Anuak cup

Anuak cup
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Anywaa [Anuak] [Oromo]
Date Made:
By 1936
Buffalo Cattle Horn Animal
Carved , Turned , Decorated , Grooved , Incised , Polished
Ht = 129, Rim L = 91, rim W = 84, Base diam = 40, th rim = 3 mm [RTS 2/11/2004].
144.1 g
Other Owners:
Presumably collected by Evans-Pritchard during his period of fieldwork amongst the Anuak between early March and May 1935 [RTS 18/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Donated 1936
Collected Date:
March - May 1935
Tall cup made from opaque dark brown buffalo horn (Pantone black 4C). This has been carved and hollowed out, creating a vessel with narrow flat-topped rim, slightly irregular in thickness and evenness across the top, with a tall conical body below with slightly convex sides tapering in to a slightly defined foot with a bevelled face sloping down to a flat underside. The exterior has been decorated with five parallel grooves running around the circumference below the rim, and a further two grooves just above the foot. These appear to have been done while turning the vessel slowly, as although interruption marks are not visible, the grooves do not seem perfectly regular. The body is also irregularly formed, with varying wall thickness, and has no turning marks visible on the inside walls, suggesting that this was carved without mechanical aids. The rim is slightly pushed in on one side, and so the mouth does not form a perfect circle. It is not clear if this is an original feature or due to warping of the horn. The actual foot, on the other hand, shows clear turning marks, both on its underside, in the form of regular concentric grooves running from near the centre to the outside edge, and on its inside face, where there is a depression at the centre surrounded by lighter concentric marks. The latter implies the use of some kind of a drill to remove the interior, and/ or a lathe to work the base exterior. It is not actually clear whether the cup body and foot are made as separate pieces, fitted together, or carved as a single unit. The interior and exterior of the cup have been polished. Two small square sectioned wedges have been driven into body just above the foot, on opposite sides of the vessel, with tapering ends that just penetrate into the base interior of the cup. The reason for these is not clear. The cup is complete, but there is some damage; slight lamination to the horn surface is visible along a small part of the rim; there is a vertical split down the inside wall, and some splits from the outside edges of the foot, particularly where the wedges have been driven in. Just above this, there is some surface damage across the lower series of decorative grooves. The cup has a weight of 144.1 grams, and is 129 mm high with a rim measuring 91 by 84 mm across, and a base diameter of 40 mm; the walls are 3 mm thick at the rim.

Collected by E.E. Evans-Pritchard during his fieldwork amongst the Anuak, which took place between early March and May 1935 (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940, The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 3).

This type of cup was said to be copied from those used by the Oromo of Ethiopia. It can be compared to 1949.8.127, a rhinoceros horn cup from the 'Eastern Sudan', said to nullify poisoned drinks (collected in 1891), or 1908.26.5, a rhinoceros horn cup on a pedestal foot from the Burun, said to have similar properties; both examples seem to have strong turning marks, perhaps suggesting production on a lathe.

This object is currently on display in the Court, case 70C.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 410] - 1936 [insert] 10 [end insert] E. EVANS-PRITCHARD, M.A., Exeter College, Oxford. - Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, while travelling with a Grant from the Rockefeller Leverhulme Trustees, viz: [p. 412] [insert] 39 [end insert] - Tumbler-shaped beer-mug of buffalo-horn, ANUAK (copied from a GALLA type).

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 30/1/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Beer-mug of buffalo-horn. ANUAK, E. SUDAN (copied from a GALLA type). d.d. E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936 [Rectangular paper label, originally stuck to surface of object but since detached, leaving a rectangular patch on the surface where it had been; now stored in RDF file; RTS 11/11/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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