Murle lip plug

Murle lip plug
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Sobat River ?Upper Nile ?Jonglei
Cultural Group:
Murle [Djibba]
Date Made:
?Before 1865
Wood Plant
Carved , Incised , Polished , Decorated
L = 25.2 mm, W = 24.5 mm, Ht = 17.5 mm [RTS 12/5/2004].
5.7 g
Other Owners:
Collected in Sudan by John Petherick, sometime between 1853 and 1859, or 1861 to 1865. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers by 1868, perhaps via auction. Pitt Rivers sent this object to the Bethnal Green Museum some time after early 1874 [RTS 23/3/2004].
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
1853 - 1859 or 1861 - 1865
Lip stud carved from a single piece of wood, and consisting of a flat upper surface, broad, squat cylindrical body with very slightly concave sides and a flat base. The top has been decorated with a crosshatched pattern made up of a series of incised lines; this covers the entire surface, which is currently a dark brown colour (Pantone 7533C). The centre of the underside is polished, perhaps through use, and is a darker reddish brown colour than the rest of the object. The stud is complete and intact, with some white surface discolouration on the upper surface, and some scratches on the underside. It has a length of 25.2 mm, is 24.5 mm wide, 17.5 mm high and has a weight of 5.7 grams.

Collected by John Petherick in the Southern Sudan. The collection date is not specified, but a number of Murle items were sold at his 1862 auction, and this is quite likely to have been included amongst them; several lots include Murle lip ornaments. 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 ). Certainly, Pitt Rivers is known to have purchased several items at this auction. If this is the case, the item would have been collected sometime between 1853 and 1858, and shipped back to England in 1859. 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 appears to have encountered the 'Djibba' during his first trading expedition in 1853, when he travelled up the Sobat River. However as he established a trading camp amongst the Dinka in this region, subsequent contact with the 'Djibba' through his agents seems likely. Petherick locates the Djibba, or Jibba, somewhere along the Sobat River or the tributaries running into it from the east, which suggests a location in either the administrative districts of either Upper Nile or Jonglei, or across the border into modern Ethiopia (J. Petherick, 1861, Egypt, the Sudan and Central Africa, Map; note that the geographical coordinates given for this group in his 1860 article seem to be inaccurate). Ajibba is the Anuak name for this group, who are also known as the Murle (B.A. Lewis 1972, The Murle , 2).

Logan mentions that Murle women wear 'half-moon shaped' wooden plugs in their lower lips; this may be a variant form (M.H. Logan 1918, "The Beirs",
Sudan Notes and Records 1, 242). The cylindrical shape of this example is similar to Latuka lip plug 1934.8.79, although this example has a larger diameter. Its decoration is comparable to that of Bongo lip plugs, but slightly coarser in execution (compare with 1884.84.87).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 9] - DEFORMATION. PERSONAL ORNAMENT LIP-STUDS [insert] 1884.84 93 [end insert] [insert] h) [end insert] - Almost cylindrical wooden lip-stud with hatched ornament on the top. JIBBA, C. AFRICA. Petherick coll.
Additional Accession Book V Entry [p. opposite 9] - h [drawing].
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 195] [insert] 1884.84.93 [end insert] Wooden lip stud. JIBBA. (3396).
Black book entry [p. 62a] - Ag 7456D. African lip stud (3396). [Insert] 1884.84.87 [end insert].
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 7/4/2004].
Written on object - Central Africa DJIBBA [faded brown ink, possibly markings added by the collector] DJIBBA tribe, C. AFRICA, Petherick coll. P.R. coll. (3396) [black ink on side, RTS 12/5/2004].

Display History:
Displayed in Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums (V&A) [AP]. Former PRM Display Label - Wooden lip stud. Djibba, Central Africa. Petherick coll. 1858. P.R. Coll [rectangular card with printed text; stored in Related Documents File; RTS 16/9/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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