Zande spear-head

Zande spear-head
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1930
Iron Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Socketed , Decorated , Punched , Incised
L = 522 mm, W asocket = 24.8 mm, W shaft 18.3 mm, W blade 65.2 mm, th blade 3 mm [RTS 9/2/2004]
Local Name:
? baso
Other Owners:
Probably collected by Evans-Pritchard himself during his fieldwork amongst the Zande, which took place during 1927, part of 1928 and 1929 and for several months during 1930 [CM; RTS 6/7/2004].
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Purchased 31 December 1930
Collected Date:
1927 - 1930
Heavy iron spear-head, made in a single piece, consisting of a socket formed from hammering the end of the shaft flat, then bending this around to form a round-sectioned cylinder with an open seam down one side, the ends not touching. There is a slight raised ridge around the socket 11 mm from the end, and with a hole chipped through the wall on the side opposite the seam 2.8 mm from the end. The shaft of the spear becomes solid 75 mm from the end, and features an octagonal section consisting of four main, flat faces with bevelled edges. This begins to flare out slightly towards the blade, with the section becoming rectangular from this point. The blade has straight, slightly angled shoulders, then a narrow body with slightly concave sides that swell out to become convex two thirds the way along its length, before tapering in to form a well defined elongated point which is thicker than the blade. There is a slight ridge down the centre of the length of the blade on both sides, giving the blade a flat, lozenge-shaped section with two cutting edges; this ridge extends beyond the shoulders to the point where the shaft becomes octagonal. The shaft and base of the blade bear simple punched or engraved designs, consisting of two lines forming a ^-shape on the shaft near the blade, then a series of short parallel lines along the edge of the shaft and underside of the shoulders of the blade. This design is found on both the upper and lower surfaces of the object. The upper surface is further decorated with a waving line made of egg-shaped punched depressions, that meanders above and below the central blade ridge, before terminating in a short line curving back towards the shaft, and a diamond-shaped head; this design probably represents a snake. Hammering marks are visible on the blade; the hole through the socket has been punched through from the outside, possibly using a square sectioned tool; the decoration has been produced using a pointed or rounded tool. The object is complete and intact, the metal a largely dull, opaque silver gray colour (approximately Pantone 422C). There is no obvious use-wear damage along the edges of the blade. Total length 522 mm, length of blade 288, length of socket 75 mm, length of shaft between socket and blade 159 mm; width of socket 24.8 mm, thickness of metal at socket 0.6 mm, width of perforation through socket 2 mm, width of shaft 18.3 mm, thickness of shaft 17 mm, width of blade at shoulders 65.2 mm, thickness of blade 3 mm.

Probably collected by Evans-Pritchard himself during his fieldwork amongst the Zande, which took place during 1927, part of 1928 and 1929 and for several months during 1930.

Larken describes the Zande spear as follows: "A Zande carries a spear (
baso ) or a club ( kere) . The former has a blade from fourteen to eighteen inches long, and about three inches broad at its widest point. It has a socket of four or five inches, into which the haft ( para ) fits. Both edges are kept sharp, as it is often used as a billhook or knife, but the blade is not polished, nor is any covering or sheath used. The haft is about six feet long and an inch or less in thickness. It is made from the heart of a tree called bakiwe, though if a young bamboo is available it will be used. A binding of narrow flat bands of beaten brass, copper, or iron is sometimes applied to one end or the other. One end of the haft is cut to a point and inserted in the socket of the spear, and sometimes fixed there by a nail. On the other is usually a small iron shoe, called suguru , which is used to dig up roots, or to make holes for posts when house building. Smaller spears are made for boys, and heavier ones for hunting elephant or buffalo. Only one spear is usually carried" (P.M. Larken, 1926, "An Account of the Zande", Sudan Notes and Records IX no. 1, p. 39).

For other Zande spear-heads in the collection, see 1930.86.22, 1948.2.155 and 1934.8.121; the latter is almost identical to this example.

Rachael Sparks 17/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [BIV, p. 138] - 1930 [insert] 86 [end insert] E.E. EVANS PRITCHARD 31 Dec. Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, etc. [...] [insert] 14 [end insert] - Socketed iron spear-head, AZANDE. [...] [Base of p. 139, total of items 1930.86.1-65] - P[ai]d by cheque 31 Dec £ 25-0-0 .
Added Accession Book Entry [page opposite 138] - 1930.86 See Related Documents File for letter from Henry Balfour to Evans-Pritchard concerning the purchase of this collection.

Related Documents File - This contains a letter from Balfour to Evans-Pritchard, dated 31 December 1930 that specifies the objects which he would like to purchase for the Pitt Rivers Museum, and suggests a price of £25, which was one quarter of his annual budget. The list matches the objects ultimately accessioned quite closely. 1930.86.14 may appear as "1 light spear (Zande)" [although see also 1930.86.22, which sounds smaller and more likely to be the one listed; RTS 9/12/2003].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label -
Spear-head, AZANDE, E.CENT. AFRICA. Evans-Pritchard colln. Pur. 31-12-1930 [label tied to object, RTS 9/2/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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