Nuer tobacco box

Nuer tobacco box
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1917.25.67 .1 .2
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1917
Wood Plant , Animal Leather Skin
Carved , Stained , Polished , Bent , Tooled
[.1] L = 630, Rim diam = 71 mm, stick diam = 26.5 to 10 mm down body; [.2] L = 78.5 mm, W = 77.5 mm, Ht = 28.5 mm, th = 2 mm [RTS 28/9/2004].
[.1] 214.4 g; [.2] 27.3 g [together] 241.7 g
Other Owners:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, probably collected in the period immediately before World War I (1909-1914) [RTS 1/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson
PRM Source:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson
Donated 1917
Collected Date:
By 1917
1917.25.37.1: Tobacco box, with the body carved from a single piece of wood. This consists of a broad upper end with narrow upright rim and a circular mouth on a cylindrical body with straight sides tapering in at the bottom, where the object becomes a solid stick, irregularly round in section, and tapering to a narrow rounded butt. The shaft area has been decorated with a series of concentric grooves carved in bands around the body; from the top downward these consist of groups of 7, 2, 3, 10, 6 and 11 grooves, with the last group extending right to the base. The interior of the upper cylindrical part has been hollowed out to create a deep cavity with walls tapering in slightly towards the bottom, where a mass of brown and orange material is preserved, still smelling strongly of tobacco. Tool marks are clearly visible on both exterior and interior surfaces. The box is complete, except for a small chip from the upper body, and a flattened section of flawed wood running up one side with horizontal cuts across the face and some surface damage. The surface of the wood has been stained a rich reddish brown colour (Pantone 4695C) and has been highly polished. This colour has either worn away or been left reserved in a broad band below the rim, where the lid fits into place, exposing the original yellowish brown colour of the wood (Pantone 7510C). The box has a weight of 214.4 grams, and is 630 mm long, with a rim diameter of 71 mm and a stick diameter of 26.5 mm narrowing to 10 mm at its base. The interior cavity is currently 111.5 mm deep.

This container has been fitted with a circular lid [1917.25.37.2], made from dark brown leather (Pantone black 7C). This was probably fitted over the mouth of the vessel when pliable and allowed to harden to shape, as it matches the form of the rim closely. The upper surface is irregularly concave, with a rounded outer edge on short upright sides with a flat cut base. The sides are covered with horizontal and oblique tooling marks, while the inner surface has been poorly prepared and is somewhat fibrous. The lid is complete and in good condition, with a weight of 27.3 grams. It is 78.5 mm long, 77.5 mm wide, 28.5 mm high and 2 mm thick. Together, lid and box weigh 241.7 grams.

Collected by Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, probably between 1909 and 1914, in the period immediately before World War I, somewhere along the Sudanese/Ethiopian border. It probably came from one of the eastern Nuer groups close to the now Ethiopian border, such as the Eastern Jikany.

Rachael Sparks 17/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VI, p. 54] - 1917 [pencil insert] 25 [end insert] MAJOR R.G. GAYER-ANDERSON , R.A.M.C. The Lodge, Old Marston, Oxon [pencil insert, p. 55] 67 [end insert] - Nuer tobacco-box, club-shaped, of wood, Sudan-Abyssinian frontier.
Additional Accession Book Entry
[page opposite 54] - A gift to the Pitt Rivers Museum in memory of Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, his twin brother Colonel J.G. Gayer-Anderson, C.M.G., D.S.O.

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

Detailed Pipes [Unsorted] Card Catalogue entry - Description: Nuer tobacco box, Carved from wood, dark brown in colour, in shape a tapered stick, ornamented at intervals by series of carved rings, swelling out at one end into a large receptacle for the tobacco closed by a hide cover. Length 63.3 cm, width across mouth of receptacle 7 cm, leather cover depth 2.5 - 2.8 cm, width c 7.9 cm. People: Nuer. Locality: Sudan-Abyssinia border. How Acquired: dd Major RG Gayer-Anderson 1917 [Drawing]

Related Documents File - Two letters dated 30/03/1917 and 13/04/1917 from the donor to Henry Balfour regarding the donation of the collection to the museum [EB 12/11/2001]. These indicate that the material was collected by Robert Gayer-Anderson himself, chiefly from the areas of Nuba, Kordofan and Bahr el Ghazal during 5 years he spent in the Sudan, and that they were given to the museum as an unconditional gift [RTS 5/12/2003]. The note in the accession book calling this gift 'in memory of' R.G. Gayer-Anderson is therefore somewhat enigmatic, as both Robert and his twin brother (Thomas G., not J.G.) were alive at the time of the transfer [RTS 5/12/2003].

Written on object - NUER tobacco-box, SUDAN-ABYSSINIAN frontier. Pres. by Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson, 1917 [RTS 28/9/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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