Bongo trumpet

Bongo trumpet
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Animal Ivory Tooth
Scraped Carved , Hollowed , Perforated , Polished
L = 265, proximal end W = 13.7, th = 12.3, fingerhole = 7; bell mouth external L = 46, W = 39, internal opening = 42 by 34 mm; mouthpiece setting L = 39, W = 21.4, diam embouchure = 16 mm; L from fingerhole to edge embouchure = 33 mm [RTS 3/12/2004].
193.7 g
Other Owners:
Collected by John Petherick between 1856 and 1858, and shipped back to England in 1859, where it was obtained by auction for the Henry Christy collection, as lot 89. This may have been the auction conducted on 27th June 1862 by Mr Bullock of High Holborn
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Ashmolean Museum
Transferred 28 September 1885
Collected Date:
1856 - 1858
Small side-blown trumpet carved and hollowed out from a single piece of yellowish cream coloured ivory (Pantone 7508C), with the surface then polished. This has a narrow proximal end with flattened edge and circular opening that acts as a finger-hole to vary the note, then a curved body that follows the natural shape of the parent tusk, tapering out to a wider bell mouth that is oval in plan view, and has a narrow lip. A raised lentoid-shaped mouthpiece has been carved on the concave surface just above the proximal end, with a circular embouchure in the centre that connects into the body of the trumpet. The object is essentially complete, but a portion of the interior wall has broken away from near the rim; this interior surface has been stained a dark brown to reddish brown colour and was originally said to smell heavily of tobacco, suggesting reuse of the trumpet as a tobacco container. There are numerous cracks along the length, following the grain of the ivory. It has a weight of 193.7 grams, and is 265 mm long. The proximal end measures 13.7 by 12.3 mm across, and has a finger-hole that is 7 mm wide; the bell mouth measures 46 by 39 mm, with an internal opening of 42 by 34 mm, while the raised mouthpiece is 39 mm long and 21.4 mm wide, with an embouchure that is 16 mm in diameter. The length from finger-hole to the edge of the embouchure is 33 mm.

Collected by John Petherick in the Sudan, sometime between 1856 and 1858. Petherick led three separate trading expeditions that passed through Bongo territory between 1856 and 1858; this material was shipped back to England in 1859. See Petherick 1861, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa for more details. It was bought at auction by Henry Christy as part of lot 89 '... 2 ivory hunting horns (Dor)'. This may have been the auction conducted on 27th June 1862 by Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London (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 ). It then went to the Ashmolean Museum by exchange from the Trustees of Henry Christy collection in 1869, and was subsequently transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum 28 September 1885.

An early description of the Zande mentions their use of ivory trumpets: "some of the officers, or leaders, have large war trumpets made of elephant's tusks... they are sounded from the side, like a flute", illustrating examples made in a single piece, or of wood and ivory bound together (J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 493).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Ashmolean Vellum Volume I [List of Anthropological objects transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers' museum 1886. Asiatic, African, Esquimaux and American] - [group of pages stuck in vellum volume before page 1, page b] - Objects transferred to the Anthropological Museum in the Parks Oxford Sep: 28th 1885 [...] - Hunting horn used by the Dor Negroes, made of elephant tusk No. 522 [at foot of page] Received for the Pitt Rivers Collection H.N. Moseley Sep 28 1885. [p. 143] - 522. A small hunting horn, or call, made from the pointed end of an Elephant's tusk; used by the Dôr Negroes of E. Central Africa. Length on the longest curve 10 6/10 inches. the mouth being oval in shape, 1 8/10 by 1 5/10 diam; the point at the other end has been cut off leaving a hole 5/10 [insert] inch [end insert] diameter, Diameter 5/10 inch near which on the [insert] in [end insert] side curve a hole for the mouthpiece has been bored. The whole thing has been scraped down to a certain thickness as is shewn [sic] by the considerable projection of the mouthpiece [insert] above the rest of the horn [end insert]. A horn on this principle figured in Meyrick's "Ancient Armour" vol: 2 PL: CXLVIII fig [insert] 18 [end insert] used by the Mandingoes, is said to resemble the ancient Irish specimens of bronze, one of which is figured in Vol: 1 Pl: XLVII fig: 13 of the same work). also Kembles "Horae Ferales' PL XIII (From Petherick's collection) ([insert] (Lot 89) [end insert] Given in exchange, by the Trustees of the Christy collection, 1869. (See Mr A.W. Frank's illustrated list [insert] stuck in this book [end insert] No. 18 and letter, in Ashmolean Letter book) (Not entered in any list of Additions).
Additional entry in Vellum volume I [page opposite 143] - 522. This article smells very strongly of Tobacco, and possibly may have been and also used for smoking purposes. (
Deposited in Trans[ferred] to the Anthropological Museum Sep 28th 1885, No. 522).

Ashmolean Accession book entry - Objects transferred from the Ashmolean Museum to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886 or later: 522. C. Africa, Dor (Bongo). Small side-blast trumpet of ivory tusk with raised carved-out mouthpiece, smelling of tobacco. Petherick coll, lot 89. By ex. Trustees Christy coll., 1869.

Balfour Catalogue Red numbers - [p. 2] 130. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, WIND. [p. 244] J - TRUMPETS. [p. 278] Ashm[olean] coll[ection] [insert] AM. [end insert] 522. A.W. Franks list. v. Letter in Ashm. book. Small side blast trumpet made from an elephants tusk, the surface scraped down; small end perforated the hole acting as a finger hole to vary the note; mouth hole at the side with raised lip and towards the smaller end. Dôr [insert] Bongo [end insert] tribe, E. Central Africa, Obt[aine]d by Consul Petherick c. 1858 [insert] (lot 89) [end insert] Pres[ente]d by the Trustees of the Christy coll[ectio]n 1869 [insert] (Exchange). Trans[ferred] to us 1886. Ashmole 70, Coll. Misc. XI, 197 [end insert].

Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 197] [insert] 1886.4.522 A[shmolean].M[useum]. & Christy coll[ection]. Small elephant tusk side-trumpet with terminal finger stop. C[entral].A[frica]. (A.M. 522 and Christy coll.) [insert] DOR (BONGO) [end insert]. [...] [Insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert].
Added Collectors Misc. XI entry [p. 196] - Incorrectly numbered 1886.1.493 AP 7.99 [Note that it was found correctly numbered 1886.1.522 by DCF court team on 2/12/2003].

?Card Catalogue Entry - A.M. 522/A.W. Franks list. See letter in Ashmolean book./ Small side-blast trumpet of elephant tusk, the surface scraped down; small end perforated to act as finger hole to vary note; mouth hole at side with raised lip, and towards the smaller end. Deep conical embouchure.

Tribes Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 6/4/2004].

?Related Documents File - [Previously in vellum volume I] Only the to have been returned a duplicate [sic] 1886.1 general: 18. Small horn made from Elephants tusk used by Dôr Negroes E. Central Africa (From Petherick coll.) [Drawing, annotated '10 in'].

Pre-PRM label - [illegible numbers, crossed out] 522. Hunting Horn, or call, made of Elephant's Tusk. Used by the Dor negroes East Central Africa on the Upper Nile. From Petherick's collection. Given by the trustees of the Christy coll n 1869. See Mr A.W. Franks lists and letter in Ashmolean letteer book I [rectangular label. handwritten in faded ink] 522 [rectangular printed label]; Ashmolean Museum [blue rectangular printed label]; [all stuck to side of object; RTS 3/12/2004].

Written on object -
130.J.36 [dark brown ink or paint - refers to Balfour catalogue] HUNTING HORN OR CALL OF ELEPHANT TUSK. DOR NEGROES. E. CENTRAL AFRICA ON UPPER NILE. 1886.1.522 [black ink]; [...] [or] Call [...] of [...] Dor neg[roes] [pencil? partly obscured by stuck on label].

Publication History:
The Accession book entry is published in A. MacGregor et al., 2000, Manuscript Catalogues of the Early Museum Collections 1683-1886 (Part I), p. 297, cat. 522 [RTS 26/1/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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