Dinka Tuich fishing spear

Dinka Tuich fishing spear
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Northern Bahr el Ghazal ?Dhangrial ?Wun Rog ?Mayen
Cultural Group:
Dinka Tuich Arab
Date Made:
By 1979
Iron Metal , Wood Plant
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Decorated , Incised , Carved Polished
Total L = 1662, diam shaft = 14.7, diam socket = 18.7, blade L = 525, W upper blade = 11.5 by 8 mm [RTS 3/1/2005].
378.2 g
Local Name:
bith maker
Other Owners:
Purchased by Brian John Mack (known as John Mack) (then at the Museum of Mankind) for 1.25 on 25th February 1979 as part of the British Institute in East Africa's expedition to the Southern Sudan, headed by Patti Langton [RTS 14/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Brian John Mack (known as John Mack), Museum of Mankind
PRM Source:
Patti Langton
Purchased 1979
Collected Date:
25 February 1979
Fishing spear consisting of an iron spearhead on a wooden haft. The spearhead has a plain, round sectioned tip, that widens into a narrow elongated body with rectangular section. The sides of this have been worked to form a series of jagged, downward pointing barbs, created by obliquely struck chisel blows down one edge of the upper face, and the opposite edge of the underside. The flat upper and lower surfaces between these barbs have been decorated with incised cross hatching on the lower part of this section only. At its base there are 2 pairs of upward pointing barbs, 1 on each corner, chiselled to splay outwards from the body but with the tips of each pair meeting at the sides. This area is framed by 2 parallel horizontal grooves running around the body, with short vertical hatching lines filling the areas between. The point has been set on a socketed end that gradually expands out towards its base, with a seam running up one side. The spearhead is complete and intact, but has rusted areas on its lower part; it is currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 421C). It has been set into a narrow wooden haft with slightly irregular, knotted body, that tapers in to a flat cut end. This is a light yellowish brown colour (Pantone 7509C), and is complete, although there are several cracks running down its length. The spear has a weight of 378.2 grams, and is 1662 mm long, with a shaft diameter that ranges from 14.7 mm at the top, to 8.7 mm at its base. The spearhead is 525 mm long, with a body width of 11.5 mm and thickness of 8 mm, and a socket diameter of 18.7 mm.

Purchased by Brian John Mack for £1.25 on 25th February 1979 as part of the British Institute in East Africa's expedition to the Southern Sudan, headed by Patti Langton. This would have been obtained at Dhangrial, Wun Rog or Mayen, all of which lie in the modern administrative district of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. For a map showing the distribution of Dinka Tuich groups, see J. Ryle, 1982,
Warriors of the White Nile: The Dinka, p. 25.

This spear is said to have been of Arab manufacture, and known to the Dinka Tuich as
bith maker. Nebel defines the term bith as ‘fishing spear’ (Nebel 1979, Dinka-English Dictionary, p. 16), and maker as ‘white with blank flanks; colour’ (p. 55). For a slightly different style of Dinka fishing spear, see 1979.20.95. The collection contains similar spears from the Shilluk (1961.9.8) and an unattributed example (1942.8.61). Ryle shows the Dinka using this type of spear (1982, Warriors of the White Nile: The Dinka, pp 106-109), and Domville Fife describes its use, also by the Dinka "He uses, for fishing, a javelin attached to the arm by a long string. When the bubbles of a large fish are seen on the surface, this sharp little saw-edged weapon is thrown with wonderful dexterity and force. The impaled fish is hauled out of the water by the attached thin but strong line" (C.W. Domville Fife, 1927, Savage Life in the Black Sudan, p. 129).

This object is currently on display in the Upper Gallery, case 26A.

Rachael Sparks 29/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 185] - 1979.20 (.1 - 206) P[urchase] MISS PATTI LANGTON, DEPT. of ETHNOLOGY & PREHISTORY, OXFORD. Collection made by Patti Langton during the British Institute in East Africa's expedition to the Southern Sudan; Jan. - April 1979. The collection was made in three culture areas during the dry season. The amount paid for each object is listed if the information is known. In Jan. 1979 £1 is equivalent to 95 piastres (pt.) Sudanese. This documentation is based largely upon Patti's own list of objects and her notes on these. Sometimes objects included in the Pitt Rivers alottment of the collection do not appear on her list and have been added here. See Related Documents file as well. [p. 191] 1979.20.43-135 SOUTHERN SUDAN the DINKA TUICH. The Dinka Tuich, a pastoral people, live to the north of Wau, in Bahr el Ghazal province. This collection was made mostly at Dhangrial, the archaeological site at which we camped. Other artifacts were collected either at Wun Rog, a small town about a mile south of Dhangrial, or at Mayen, the new administrative centre 12 miles north. This was a remote area, difficult of access and rarely visited by outsiders. The Dinka are very aware of the potential of money, which is used either to help family members acquire education or entry into commerce and administration in Juba or Khartoum. Once it was known we (the collectors) were offering money, the Dinka in surrounding compounds came daily, increasing prices as often as they could! [p. 201] 1979.20.109 Spear, bith maker . Arab manufacture. The head is a long iron point with barbs on each side. Total L = 1.66 M.; L. iron head = 52.5 cm. Coll. by John Mack, 25.2.79; £1.25. Coll. no. 274.
Additional Accession Book Entry [below accession number in red biro] - A5-F35-34.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 5/4/2004].

Related Documents File - 1979.20 contains a typed packing list, which has been annotated; a typed list of objects arranged by Langton collection numbers and with pencil and biro annotations, and a handwritten list of objects by museum number, essentially repeating this information and annotated with PRM photo numbers in red. This handwritten list seems to be the direct source for the accession book entry [RTS 12/1/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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