Ivory trumpet

Ivory trumpet
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan?]
Date Made:
?Before 1865
Animal Ivory Tooth
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated , Polished
L = 380, proximal end L = 17, W = 13.2, fingerhole = 7; bell end L = 60, W = 45, internal diameter 54 by 40 mm; mouthpiece L = 48.7, W = 27, embouchure diam = 15 mm; L fingerhole to embouchure edge = 76 mm [RTS 3/12/2004].
405.1 g
Other Owners:
Collected in Sudan by John Petherick, sometime between 1853 and 1859, or 1861 to 1865. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers by 1868, perhaps via auction as Petherick is known to have sold some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
1853 - 1859 or 1861 - 1865
Side-blown trumpet carved from a single piece of yellowish coloured ivory that varies in tone across the surface (Pantone 7509C and 7402C), hollowed out, and then highly polished on the outer surface. There are vertical tool marks on the interior walls, which are also blackened, suggesting that pyro techniques may have been used to shape this piece. This has a narrow proximal end with flattened edge, oval in plan view but with a circular finger-hole cut through it for varying the note. Below this, the body is slightly concave sided before flaring out to the mouthpiece which has been carved as a thickened, lozenge-shaped area that stands proud of the upper and lower faces, and is less clearly defined on the sides, with a circular embouchure cut from the concave upper surface into the body of the trumpet. The rest of the body then follows the natural shape of the parent tusk, curving and tapering out to a wider bell mouth that is oval in plan view and has a narrow, fairly sharp lip. The object is complete, although there are numerous lines and scratches across the surface, representing tool marks that have not been removed. It has a weight of 405.1 grams, and is 380 mm long. The proximal end measures 17 by 13.2 mm across, and has a finger-hole that is 7 mm wide; the bell end measures 60 by 45 mm across its outer edges, with an internal opening 54 by 40 mm wide. The raised mouthpiece is 48.7 mm long and 27 mm wide, and the embouchure measures 15 mm in diameter. The length from the finger-hole to the edge of the embouchure is 76 mm.

This trumpet was collected in the Southern Sudan by John Petherick in the mid nineteenth century, most probably during his earlier period in the country, sometime between 1853 and 1858. Material from this period was shipped back to England in 1859, and subsequently sold at auction by Mr Bullock at High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1962 (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 ). This auction contained some 38 ‘hunting horns’, attributed variously to the Zande, Bongo, Murle, Jur, ‘Bonjac’ and Mundu; at least 25 of these were made of ivory. It is also possible that he obtained it during his second period in the Sudan, between 1862 and 1865; the date of the auction of that material is not known, although some items were bought from it by the Royal United Services Institution. Pitt Rivers obtained the item, and sent it for display at the Bethnal Green Museum, probably in 1874. It 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.

An early description of the Zande mentions their use of ivory trumpets: "some of the officers, or leaders, have large war trumpets made of elephant's tusks... they are sounded from the side, like a flute", illustrating examples made in a single piece, or of wood and ivory bound together (J.G. Wood, 1868,
The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 493).

For a slightly simpler variant of this form, see the smaller ivory example 1886.1.522, attributed to the Bongo. For a larger version with more exaggerated mouthpiece setting, see 1884.112.30.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.


Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 51] - MUSIC TRUMPETS [p. 51a] Items taken from the delivery catalogue, not catalogued by HB as far as can be judged in some cases when Nos are absent - [insert] 1884.112 3 [end insert] 1284 - Horn. [insert] 1884.112.3 Number given HLR, l[ength] 37.5 cms (130.J.37).
Black book entry [p. 48] - Musical Instruments (Wind). C[ase] 74. 1283 & 4. Ivory trumpets obtd by Petherick, small (3000). [insert] 1884.112.30 + 3 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue I entry [p. 7] - Musical Instruments. Horn 1284. 3, cases 9 & 10.
Card Catalogue Entry - Side-blast trumpet made from elephant's tusk. Mouth hole at side with lozenge -shaped thickening at this part; small end perforated to act as fingerhole.
Written on object - 130.J.37 [red paint; = Balfour music type?], AFRICA [black ink] 1284 [faded ink = black book reference] Afric[...] 3000 [pencil] [RTS 3/12/2004].

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

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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