Shilluk tobacco cake

Shilluk tobacco cake
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1902
Tobacco Plant , [Cattle Dung Animal]
Modelled , Dried
L = 118, W = 112, Ht = 48 mm [RTS 19/10/2004].
[including label]: 182.4 g
Field Collector:
Donald Gunn
PRM Source:
Donald Gunn
Donated May 1902
Collected Date:
By 1902
Slightly oval cake of compressed tobacco, fibrous in texture with a dark brown surface (Pantone 7533C) and lighter orange matrix underneath (Pantone 722C). The cake is oval in plan view with a convex back, well defined edges and a concave underside. It is nearly complete, but there are some chips missing from the edges, exposing the lighter orange body below. The object has a weight of 182.4 grams (including the stuck-on label) is 118 mm long, 112 mm wide and 48 mm high.

Collected by Donald Gunn in the Southern Sudan and presented to the Pitt Rivers Museum in May 1902. Museum records do not give a specific provenance for this item, but Gunn appears to have collected Shilluk material from the ‘White Nile’, ‘Upper Nile’ and Bor, Nuer material from around Lake No, Dinka material from the ‘White Nile’ and Arab material from Omdurman. Most of Gunn’s collection was not accessioned at the museum until 1903.

This item was made by steeping tobacco leaf in cow urine and pressing it into a cake. For similar tobacco cakes, collected 34 years later and associated with the Nuer, see 1937.34.61-64; these were used for smoking and as snuff.

Rachael Sparks 18/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [III, p. 75] - 1902 [pencil insert] 17 [end insert] DONALD GUNN Esq. 40 Dover Street, London W. May [pencil insert] 2 [end insert] - Native made cake of tobacco (made by steeping the leaf in cow’s urine and pressing into a cake); Shilluk. [...] The first two [1902.17.1-2] were collected by Mr D. Gunn himself.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 23/7/2004].

Detailed Pipes [Unsorted] Card Catalogue entry - Description: Native tobacco. The leaf is steeped in cow's urine, and pressed into a cake. Solid and heavy, dark brown in colour, in shape circular and somewhat cup-like, slightly concave on one side and well rounded on the other. Diameter c 11 cm max thickness roughly about 4 cm [Drawing].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Native tobacco. The leaf is steeped in cow's urine, & pressed into a cake. SHILLUK, WHITE NILE, AFRICA. Pres. by D. Gunn Esq. 1902 [rectangular metal-edged tag, stuck to surface of object; RTS 19/10/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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