 (Dinka or Nuer).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry - 1973.6 G[ift] DR. R. G. LIENHARDT, INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, 51 BANBURY RD. - AFRICA SOUTHERN SUDAN MANDARI DISTRICT. Spear head and part of shaft (rest of shaft broken off). Head and shaft of dark wood; head bound on by single piece of hide 18.7 cm. wide. Head also broken at point. Present L = 128 cm. [followed by a description of 1973.16.2] The spears [there are two] were collected by Dr. J. C. Buxton in the 50's. He bequeathed a set of spears, of which these are two, to the donor. Donated February 20, 1973. [initialled] LW.
Additional Accession Book Entry - [on facing page] all cards done.
Additional Accession Book Entry - [in red biro under accession number] A5-F21-22.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 28/1/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Southern Sudan, MANDARI tribe. Spear with wooden point. Coll. J.C. Buxton. d.d. R.G. Lienhardt. 1973.16.1 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 26/7/2005].

Written on object -
S. SUDAN - MANDARI. 1973.16.1 [RTS 26/7/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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