Dinka bow trap

Dinka bow trap
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[1934.8.11 .1 .2] .3 .4 .5 .6
[Southern Sudan] ?Warab Fanamweir
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1933
Animal Hide Skin , Wood Plant
Carved , Tied , Twisted , Polished
[.3]: L = 135.7, W = 119.4, Max Th 21.5 mm [RTS 13/4/2004].
[.3]: 153.4 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife on 3rd May 1933 during a shooting expedition
Field Collector:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton & Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Brayton)
PRM Source:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton
Donated 1934
Collected Date:
3rd May 1933
1934.8.11.3: trap component carved from a single piece of brown wood (Pantone 7505C), oval in plan view, with a flat underside and slightly convex upper surface. The sides have been cut flat in some places, but are of irregular width. A u-shaped notch has been cut into one end. The object is complete and intact, but has small cracks running in the direction of the wood grain, and two cuts in the upper surface where part of the wood has been gouged away. It has a length of 135.7 mm, a width of 119.4 mm, a maximum thickness of 21.5 mm and a minimum thickness of 4 mm at the outer edge, with a weight of 153.4 grams.
1934.8.11.4-6: 3 wooden pegs, tied together across the middle with a single piece of plant fibre string. This has been tied twice around 1934.8.11.6, looped once around the body of 1934.8.11.5, and then once around 1934.8.11.4 before being tied off in a knot. The string itself is a golden brown colour (Pantone 143C), and is made up of a single twisted strand; the ends are fraying; the string may be European. Each peg has been carved from a single piece of wood, sharpened to a point at one end. 1934.8.11.4 has been cut flat at the other end, the body is round to roughly oval in section and the surface has been polished, except where the surface of the wood has been shaved away to form the point. A groove has been cut around the circumference just below the flat head, and a single stranded twisted string made of plant fibre has been tied around this. This was left with two long ends, which have been twisted together, knotted at the base, dividing into two strands again below this then ending with a second knot below. The rod has a small piece missing at the head, but is otherwise complete. This rod is 363 mm long, and has a diameter of 14.8 mm at the flat end. 1934.8.11.5 is a shorter rod, more oval in section, with one side of the head cut at an angle, and the other cut with a series of facets, rising to a point at the top. The body has several large cracks running along its length, but is otherwise complete, with a length of 226 mm, a width of 16.3 mm and a thickness of 15 mm. 1934.8.11.6 is very similar, with one side of the head cut at an angle, and the other side faceted; this also has a cracked body, measuring 244 mm in length, 14.8 mm in width and 13 mm in thickness. 1934.8.11.5-6 are more irregularly shaped than .4, and neither appears to have been polished. All rods are probably made from the same wood (Pantone 7508C), but in the case of .4, the darker outer bark has been left in place (Pantone 462C).

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah at Fanamweir on 3rd May 1933, during a shooting expedition.

Powell-Cotton made ethnographic films during his 1932-3 shooting expedition to southern Sudan; footage included a Dinka hunter setting a trap, which is described by his wife Hannah: "In a game track a
Dinka hunter laid a noose and set its weighty spring-trap, formed like a bow strung with twisted hide" (Mrs Powell Cotton, "Village Handicrafts in the Sudan", Man 34 (112), pp 90-91). There are several photographs of a Dinka man demonstrating the use of this trap in the Pitt Rivers Museum collection, which are probably stills taken from this footage; see Photograph Accession Numbers 1998.207.3.1-9. These have explanatory notes written on the back of each print, which identify the various parts of the trap with the letters A to J. A was the Bow (1934.8.11.1), C seems to be a stick that takes the tension when the trap is set; G is a small loop that the end of C is fitted through as the trap is set, and this is attached somehow to H, which is the wooden disc, 1934.8.11.3, while J may be one of the group of pegs. The trap was set by placing the wooden disc in the ground, covering it with stones, and arranging the hide noose around it. The bow was set up a small distance away in a depression in the ground with the bow string facing the disc, and a longer stick pulled over the string to fit into a small loop at the disc end; this stick was then tied to the pegs and the trap set, then covered over with earth.

The Dinka name for this type of trap is said to be
dang. Dang (plural deng) is a Dinka word meaning bow (D.G. Beltrame 1880, Grammatica e Vocabolario della lingua Denka, p. 190 gives definition as 'arco, schioppo, lancia); Nebel defines the term dhang, pl. dhèng, as ‘bow, rifle’ (Nebel 1979, Dinka-English Dictionary, p. 27). See also Schweinfurth 1873, The Heart of Africa, where dang is used to described a bow-shaped type of parry shield. The Nuer also use the word to describe a type of staff with curling ends, which may be related to this form.

Rachael Sparks 24/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 248] 1934 [insert] 8 [end insert] - MAJOR P. H. G. POWELL-COTTON , Quex Park, Birchington, E. Kent. Specimens collected by himself & Mrs Cotton, during hunting trips, 1933, viz: - From the DINKA tribe, FANAMWEIR & KORNUK, WHITE NILE [...] [insert] 11 [end insert] - Dang , trap for antelopes etc, a very powerful bow with torsion-string of hide, stick, noose of hide, etc. ib[idem] [FANAMWEIR] (2224).

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 03/03/2004].

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Dinka Tribe". This object appears as item 2224: "Spring trap for antelope, native name Dang , 3/5/33 Fanamweir, 8.55 N, 28.42 E". Also contains details of a cine film 'some tribes of the Southern Sudan', taken by Powell-Cotton during this 1933 expedition, copies of which are now in the National Film and Television Archive and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent [RTS 14/3/2005].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Pegs for setting torsion bow trap, dang . DINKA, FANAMWEIR. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 (2224) [rectangular tag with metal edge, tied to 1934.8.11.4]; Part of mechanism of large torsion bow-trap, dang , DINKA, FANAMWEIR, WHITE NILE. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 (2224) [on paper label stuck to upper surface of object .3, RTS 13/4/2004].

Written on object -
[.4-.6] 2224 [in pencil, once on each rod; RTS 7/4/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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