Circular hide shield

Circular hide shield
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1884.30.60 .1 .2
?Sudan , ?Uganda
Cultural Group:
?Lango [?Imatong]
Date Made:
Before 1884
Animal Hide Skin , Wood Plant , Pigment , Ochre
Moulded , Perforated , Bound , Carved , Stained
Ht = 80, diam = 200 x 190, th = 8; handle L = 147, W = 23, th = 11; toggle L = 63.4, W = 16.4, th = 17.5 mm [RTS 4/8/2005].
466.5 g
Other Owners:
This object was listed in the Delivery Catalogue as having been transferred from South Kensington Museum in 1884. It was probably displayed at Bethnal Green and/ or South Kensington Museum between 1874 - 1884.
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Prior to 1884
Small shield consisting of a circular body cut from a thick piece of dark brown hide (Pantone Black 4C), heavily coated on both faces with a micaceous red ochre (Pantone 477C) [.1]. This has been moulded into a conical dome with a flattened outer edge that has use-wear polish on its inside surfaces. There is a hole at the apex, and two longer lentoid-shaped slits near the edge of the rim on either side. A series of 6 narrow hide strips extend across the domed top of the shield and through these side holes to the interior, where they stretch across the centre to form a handle. The central strip has also been pushed down into the central hole, and pulled through the underside; originally this would have formed a loop that could be used as a thumb or finger grip on the shield interior; however the loop itself has broken away and is missing. The handle has been made in two flexible parts, with the constituent strips gathered into groups and held together by hide binding strips. The ends of two of these strips extend back out through one side slit, and have been threaded onto a wooden toggle, made from a short curving piece of wood, trimmed flat and perforated at the ends; the loose hide ends were then interwoven with one another through perforations in their bodies to fasten them together, creating a small suspension loop. The base of this loop has currently broken, and the toggle and part of the loop are detached [.2]. The whole object - shield body, hide straps and toggle - has been stained or coated a dark red colour (Pantone 477C). This surface coating has started to flake off the shield body and straps. The shield is nearly complete, missing only its inner loop. It has a weight of 466.5 grams, with a height of 80 mm, diameter of 200 x 190 mm and thickness of 8 mm; the handle is 147 mm long, 23 mm wide and 11 mm thick, while the wooden toggle is 63.4 mm long, 16.4 mm wide and 17.5 mm thick.

This object was part of Pitt Rivers' collection, and is thought to have been displayed in the Bethnal Green and/or South Kensington Museums between 1874 and 1884. It became part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884. Its origin was recorded only as 'East Central Africa', with a suggested cultural attribution to the Lango of Uganda. However nothing of similar form has been published by Driberg (
The Lango, 1923) or Trowell and Wachsmann ( Tribal Crafts of Uganda, 1953), which may make the suggested Ugandan origin of this particular example questionable. A similar shield is found in accession number 1940.7.089, which was collected by Samuel Powell in the 1940's from the Imatong tribe at Sunnat. Powell's shield was made of rhinoceros hide, lined with leopard skin, and was used by boys during stick fights. A similar type of object was attached to the centre of long wooden poles by the Langi or Burunge of Tanzania as a hand-guard (see D. Plaschke & M.A. Zirngibl, 1992, African shields, p. 30 fig. 12).

The hide of this particular example is extremely thick, and therefore likely to be from an animal such as buffalo or rhinoceros (although this lacks the textured surface you would expect of that animal), rather than cattle hide.

Rachael Sparks 4/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry - 1884.30.1 - 64 - Defence Shields Small round domed shield of raddled hide, the handle fastened by thongs over the face ?Lango EC Africa [Drawing] S 1301
Delivery Catalogue II entry - Shields etc Small circular hide shield S1301 Upper Screen 310 311
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 24/5/2004].
Pitt Rivers Museum label - S 1301 [rectangular woven card tag] E.C. AFRICA (?LANGO). P.R. coll... (1301S) [rectangular metal-edged tag]; AFRICA, Shield, orig. PR Coll. 1884.30.60 [plastic label with metal eyelet; all 3 tags tied to object; RTS 4/8/2005].
Written on object - E. CENTRAL AFRICA, 1884.30.60 [pencil; RTS 4/8/2005].

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

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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