Shilluk tobacco pipe

Shilluk tobacco pipe
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] [Upper Nile]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1903
Bamboo Plant , Gourd Plant , Animal Hide Skin , Animal Tail , Cotton Yarn Plant , String , Bast Fibre Bark Plant?
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated , Socketed , Stitched , Handbuilt Fire-Hardened Decorated Incised Impressed Burnished Tied Twisted
Total L = 621 mm. Mouthpiece L = 128, rim diam = 10.3, mouth opening = 7, body diam = 75, base socket diam = 29 mm; shaft W = 26.5, th = 26 mm; lower sheath L = 52, cord diam = 2 mm; pipe bowl L = 197, rim diam = 32, body diam = 68.5, base diam = 31.2, pi
473.7 g
Field Collector:
Donald Gunn
PRM Source:
Donald Gunn
Donated 1903
Collected Date:
By 1903
Composite tobacco pipe consisting of a gourd and hide mouthpiece, bamboo shaft and pottery pipe bowl. The mouthpiece is made from 2 parts fitted closely together. The inner part consists of a deep orange coloured gourd (Pantone 7516C) with a flat-cut rim on a short narrow neck that flares out into a globular body. The lip shows traces of use-wear polish. This has been fitted into an outer casing made of a sheath of animal hide, cut from a piece of yellowish brown tail with the hair removed (Pantone 7509C). This has been stretched to cover the lower part of the gourd, which has a pierced base to allow the smoke to pass through it, then shrunken into a cylindrical socket that fits snugly over the top of the bamboo pipe stem. A seam runs partly down one side of this, with the cut edges stitched together using a flat length of yellowish brown plant fibre, possibly bast or palm (Pantone 464C). The interior of the mouthpiece has been filled with a wad of plant fibre to soak up the tobacco juice, which is just visible through the upper opening, which still carries a scent of tobacco.
The body of the pipe has been cut from a length of yellow bamboo (Pantone 7510C), with 2 segments visible along the shaft; this has presumably been hollowed out. Its lower end fits inside a short sheath of dark brown hide (Pantone Warm Gray 11C), made from a rectangular piece that has been wrapped around the shaft and stitched along the joining edges using a length of yellowish brown bast (Pantone 465C); the stitching forms a ridge that stands proud of the surface. A length of twisted cotton yarn has been run through the top of this stitching, and the 2 ends run up along the body of the shaft to the neck of the mouthpiece,where they have been wrapped several times around the socket and tied off. This pulls the mouthpiece and pipe bowl together, and prevents them from becoming detached from the shaft. The yarn looks machine made and is probably European. It is a dirty light gray colour (Pantone 401C), discoloured from its original white which is visible in a few places.

The base of the pipe consists of a separate ceramic pipe bowl, the top of which has been fitted into the skin socket to rest up against the base of the bamboo shaft. This has been hand made from a moderately well levigated clay with the occasional tiny gold mica inclusion, slipped and burnished, and fired a reddish brown colour (Pantone 4705C) with some sooty patches. It has a circular mouth with slightly flattened lip on an elongated bowl that swells out gently towards its lower body, before curving in to a solid disc base, that acts as the pipe rest. The underside of this is abraded and worn through use. A cylindrical pipe stem runs out from the side of the lower bowl area at an acute angle to it. The interior of the bowl is a dark gray colour, with vertical lines scored down the sides. The exterior has been decorated with a combination of incised and impressed motifs. The lines are all drawn by hand and are quite irregular, showing that no kind of turning device was used. This decoration consists of a single line incised just below the rim, and then a plain area that has been highly burnished. The rest of the surface is covered with closely packed designs, beginning with 2 parallel lines around the circumference, a gap, a group of 3 parallel lines, and then a single line at the top of the disc base. The body between these bands is filled with a series of impressed marks running in tightly spaced lines; these look to have been made with some kind of roulette or multiple toothed comb. They give the area a textured surface that contrasts with the glossy burnish near the rim. The exception is the band across the centre of the bowl, which has been filled with incised crosshatching. Similar crosshatching covers the side of the disc foot. At the back of the bowl, 2 oblique lines meet in a point near the base, creating a triangular area that is filled with parallel horizontal hatching. Above this area, where the bowl stem begins, the surface is covered with densely packed impressions similar to those seen on the bowl. There is some lighter coloured material caught in the impressed areas; while this could be a deliberate inlay, it appears mostly on the pipe stem and in patches, suggesting it may represent accidental rather than deliberate discolouration.

The object is complete, but has minor damage, including some loss of the outer surface of the bamboo shaft, some chipping to the top of the pipe stem, exposing the much lighter red colour of the clay beneath the outer slip, further small chips from the body and bowl mouth and some cracking of the pipe bowl. It has a weight of 473.7 grams, and is 621 mm long. The mouthpiece is 128 mm long, with a rim diameter of 10.3 mm, an opening at the top that is 7 mm wide, a body diameter of 75 mm, and a diameter around the base socket of 29 mm. The shaft is 26.5 mm wide and 26 mm thick. The hide sheath is 52 mm long, and the cord has a diameter of 2 mm. The pipe bowl has a length of 197 mm, including the area covered by the sheath, has a rim diameter of 32 mm, a body width of 68.5 mm, a base diameter of 31.2 mm, and a pipe stem diameter of 31 mm.

Collected by Donald Gunn from the 'Upper Nile' area, and presented to the museum in 1903.

This object is currently on display in the Court, case 39B.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [III, p. 110] - 1903 [pencil insert] 16 [end insert] DR D. GUNN Esq., M.B. 40 Dover Street, London, W. June. [...] [p. 113] - The following from the Shilluk tribe, Upper Nile. viz: [pencil insert] 113 [end insert] - large tobacco-pipe.

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

Written on object - SHILLUK, UPPER NILE. Pres. by Dr. D. Gunn, 1903.

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