Beaded tassel ornament

Beaded tassel ornament
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[White Nile]
Date Made:
By 1850
Iron Metal , Animal Hide Skin , Bead
Hammered , ?Plaited , Strung , ?Dyed
L = 600 mm, W tassel strips = 3 to 6 mm, Diam beads = 4.5 to 5 mm, Th beads = 2 to 5 mm [RTS 7/4/2004].
Other Owners:
Mansfield Harry Isham Parkyns (possibly purchased from Nicola Ulivi)
Field Collector:
Mansfield Harry Isham Parkyns
PRM Source:
Mrs Nash
Donated 10 February 1896
Collected Date:
December 1842 - 1850 (see notes)
An ornament, or possibly part of an ornament, comprising several thin strands of hide twisted or plaited together to form a string, on which 152 cylindrical iron beads have been threaded. Each bead is made from sheet iron rolled into a short cylinder with a seam along one side; these vary from 2 to 5 mm in thickness and have a diameter of around 4.5 to 5 mm. The upper end is currently loose (compare this with the plaited loop end of similar bead string 1884.76.27), and has been tied off with a piece of European style string, possibly before it entered the museum collection. The other end is decorated with a tassel made from 18 narrow hide strips, doubled over and fastened to the base of the string by a loop at its top, made from twisted hide. The strips are reddish brown and may have been dyed (Pantone 175C). The object is broken at the upper end and some of the tassel strips are incomplete, while the iron beads show traces of reddish brown rust. It has a total length of 600 mm; the tassel is 100 mm long, and each component strip is from 3 to 6 mm wide. The piece weighs 43.7 grams in total. It is not clear whether this bead string was originally used to adorn people or animals.

Collected by Mansfield Parkyns, who was in Egypt from December 1842 to 1843, in Abyssinia between 1843 and 1846, and in the Sudan between 1846 and 1848 (based at Khartoum, El Obeid, and living with the Kababish tribe from winter 1846 through all of 1847). He left El Obeid 24th January 1848, returning up the Nile to Cairo, then sailing back to England, which he reached in the summer of 1849. During these periods he collected manuscripts, birds and ethnographic material, with at least some of these probably obtained via Nicola Ulivi, an Italian naturalist and slave dealer who was operating out of Khartoum at this time. Parkyns attempted to send three collections of his material home, the first two while living in Abyssinia; the last of these was gathered in the White Nile and Nubia and consisted of 'about six hundred birds and about a ton weight of ... arms and implements'; this was sent from Egypt back to England and had arrived there by 1850 (G.O. Whitehead, 1940, Sudan Notes and Records XXIII , 131-138; R. Hill, 1967, “Parkyns, Mansfield Harry Isham”, A Biographical Dictionary of the Sudan , 2nd edition, p. 302, D. Cumming, 1987, The Gentleman Savage ).

Schweinfurth discusses the role that early iron beads had to play in the Southern Sudan, amongst groups like the Jur Luo: 'iron beads or perforated little cylinders of iron… were earlier in use than glass beads… In the Soudan these string of beads were principally made at Wandala, and Barth has specially notied them at Marhi. Every tribe which I visited in proceeding inland from the Gazelle I found to retain the preference for beads made of iron (G. Schweinfurth, 1873,
In the Heart of Africa Vol. I, 203-4."

This object is very similar to 1896.5.3, from the same collector, and it is possible that these are two strings from a single piece. See also 1884.76.27, made of three strings of iron beads threaded onto leather and ending in leather tassels.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 54] - 1896. Feb. 10. HON. MRS NASH, 60 Elm Park Gardens, London, S.W. Objects collected by Mr. Mansfield Parkyns (the Abyssinian traveller) viz: [insert] 2-3 [end insert] 2 strings of iron beads (on leather), probably from White Nile region. (v. letter from Mrs. Nash).

Card Catalogue Entry - No further details on tribes card [RTS 26/1/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - IRON BEAD STRINGS. Probably from WHITE NILE region. CEN. AFRICA. obtd by Mr MANSFIELD PARKYNS. Presd by the Hon. Mrs Nash 1896 [label tied to object; for the other string mentioned, see 1896.5.2; RTS 7/4/2004].

Related Documents File - The accession book mentions a 'letter from Mrs Nash'. This is not stuck in the accessions book, nor is it in the RDF or collectors files. It may be stored with Balfour's correspondance [RTS 22/1/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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