Bongo arm ornament

Bongo arm ornament
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Polished
L = 73 mm, W = 125.3 mm, W band = 9.2 mm, Th band = 3.5 mm [RTS 5/4/2004].
48.7 g
Other Owners:
Collected by John Petherick in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, and in his collection by 1868 when Wood used it as an illustration in his book, The Natural History of Man. Pitt Rivers may have purchased the o
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Penannular arm ornament made from an iron band with flat inner face where it would rest against the wrist, flat sides, and an angular ridge running around the centre of the outside face, giving it a triangular section. This bar is bent into an oval loop with open ends, 25 mm apart; this bar then becomes rectangular in section and begins to taper to the ends; it has been doubled over itself twice on either side, before straightening out into two narrow arms that extend out from the body at a slight angle. These arms are curled over at their tips. The object is complete and intact, and is currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 421C) with a polished surface. It measures 73 mm across the outside edges, and 125.3 mm across the width, including the arms, while the band from which it has been made has a width of 9.2 mm and a thickness of 3.5 mm, and the arms have a width of 2.2 mm and a thickness of 1.5 mm. It weighs 48.7 grams.

Collected by John Petherick in 1858 ; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition through Bongo territory, an account of which is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; he refers to this group as the Dor. The expedition entered Bongo territory on January 25, 1858, visiting villages called Djau, Kurkur, Maeha, Mura, Umbura, Modocunga, Miha, Nearhe, Gutu, Mungela, Ombelambe and Lungo. Later in February they passed back through the Bongo villages of Djamaga and Lungo again. T his material was shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction, as Petherick is known to have sold some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862 (see the Catalogue of the very interesting collection of arms and implements of war, husbandry, and the chase, and articles of costume and domestic use, procured during several expeditions up the White Nile, Bahr-il-Gazal, and among the various tribes of the country, to the cannibal Neam Nam territory on the Equator, by John Petherick, Esq., H.M. Consul, Khartoum, Soudan ). Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display, as part of the first batch of objects sent there, probably in 1874. This object was later displayed in the South Kensington Museum, and transferred from there to become part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884.

In Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa , 1861, p. 401, Petherick describes Bongo women as wearing numerous iron bracelets on their wrists. See also J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 499. “On their wrists they wear bracelets, made simply of iron bars cut to the proper length, and bent round the wrist.”. This particular example is illustrated by Wood as a Djibba bracelet, but that is probably an error on his part (J.G. Wood 1868, p. 520 fig. 5). Schweinfurth published variations on this type, attributed to the Bongo, but said to be used by both elders amongst the Dinka and the Jur as well (G. Schweinfurth 1875, Artes Africanae, tab. III figs 14 and 16-17). Schweinfurth shows this type of ornament being worn by Bongo men, under the local name 'dangabor', meaning 'rings one above another'; these are placed on the arm in sets, gradually increasing in size with the projecting ends adjacent to one another (Schweinfurth 1973, The Heart of Africa Vol. I, p. 282).

Gayer-Anderson illustrates anklets or bracelets of similar design, which he says were worn by Kederu women for defence (R. Gayer Anderson, 1911, "Some Tribal Customs in their Relation to Medicine & Morals of the Nyam-Nyam and Gour Peoples Inhabiting The Bahr-el-Ghazal",
Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories, Khartoum, rep. no. 4, vol. B, pl. XVIII nos 9 and 12).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 1] - [insert] 1884.82 [end insert] PERSONAL ORNAMENTS (contd from Vol. IV) METAL BANGLES, BRACELETS, ANKLETS [p. 2] 3) [insert] 53 [end insert] - Bangle of penannular iron band with elongated points [insert] like antennae [end insert] curled back at the tips. DOR. Petherick coll 1858. (1621 black) (103).
Additional Accession Book V Entry [p. opposite 2] - 3) [Drawing].
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 195] [insert] 1884.82.53 [end insert]. Iron ribbon bangle with long points curled at tips [Drawing] DOR. 1858. (P.R. 103/1621). [p. 197] [insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert, by BB].
Black book entry [p. 67] - 1621. Iron anklets (10) and bracelets. Dor tribe, C. Africa. Obtd by Petherick p. 110. [insert] 1884.78.43 + 44, 82.1, 2, 34-42, 53, ?32 [end insert]. [Note that while this makes a total of 15 items, of these, 1884.82.1-2 are actually Indian and do not belong in this group, while 1884.82.34 belongs with group PR 106/1619; the remaining 12 objects consist of 2 torques and 10 bracelets; RTS 4/12/2003].
Delivery Catalogue II entry [p. 300] - Personal Ornaments of various Nations [p. 305] [insert] 1884.78.43-4, 82.32, 35-42, 53 [end insert] 10 iron anklets and bracelets (Dor tribe Central Africa) 1621, Case 74, 345. [Note that there are 12 objects cross referenced to this entry, not 10; RTS 2/4/2004].
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Flat iron bangle with long points. DOR. C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. '58. P.R. coll. (black 1621) (103) [tied to object, RTS 1/4/2004] [reverse:] 1884.82.53 [EC 'DCF 2004-2006 What's Upstairs?' 21/10/2005]
Written on object - 103.1621 [in red paint on outside face], DOR TRIBE CENTRAL AFRICA PETHERICK 1858 [in red paint on inside face; RTS 1/4/2004].

Display History:
Displayed in the Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums (V&A) [AP].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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