Dinka pendant

Dinka pendant
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1903.16.121 .1 .2
[Southern Sudan] [White Nile]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1903
Paste Glass , Synthetic , Plant Fibre , ?Cotton Yarn Plant , ?Animal Hide Skin
Twisted , Tied , Moulded , Decorated
Total L = 405 mm, L pendant = 73.8 mm, W pendant = 48.5 mm, Th pendant = 7.2 mm, diam cord = 1 mm [RTS 3/6/2004].
27.8 g (pendant with cord)
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Donald Gunn in the Southern Sudan and presented to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1903. 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’, Kodok
Field Collector:
Donald Gunn
PRM Source:
Donald Gunn
Donated 1903
Collected Date:
By 1903
Long cord made from twisted hide, or possibly cotton fibre, knotted together at the top. The end is fastened onto a light blue glass or paste pendant (Pantone 7459C), by doubling the cord, looping it through the hole at the top of the pendant, and then passing the rest of the cord through the loop and pulling it tight. The cord has also been knotted just above the loop, to prevent it coming undone. The pendant is of the type usually known as talhakim or talhakimt; this appears to have been made in a two part mould with a probable seam line running around the outside edges. It may be an example of an object made using the technique known as Prosser Moulding, whereby a cold paste is moulded under high pressure and then fired. The body is flat on the upper and lower surfaces, with the top and bottom edges bevelled to a narrow, flat surface running around the sides of the object. In plan view, the upper part of the pendant is pointed at the top, with the sides arcing convexly down before becoming straight sided; the lower part takes the form of a triangle with point facing downwards. There is a large circular hole for suspension at the centre of this upper part; the inside edge of the hole is flat. Both upper and lower surfaces are decorated with the same design. The upper half of the pendant is recessed, with a pattern of fine crosshatching covering the surface, leaving a non-recessed border some 3 mm wide around the edges. Below this there are three horizontal grooves running across the width of the triangle, and then a similarly crosshatched recessed triangle with raised, undecorated centre. The areas of crosshatched decoration are used to emphasise the shape of the pendant. The pendant and cord are both complete and intact; the cord is currently a light brown colour (Pantone 7508C). The recessed areas of the pendant have become encrusted with dirt, perhaps deliberately, as this makes the design more visible. The total length of the object is 405 mm, and it weighs 27.8 grams; the pendant is 73.8 mm long, 48.5 mm wide and 7.2 mm thick, and the cord has a diameter of 1 mm.

Collected by Donald Gunn in the Southern Sudan and presented to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1903. Museum records give only the generic provenance of ‘White Nile’ for this item; Gunn appears to have collected Shilluk material from the ‘White Nile’, ‘Upper Nile’, Kodok and Bor, Nuer material from around Lake No, Dinka material from the ‘White Nile’ and Arab material from Omdurman.

This is a type of pendant known by the Arabic term
talhakim; it was used as an amulet. For a discussion of this type of pendant in the Sudan, see A.J. Arkell, 1935, "Some Tuareg Ornaments and Their Connection with India", JRAI 65, 297-306 and R.K. Liu, 1977, "Talhakimt (talhatana), a Tuareg ornament. Its origins, Derivatives, Copies and Distribution", The Bead Journal 3.2, 18-22. Talhakimt (the plural of Talhakim? ) seems to be a term used in west and north Africa for a pendant form with triangular body and rounded top, made in agate, glass and plastic and usually worn in necklaces or to decorate the hair. The type may have originated in India, but subsequently is produced in both Europe and Africa. In the Sudan it seems to be particularly popular amongst groups such as the Tuareg (R.K. Liu, 1995, Collectible Beads, p. 241).

Arkell comments that among the Tuareg of Darfur, the red carnelian
Talhakimt were most valuable, and had in the past cost a riding camel or a female slave; by 1935, they could be purchased for under £1, while a blue glass 'copy' cost 1 shilling. Amongst this group, the ornament was worn only by women, and may have originated as a fertility charm. (Arkell 1935, 298).

Note that the material has an opaque glossy surface, and could be either made from either glass or a glass-milk paste, moulded while cold. See R. and J. Picard 1995. 'Prosser Beads: The French Connection' in
Ornament 19.2, where an almost identical pendant in the same colour is illustrated on p. 68; that example came from the Bapterosses factory in France. The suggestion in the accession book that this pendant was made in Austria may therefore not be correct; pendants were also made using the same techniques by factories in Gablonz in Czechoslovakia, and there appear to have been either German manufacturers or distributors for similar goods.

This object is mentioned by A.A. Blackman in his B. Litt. Thesis,
The Material Culture of the Nilotic Tribes of East Africa, 1956, p. 12).

Currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 107A.

Rachael Sparks 18/9/2005.

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. 114, pencil insert] 121 [ticked] [end insert] - Dinka charm pendant of glass made in Austria for trade.

Card Catalogue Entry - ANGLO-EGYPTIAN SUDAN, WHITE NILE, DINKA TRIBE. Charm pendant of glass made in Austria for trade with DINKA. d.d. D. Gunn, 1903 [RTS 19/2/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Neck pendant (made in Austria for trade). DINKA, WHITE NILE. d.d. Dr D. Gunn ... 1903 [rectangular metal edged tag, still tied to object, RTS 13/5/2004].

Publication History:
This object is mentioned by Blackman in his B. Litt. Thesis (A.A. Blackman, 1956, The Material Culture of the Nilotic Tribes of East Africa, p. 12).

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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