Dinka clapper bell

Dinka clapper bell

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal , Copper Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Twisted , Bent
Suspension loop diam = 23, W = 3.3, th = 2.5 mm; Bell body L = 94, diam loop = 11.5, loop W = 2.7, th = 0.8; bell mouth diam = 18.3 by 17.5, wall th = 0.5; clapper extends 16 mm beyond bell mouth [RTS 21/2/2005].
213.6 g (weight with 1884.108.11-12)
Other Owners:
Collected by John Petherick, probably in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, probably at the auction of Petherick's material conducted by Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862, as part of lot 42
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Clapper bell made in 4 pieces with separate suspension loop, bell body, link loop and hanging clapper. The suspension loop consists of a square sectioned iron rod with twisted body, bent into a circular loop with the ends almost touching; one end is cut straight, while the other has been curled over into a spiral. The bell has been formed from a single piece of iron, hammered into a flat sheet, with the long ends bent around to touch each other near their lower edges. This creates an elongated, cylindrical body, with an open seam running down one side, gradually narrowing towards the base where the metal edges finally touch. At the top of the bell, this sheet thickens to become a narrow tongue of iron, hammered flat on all 4 sides, but becoming round in section as it continues to taper; this doubles over to form a simple loop that can be attached to a suspension ring. This loop has worn extremely thin at the top, where it would touch the ring, suggesting it had seen considerable use. At the moment, a short piece of machine drawn copper wire has been used to connect the bell loop to the twisted suspension ring; this does not look original and may have been added by Pitt Rivers; the ends of the wire have been roughly cut. The remainder of the iron tongue turns to run back down the bell body, pressing against it and fitting into the upper part of the seam to pass into the bell interior. This is curled over to form a loop at its base, from which the clapper may be hung. A second length of iron rod or bar has been fitted onto this, bent to create an oval loop, and the clapper has been hung from this additional link. The clapper itself is a separate piece of iron, bent into a loop at its top, then tapering out slightly with a slightly irregular, round sectioned body with rounded tip that extends below the lip of the bell mouth. The object is complete and intact, but has traces of surface rust, making the original silvery gray colour of the metal (Pantone 421) turn reddish brown in places. The suspension loop, which is shared with objects 1884.108.10-11, has a diameter of 23 mm, and is 3.3 mm wide and 2.5 mm thick. The bell body is 94 mm long, and measures 11.5 across the upper loop, with the rod itself being 2.7 by 0.8 mm wide at that point, while the bell mouth is 18.3 mm wide and 17.5 mm deep, with a wall thickness of 0.5 mm. The clapper extends 16 mm below the base of the bell mouth. The group of bells that includes this object has a combined weight of 213.6 grams.

Collected by John Petherick in 1858
; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition south from Khartoum, down the Bahr el Abiad, Bahr el Ghazal, Jur and part of the Bahr el Jebel rivers. This route took him through Raik Dinka territory in January 1858 (the villages of Coq-quel-a-ken, Moi Chin, Agoig, Affoock). An account of this expedition is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; there he mentions Arabs trading cattle-bells to the Shilluk (p. 351) . Material from this expedition was shipped back to England in 1859. The bell was s ubsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, probably at the auction of Petherick's material conducted by Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862, as part of lot 42 '3 cattle bells (Dinka)' (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. It was also displayed in the South Kensington Museum, and transferred from there to become part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884.

This bell is illustrated singly in Petherick's unpublished sketchbook, now in the Wellcome Library (MS 5789). It was probably joined onto the ring for 1884.108.10-11 at a later stage. Note that it also has a slightly different method of attaching the clapper to the bell body than these other examples, with an additional loop being involved, and it has a slightly narrower body, although along the same design lines as the other two. The copper loop by which it has been attached to the twisted top ring may not be original.

A similar bell was collected by Samuel Powell (1940.7.0339), while a comparable example is also known from Kiga in Uganda (see M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, 1953,
Tribal Crafts of Uganda, pl. 77H and p. 326, and note 1, where they cite the Pitt Rivers Museum bell).

Rachael Sparks 19/9/2005

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 45] - [insert] 1884.108 Numbers begining with 18... (4 figures) are black series) [end insert] MUSIC PERCUSSION [insert] From H.B's written book catalogues except those marked X [end insert] BELLS [insert] 10-12 [end insert] 1860 - [1 of] 3 small iron bells, not welded; upper end prolonged & bent round in a loop. DINKA, C. AFRICA CA Petherick coll. c 1858.
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 197] [insert] 1884.108.10-12 [end insert]. 1860. 3 small iron bells. DINKA. C[ENTRAL] A[FRICA].
Black book entry [p. 81] - 1860. Iron cattle bells (3). DINKA tribe, Africa. Obtd by Petherick in 1858. [insert] 1884.108.10-12 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue II entry [p. 215] - Glazed case bells etc. 1884.108.10-12. 3 bells. Central Africa. Iron, for cattle [screen?] 80 [case?] 266.
Balfour Catalogue: Red numbers Musical Instruments - [p. 2] 129. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS - PERCUSSION. [p. 157] L - BELLS (SWINGING CLAPPERS) [p. 164] P.R. coll. 1860 [insert] black [end insert]. [1 of] 3 small iron bells, each made from single piece of flat iron bent over on itself longitudinally - edges not welded together - upper end drawn out to a point, bent round to form a loop & also to support the swinging clapper inside. [insert] 1884.108.10-12 [end insert]. Dinka, Central Africa. obt[aine]d by Consul Petherick c. 1858. [insert] P.R.V.45, Coll. Misc. XI, 197 [end insert].
Card Catalogue Entry - CENTRAL AFRICA, DINKA. Three small iron bells each from a single piece of flat iron bent over on itself longitudinally, edges not welded; upper end drawn out to a point, bent round to form a loop and also to support the swinging clapper inside. Coll. Consul Petherick, c. 1858. Original Pitt Rivers collection [for 1884.108.10-12; RTS 4/3/2004].
Pre-PRM label - 1860 [rectangular paper tag, originally tied to group of objects with wire; stored in RDF; RTS 17/2/2005].
Written on object - 129.L.8 [red ink, partially worn away; RTS 17/2/2005].

Display History:
Displayed in Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums (V&A)[AP] Current Exhibition Label - CENTRAL AFRICA, DINKA Three small sheet iron bells. Original Pitt Rivers Collection. 1884.108.10-12.

Publication History:
M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, 1953, Tribal Crafts of Uganda, p. 326, note 1, cite this bell and 1884.108.10-11 as a comparison to a set from Kiga (giving it a reference of 'No. 129-L.8') [RTS 5/9/2005]

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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