Zande trumpet

Zande trumpet
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Sudan , Congo, Democratic Republic of
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1868
Wood Plant , Lizard Skin Reptile? , Snake Skin Reptile ? , Plant Fibre , Resin Plant? , Animal Dung?
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated , Socketed , Bound Stitched , Decorated Incised Polished
L = 725, handle L = 120, W = 36.5, th = 33.4, diam hole through handle = 9 mm; embouchure diam = 36 by 30 (top), 22 by 20 (at base); body diam = 37.2 by 36.2; bell mouth diam = 99 by 99.5 (ext), 88 by 85 (int); sheath L = 42, 58, 41 and 73 mm [RTS 23/2/20
504.9 g
Other Owners:
Wood records this as already being in Pitt Rivers' collection in 1868, when he published his book, The Natural History of Man. Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display, as part of the first batch of objects sent there, probably in
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
By 1868
Side-blown trumpet carved from 2 pieces of orangey-brown wood (Pantone 730C). The proximal end has been carved into a rectangular handle, pierced for suspension just below its flat top, and decorated along all 4 edges with a series of v-shaped notches. These have mostly been cut down into the wood from above, but on one side the craftsman has changed the direction of the blow and cut upwards. This handle is set at a slight angle from the trumpet body, following what must be the natural curvature of the branch from which it was made. This is slightly oval in section, keeping a fairly consistent width for most of its length. An oval embouchure has been cut just below the handle; this has use-wear polish around the lip, and has a mouth that slopes gently down towards the interior cavity on one side until the cavity becomes circular. This cavity has been roughly hollowed out, with 2 small holes running part-way back into the proximal end for a short distance, possibly related to tuning the instrument; and one or more circular depressions or holes cut into the base, which have been at least partially blocked with mud. The reason for these is unclear. The rest of the body has been hollowed out, with a fairly narrow opening that has been cut off-centre. At its lower end, this seems to be fitted inside the socketed end of a separate piece that forms the bell. This appears to have a short cylindrical collar then a cylindrical body that expands very slightly towards the bell mouth itself. This turns in slightly at its lip, which has a worn outer surface and a sharply cut inner edge, somewhat damaged.

The trumpet has been fitted with sections of reptile or snake skin, yellow in colour (Pantone 7502C). A section has been fitted just below the embouchure; this has no seam and is presumably cut from a section of snake body or lizard's tail, and has one uneven edge. A second similar sheath makes a broad band just below, with a small gap then a third, narrower sheath which has a seam down one side, sewn together using plant fibre cord. A fourth sheath has been fitted over the junction of body and bell mouth, obscuring the exact fashion in which these two parts have been combined. The surface is uneven at this point, as if 'grooved' below, which may represent some kind of binding beneath the sheath. There may also be some kind of sealing material around the lower join. Inside the mouth, there is a thick mass of dark material that seems to be composed of a mix of mud or dung, resin and vegetable matter, that seems to have been inserted to block up the lower part of the hollow, perhaps also to enhance the join.

The trumpet is complete, but has some minor damage, with a small chip missing from the proximal end, a hole in the body wall at the base of the embouchure, surface scratches, 2 cracks running down the walls of the bell mouth and some damage to its lower body and some holes in the reptile sheaths. Tool marks are visible along the body and inside the mouth, which also has traces of tiny flecks of mica, and the outer surface of the wood has been polished. It has a weight of 504.9 grams, and a complete length of 725 mm. The handle section is 120 mm long, 36.5 mm wide and 33.4 mm thick, while the suspension hole through it has a diameter of 9 mm. The embouchure has a diameter of 36 by 30 mm at its top, and 22 by 20 mm at its base, where it becomes more circular, while the trumpet body near that point has a diameter of 37.2 by 36.2 mm. The bell mouth measures 99 by 95.5 mm across its exterior and 88 by 85 mm across its internal diameter. The skin sheaths are 42, 58, 41 and 73 mm long respectively, moving from the proximal to the distal end of the instrument.

Museum records do not indicate how this came into the Pitt Rivers Collection. It belonged to Pitt Rivers as early as 1868, when it was published by Wood in his book,
The Natural History of Man, and was later sent Pitt to the Bethnal Green Museum for display, probably in 1874, before being displayed in the South Kensington Museum and eventually becoming part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884. It may well have originally been amongst the Sudanese material collected by John Petherick, which included a large number of trumpets (see the discussion in 1884.112.27 for details). However it does not appear in Petherick's unpublished sketchbook (now in the Wellcome Library), or in any of his published writings.

This object was published by Wood, who described it as "... a composite instrument made of wood and ivory bound firmly together... from Colonel Lane Fox's collection", although it does not actually possess any ivory elements (J.G. Wood, 1868,
The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 493, figure 2). He called this a 'war trumpet', illustrating it alongside an ivory example that probably did serve that function; it is not clear if this piece should be interpreted in the same way.

Rachael Sparks 19/9/2005

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 51] MUSIC TRUMPETS [insert] 1884.112 [end insert] [insert] 34 [end insert] 3034 - ditto [Side-blast trumpet] of wood, with lizard skin mountings; large wooden bell-mouth. NYAM NYAM. C.A[FRICA] (1287) (379) (8).
Additional Accession Book V entry [p. 51a] - 1884.112.34 Number given HLR. L[ength] 74 cms (130.J.42).
Black book entry [p. 49] - C[ase] 74. 1287. Trumpet with side hole, of wood. With bands of snake skin Neam-nam [sic] C. Africa (3034). [insert] 1884.112.34 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue I entry - Musical Instruments Cases 9 and 10 Trumpet wood (Africa) 3034 374.B.1287.
Balfour Catalogue: Red numbers Musical Instruments - [p. 2] 130. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, WIND. [p. 244] J - TRUMPETS. [p. 284] P.R. coll. 1287 [insert] black [end insert] 3034, 8, 379. Side blast trumpet of wood with mountings of lizard skin; the solid end beyond the mouth hole has a rectangular section and notched edges, at the open end a large wooden bell mouth. Neam Nam tribe, E[ast] Cen[tral] Africa. [insert] P.R.V.51 [end insert].
Card Catalogue Entry - E. CENTRAL AFRICA, NEAM NEAM Tribe. 1287 black/3034/8/379. Side-blast trumpet of wood with mountings of lizard skin; the solid end beyond the mouth hole has a rectangular section and notched edges; the open end has a large wooden bell mouth. Original Pitt Rivers Collection.
Pre-PRM label? - 379 [rectangular printed label stuck to edge of embouchure; could be an auction lot number]; COL. A. LANE FOX (rectangular printed label stuck to handle]; 8 [printed square paper label, stuck to handle] [insert, ink] 30 [end insert] 34 [printed onto rectangular paper tag, stuck to handle end; RTS 23/2/2005].
Written on object - NEAM NAM TRIBE, AFRICA [pencil, partially indented into surface of handle); E. CENTRAL AFRICA. NEAM NEAM (AZANDE). 1287 black/3034/8/379/. 130.J.42 [black ink, on handle] 1884.112.34 [black ink just below, different hand]; 130.J.42 [red ink, handle]; 1287 [black ink, bell mouth end; RTS 23/2/2005].

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

Publication History:
Illustrated by Wood, with the description "... a composite instrument made of wood and ivory bound firmly together... from Colonel Lane Fox's collection (J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 493, figure 2). Note that it does not actually have any ivory elements [RTS 23/2/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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