Bongo lip plug

Bongo lip plug
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Wood Plant
Carved , Incised , Burnt , Polished , Decorated
L = 19.8 mm, W = 18.8 mm, Ht = 22.5 mm [RTS 12/5/2004].
4.6 g
Other Owners:
Probably collected by Petherick between 1856 and 1858, and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction, as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection through Mr Bulloc
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884; found unentered 10 May 2004
Collected Date:
1856 - 1858
Small lip stud carved from a single piece of wood, and consisting of a conical top with slightly pointed apex, offset from a squat, straight sided cylindrical body that flares out to a slightly convex underside with oval plan view. The upper surface is decorated with four oblique bands, made up of incised crosshatching; these meet at the centre of the top. Four blank triangular areas have been left between the bands, near the outer edge; these appear to have been deliberately blackened for decorative effect (see the comment in J.G. Wood, The Natural History of Man Volume I, p. 499). The stud is complete and intact, and currently a dark reddish brown colour (Pantone 4975C) with tool marks visible on some surfaces. The underside may have been polished. It has a length of 19.8 mm, a width of 18.8 mm, is 22.5 mm high and weighs 4.6 grams.

Collected by John Petherick in the Southern Sudan. John Petherick led three separate trading expeditions that passed through Bongo territory between 1856 and 1858; this material was shipped back to England in 1859. See Petherick 1861,
Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa for more details. Some of this collection was sold 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 ); this included 47 lip ornaments, several of which were attributed to the Bongo It possibly became part of John George Wood's collection of ethnographic objects, made over several years in order to illustrate his book, The Natural History of Man (1868, see pp v-vi), before being obtained by Pitt Rivers. 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.

Petherick described Bongo lip ornaments: ‘the women would be handsome were it not for a disfiguration of the under lip, in which circular pieces of wood are inserted, varying in size according to age from a sixpence to a florin' (J. Petherick, 1861,
Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa , p. 401). Wood adds this description of an example in his own collection, possibly this actual example, although it is shorter than Wood describes: 'It is cylindrical, with a conical top, and measures three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and exactly an inch in length. The base, which comes against the lower teeth and gum, is nearly flat, and well polished, while the conical top, which projects in front of the mouth, is carved very neatly with 'a 'cross-hatching' sort of a pattern, the effect of which is heightened by the charring of certain portions of it, the blackened and polished surfaces contrasting well with the deep red colour of the wood. In order to keep it in its place, a shallow groove runs round it. This is one of the smaller specimens, but it is the custom of the owner to wear larger and larger lip ornaments until some of them contrive to force into their lips pieces of wood three inches in circumference' (J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 499). See also G. Schweinfurth's description, In The Heart of Africa Volume I, 1873, pp 296-298.

By the time that Evans-Pritchard encountered the Bongo, in the 1920's, the use of large pegs in the lower lips seemed to have gone out of fashion, although they were reportedly still used by the Löli Jurs and the Dogodjo tribe (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1929, "The Bongo",
Sudan Notes and Records XII part I, p. 10).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession book VIII entry - [p. 46] AFRICA, SUDAN. Dor (= Bongo). Wooden lip stud with conical top, decorated with incised cross hatching, and cylindrical body. Found unentered on 10th May 2004. It is marked 'P.R. coll. (1611) black', and appears to be the missing stud in a group of 8 described in that entry; see [p. 47] also Delivery Catalogue II p. 304, collectors Misc XI, p. 195. Collected by John Petherick [RTS 11/5/2004].
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 195] [insert] 1884.84.85-92 [end insert]. 8 lip studs: some carved - DOR. (P.R. black 1611). [p. 197] [insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert, by BB].
Additional Coll. Misc. XI entry [p. 194] - should be 1884.84.86-92 and 1884.140.585 (RTS 11/5/2004).
Black book entry [p. 66] - 1611. [insert] 1884.84.78-92 (not 85) [end insert] [insert] 1884.140.585 [end insert]. Lip-studs, wood. Dor tribe, C. Africa (8). Stone lip ornament. Andiboora [insert] ?Andorobo [end insert] [insert] compl[etely] new entry [end insert] C. Africa, obtd by Petherick. Obsidian lip ornament (3), Mexico; Wood lip ornament (2) Queen Charlotte's I[sland] (2) or Vancouvers Is[land] (2), Lip ornament or burnisher, Mexico. p. 109.
Delivery Catalogue II entry [p. 300] - Personal Ornaments of various Nations [p. 304] 8 lip studs wood (Dor tribe), 1611, Case 74, 345.
Written on object - DOR, E. Central AFRICA. P.R. coll. (1611) black 1884.140.585 [white ink on base; RTS 12/5/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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