Burun cup

Burun cup
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Blue Nile] [Upper Nile] Between Sobat River and Fazughli
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1908
Rhino Horn Animal
Turned , Drilled , Decorated , Incised , Polished
Ht = 121 mm, Rim diam = 92 mm, Diam stem at flange = 27.5 mm, Diam base = 57.5 mm [RTS 27/8/2004].
217.7 g
Other Owners:
Mrs H.K. Eden
Field Collector:
Francis Reginald Wingate
PRM Source:
Mrs H.K. Eden
Donated September 1908
Collected Date:
By 1908
Cup carved from a single piece of rhinoceros horn and consisting of an everted rim, slightly flattened on the top, with walls flaring concavely in to form a tall body with sharp lower edge and flat underside on a slender, spool-shaped pedestal foot with a projecting bevelled flange halfway down its length, flaring out to a solid disc base with flat underside. The latter has a very lightly incised or scratched rosette design on its surface, with veined leaves radiating out from a central point. There are clear turning marks around the inside and outer walls, stem and base, and the interior may have been removed using a drill. The outer surfaces have been polished. The horn is a mottled translucent caramel and dark brown throughout (Pantone 465C and 7533C), and is complete and intact. The cup has a rim diameter of 92 mm, a mid-stem diameter of 27.5 mm, and a base diameter of 57.5 mm; it is 121 mm high and weighs 217.7 grams.

This cup was collected by Francis Reginald Wingate from the Burun tribe, somewhere between Fazughli and the Sobat River. It was presented to the museum by Mrs H.K. Eden in 1908.

This is a type of drinking cup presented as a mark of special friendship and esteem amongst some Sudanese tribes, as it is said to neutralise poisons in drink; the material is said to bestow powers against scorpion bite on water (pers. comm. to Museum by Sheikh M. Shamrawi, Oxford University 1909).

For another Sudanese horn cup of simpler form, also said to neutralise poisons, see 1949.8.127.

Currently on display in the Court, case 29A.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 79] - 1908. Mrs. H.K. EDEN , Hillbrow, Rugby. [insert] 26 [end insert] Sept. [insert] 5 [end insert] - Rhinoceros horn cup believed to neutralize poisons, Burun tribe between Fazogli & the Sobat River, Blue Nile, collected by Sir R. Wingate.
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. opposite 79] - A6-F9-1 [red biro].

Detailed Amulet Card Catalogue - Amulets I Prophylatic J-K Evil Eye L Luck, prosperity M Skill, nat[ural] powers N Health, Strength, Long life - Poison -- I. Specific prophylactic amulets - I.1 Poison - Description: Drinking cup of rhinoceros-horn, turned on lathe. It is the general custom amng [sic] Soudanese tribes to present to their friends these cups, which are believed to neutralise poisons in drink. The gift is a mark of special friendship and esteem. Dim. Outside mouth diam. 94 mm., ht 126 mm. People: Burun tribe. Locality: Country betw. Fazogli & Sobat R., Blue Nile, frontier of Abyssinia. Collected by: the Sirdar, Sir R. Wingate. How Acquired: d.d. Mrs. H. K. Eden. Sept. 1908. [Written on back of card] Rhinoceros-horn vessels are said to impart to water a specific virtue against scorpion bite. Sheykh M. Shamrawi. Oxford Univ. 1909. [GI 5/3/2002].

Written on object - Cup of rhinocerous horn from the BURUN tribe, country between FAZOGLI & the SOBAT R., BLUE NILE (Abyssinian frontier). It is the general custom among Soudanese tribes to present to their friends these cups which are believed to nullify poisons in drinks. The gift is a mark of a special friendship & goodwill. Collected by the Sirdar, Sir R. Wingate, Pres. by Mrs. Eden, 1908. [DCF Court Team 28/1/2003].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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