Bongo tweezers

Bongo tweezers
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] [White Nile]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal
Hammered , Incised , Punched , Perforated , Bent , Decorated
L = 190 mm, Max W = 13.7 mm, Min W = 2.8 mm, th = 1 mm [RTS 5/5/2004].
19.6 g
Other Owners:
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 exp
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 a rectangular section. The top of this has been hammered flat at right angles to the rest of the body, and pierced with an off-centre hole. There are tool marks on either side of this section, perhaps from gripping the object as it was being worked. A small ring has been passed through this hole, and was probably used to attach the tool to another object. This ring has been made from a small piece of iron with rectangular section, hammered into shape and then bent into a slightly oval loop with ends just touching. Below this, the neck of the forceps has been pinched in slightly, before widening to form the narrow rectangular body of the tool. This has been split approximately 40 mm from the end, to form two flat arms, still joined at the top. These rest naturally 5 mm apart, and are still quite flexible. The body widens slightly towards the lower part, where each arm has been cut into a more complex shape, consisting of a flat rectangular area where the tool would be held when used, narrowing and tapering in below this before ending in two small projecting spurs and a snake-shaped tip with pointed end. A small, broad piece of iron sheet has been bent into a flattened loop around the upper body; this collar slides up and down the shaft to trap or release the arms as needed. The collar, whose ends just touch at the top, has been decorated with two parallel grooves around its circumference. There is further decoration consisting of three parallel incised lines just below the forceps neck, and then on the rectangular grip areas of each arm, a series of punched dots that make up a double wavy line with circles composed of four or five dots in the blank areas above and below the curves. The broader tips are further decorated with two rows of punched dots that divide into curls at their ends. The object is complete and intact; the inner surfaces are dull, but the outer faces have been polished and are currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 421C). The forceps have a length of 190 mm, with a width of 2.8 mm at the neck and 13.7 mm at their widest point, and a thickness of 1 mm throughout. They weigh 19.6 grams in total, including collar and ring.

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 at the auction of Petherick’s material conducted by 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); this could be one of them.

This type of tool is different in form to the two other Bongo 'forceps' collected by Petherick, which have arc-shaped arms (see 1884.60.31-32). It is closer in design to iron tongs that according to Schweinfurth were used by groups such as the Madi to light tobacco pipes, although these are almost twice as large (see G. Schweinfurth, 1885, Artes Africanae, pl. X fig. 6).

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) - Spring thorn forceps, with sliding collar. A long, slender instrument, made of iron, flat, split into two halves for the greater part of its length & held by a sliding iron collar. One end is shaped, perforated, & holds a small iron ring for suspension; the other end is expanded, bent, & ends in a flat spear-like head. Both expansion & head are engraved with a dotted design. This instrument is native-made. Length 18.5 cm. DOR tribe. WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Consul Petherick, 1858. Pitt-Rivers coll.
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label -
Spring thorn forceps, with sliding collar. DOR tribe, WHITE NILE. 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].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
Help | About | Bibliography