Zande hair pin

Zande hair pin
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?On or before 1858
Animal Ivory Tooth
Carved , Polished , Incised
L = 319 mm, W head = 5 mm, Th head = 4 mm, W body at centre point = 4 mm, Th body at centre point = 3.4 mm [RTS 26/4/2004].
6.8 g
Other Owners:
Probably collected by John Petherick in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Obtained by Pitt Rivers [Purchased at Auction, lots 11 & 79?]. Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display, as part of the first batch of objects sent t
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Long hair pin carved from a single piece of ivory, consisting of a narrow, slightly convex top and slender body with oval section, tapering to a point at the other end. The body is slightly curved, and has been decorated just below the head with a shallowly incised pattern filled with black pigment; according to Petherick, this colour was derived from a tree root. The design consists of a thick band of cross hatching, framed by two parallel lines above and below; the execution is somewhat irregular. The surface, which is currently a yellowish cream colour (Pantone 7401C), has been polished, and the object is complete and intact. It has a length of 319 mm, measures 5 by 4 mm at the head, and 4 by 3.4 mm midway down the body, with a weight of 6.8 grams.

Collected by John Petherick, a businessman who lived in Khartoum from 1853 to 1858, mounting several trading expeditions into the Sudanese interior during this period. He entered Zande territory for the first time on 24th February 1858, while on his fifth such expedition, visiting the villages of Mundo, Kangamboo and Baranj. This object was probably collected during this trip, as Petherick did not venture into this region again. His collection was shipped back to England in 1859. This object was subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, probably at the auction of Petherick's collection collection 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 contained a total of 176 ivory hair pins, many of which were said to be Zande. The records of the Pitt Rivers Museum suggest that this pin came from a group of 4 such objects, associated with lot numbers 11 and 79. Strangely, those lot numbers at the 1862 auction did not include any hair pins. Either they came from a later auction of Petherick material, or the lot numbers were recorded incorrectly. This pin was sent to the Bethnal Green Museum for display, probably as part of the first batch of objects sent there in 1874, and subsequently displayed at the South Kensington Museum, before becoming part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884.

The use of similar pins by the Zande are described in Petherick's 1861 volume,
Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa, p. 466: “Both men and women wore their hair plaited in thick masses, covering the neck to the shoulders. This they combed out with long ivory pins, from six inches to upwards of a foot in length - one extremity pointed, the other increasing in thickness like a cone, three or four inches of which were carved into pretty patterns, and dyed black with the decoction of a root. When the hair had been arranged, two of the largest of these pins were stuck horizontally through it at the back of the head; between these smaller ones were inserted, forming a semicircle similar to a Spanish lady’s comb”. These pins are also described in J.G. Wood, 1968, The Natural History of Man vol. I, p. 489, while Schweinfurth describes Zande men using hair pins of iron, copper or ivory tipped with various devices to fasten cylindrical straw hats in place (G. Schweinfurth, 1873, The Heart of Africa Volume II, p. 8). For similar pins, see E. Castelli, 1984, Orazio Antinori in Africa Centrale 1859-1861, cat. no. 98, p 72, attributed to the 'Mangbetu, Zande etc' (Museum of Perugia 49650-7). The practice of wearing these pins was still common in the 1920's (P.M. Larken, 1926, "An Account of the Zande", Sudan Notes and Records IX no. 1, p. 32).

Note that this object is not illustrated by Petherick in any of his publications, or in his sketchbook now held in the Wellcome Library MS 5789.

For other pins of this type, see 1884.71.10, 12-13 and 1886.1.523.1-3. This example was identified as ivory, not bone, by the conservation department.

This object is currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 121A.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry [p. 160] - [insert] 1884.71 [end insert] HAIR-PINS & COMBS. V. also PINS [insert] 10-13 [end insert] - [1 of] 4 Ivory hair-pin, very long & curved. C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. (1745 Black).
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [...] [insert] 1884.71.10-13 [end insert] 3 ivory & 1 bone hair pins, C[entral] Africa, P.R. coll. (1745 black), lot 11 & large no. 79.
Black book entry [p. 75] - Combs . 1745 [insert] 4 [end insert] hair pins, ivory. Central Africa. Obtd by Petherick. [insert] 1884.71.10 + 11 + 12 + 13 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue II entry [p. 269] - [insert] 1884.71.10-13 [end insert] [1 of] 4 long ivory pins. C. Africa. 1745. Case 8, [screen?] 325.
Written on object - HAIR PIN CENTRAL AFRICA. PETHERICK coll. P.R. coll (1745) [RTS 26/4/2004].

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