Bongo tweezers

Bongo tweezers
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] [White Nile]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal
Hammered , Bent , Incised , Decorated
L = 120.2 mm, W across shoulder = 54.5 mm, W grip = 17.3 mm, W bar = 5 mm, Th bar = 3 mm [RTS 5/5/2004].
40.6 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
This object is said to have been collected in 1858; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition through Bongo territory, an account of which is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; he refers to this group as the Dor. The expe
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
A pair of forceps or tweezers, made from a single bar of iron with rectangular section. This has been doubled over, leaving a narrow loop with teardrop-shaped aperture at the top, with the two arms extending straight down below, before being bent back on themselves for a short length, then springing out to form two arc-shaped arms. The upper part of these has been hammered flat to form two broad oval areas that probably served as a place for gripping the tool when in use; a raised rib runs down the centre of each of these. Below this, there is a short section with curved sides, then the arms become narrow and rectangular, with a slightly convex upper surface and flat underside. The two ends have been flattened and have slightly rounded tips. The outer face of the arms has been decorated with incised patterns: the ribs down each flattened section are decorated with two groups of zigzags, that degenerate into x-shaped crosses in places, while two further sections of larger zigzags decorate the lower part of each arm. Wear on this area has partially worn away the design. The outer surface is more polished; however there is polish on the inside ends of the tool that also may be a result of use. The object is complete and intact, and currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 420C). It measures 120.2 mm along its length, 54.5 mm at its maximum width across the shoulders, with a width of 17.3 mm across the grip area and 4.3 mm across the tips of each arm, while the bar from which it has been shaped has a width of 5 mm, a thickness of 3 mm, and weighs 40.6 grams.

This object was collected by John Petherick in 1858; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition through Bongo territory, an account of which is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; he refers to this group as the Dor. The expedition entered Bongo territory on January 25, 1858, visiting villages called Djau, Kurkur, Maeha, Mura, Umbura, Modocunga, Miha, Nearhe, Gutu, Mungela, Ombelambe and Lungo. Later in February they passed back through the Bongo villages of Djamaga and Lungo again. T his material was shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction, as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection 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 auction contained 3 pairs of ‘tongs’ (lots 36, 37 and 38) and 2 pairs of ‘tweezers to extract thorns’ (lot 39). This object was probably part of the latter group.

Schweinfurth published a similar iron object, also attributed to the Bongo, which he states was used for plucking out their eyelashes and eyebrows, and which had the local name pinoh (G. Schweinfurth, 1885, Artes Africanae, pl. IV fig. 13; The Heart of Africa Vol. I, p. 281). This object is stylistically similar to certain Bongo knives, used by women (for example, compare with J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Volume 1, p. 503 figures 1-2).

A drawing of this object may be found in Petherick's unpublished sketchbook (Wellcome Library MS 5789, p. 9), under the caption 'tweezers'.

This object is currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 85A.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry [p. 135] - [insert] 1884.60 [end insert] PRIMITIVE MEDICINES & INSTRUMENTS [insert] 31-33 [end insert] - [1 of] 3 thorn forceps; one with sliding collar. DOR tribe, C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. 1858.
Additional Accession Book IV Entry [page opposite 135] - 1884.60.31-33 No. given CW 6/5/98.
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [...] [insert] 1884.60.31-33 [end insert] (prim[ative] Med[icine]). 3 thorn forceps, Dor tribe, White Nile (one with sliding collar) [insert] .33 [end insert]. 1858. P.R. [p. 197] [insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert, by BB].
Additional Collectors Miscellaneous XI Entry [p. 192] 1884.60.31-33, Nos given CW 6/5/98.
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 7/4/2004].
Medicine Card Entry (unsorted) - Native-made spring forceps used for extracting thorns. Made of iron. Length 12 cm; width 5.2 cm (across, from edge-edge). DOR tribe. WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Consul Petherick, 1858. Pitt-Rivers coll.
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Thorn forceps. DOR tribe, WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. 1858. P.R. Coll. [circular metal-edged tag, tied to object, RTS 4/5/2004].

Display History:
This is one of only eleven objects from the Petherick collections which are not mentioned in the Black Red or Blue books, it is therefore possible that these eleven objects were displayed at Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums prior to transferring here in 1884 [AP]. Current display label - 2 pairs of native made spring forceps used for extracting thorns: two varieties one of which has a sliding collar which keeps the points closed. DOR tribe, WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Consul Petherick coll. 1858, P.R. coll. [display label in case L.85.A; note that the sliding collar example (1884.60.33) is not actually one of the two forceps positioned next to the label].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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