Anuak bowl

Anuak bowl
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Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Anywaa [Anuak]
Date Made:
By 1936
Gourd Plant , Pigment
Hollowed , Dried , Decorated , Incised , Inlaid , Pyroengraved Pokerwork
Ht = 145, rim daim = 279 x 224, rim th = 3 mm [RTS 18/8/2005].
163.9 g
Local Name:
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
Bowl made from a plant gourd, cut in half to create a hemispherical body with narrow, upright, flat-topped rim and convex base. The natural shape of the gourd means that the rim is thickened on opposite sides, representing the base and stem of the original plant. It is oval in plan view. The outer surface is a glossy orange colour (Pantone 7517C), while the interior is a matt yellow (Pantone 7508C). The upper surface of the rim has been blackened, possibly through burning, and the outer surface has been covered with incised decoration, coloured with a black pigment (Pantone Black 7C). Some of the lines are very finely applied, and have not been blacked in, perhaps suggesting that the decoration was never completed. It consists of a horizontal band of geometric patterns running around the upper body, with gaps on opposite sides of the bowl at the points where the rim thickens. This band is itself composed of a narrow strip of chevrons, some of which are interrupted at their centre, with a similar strip of interrupted chevrons running in the opposite directly below, in both cases framed by horizontal lines at top and bottom. Finally, there is a narrow band filled with crosshatching alternating with very faint wavy lines, and a further single horizontal line below. One one side of the rim, directly below the thickened 'spout', the semicircular gap between this geometric design has been marked out with an incised line at its base, and cut vertically by a checkerboard panel with concave sides. The space on either side of this motif are filled with vertical columns of horned animals with rectangular, crosshatched bodies, curving horns and long tails, probably oxen or bulls. The 'gap' on the opposite side of the vessel has been left blank. Below the rim band, the rest of the body of the bowl has been divided up into a series of large panels by straight and curved lines. Below the 'spout' area, is a small rectangular panel filled with crosshatched wavy bands at its centre. To the right is a large area, filled with a village scene that seems to represent a fishing expedition. This consists of 4 rectangular motifs with banded patterning, above 4 smaller patterned rectangles. It is not clear what these represent - possibly buildings, compounds, or mats, with a group of trees with fine roots to the right. Below is a row of 5 conical huts, with 2 anthropomorphic figures standing between them, and then a faintly delineated river with 2 men in a canoe. The man at the back holds what is either a paddle or spear; the man at the front has a long fishing spear with barbed head in one hand, and another spear with detachable line in the other. To their right is an unknown motif (plant or animal?), 2 small fish, a longer fish or eel, and what is probably a crocodile. To the right of this panel is a triangular panel, decorated with a group of 6 birds at the top, then 5 snakes filling most of the surface below. To the right of this is another semicircular panel, the central part of which is filled with a vertical group of animals, consisting of 2 lizards or crocodiles, 2 circular tortoises or turtles, then on the left, 2 horned quadrupeds with rectangular bodies, and on the right, a hunter with a long spear in one hand, and a bow or club in the other. Finally, the underside of the bowl has an additional circular design, made of a ring decorated with alternating crosshatching and wavy lines, similar to the design used on the upper body, with a small semicircle extending from one end. It is not clear if this is also meant to be representative. The vessel is complete and intact, with slight insect damage on the interior. It has a weight of 163.9 grams, and is 145 mm high, with a rim diameter of 279 by 224 mm and a rim thickness of 3 mm.

Presumably collected by Evans-Pritchard during his period of fieldwork amongst the Anuak between early March and May 1935 (see (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940,
The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 3).

This type of vessel was used for holding beer, water, or porridge, and is known locally as
awäl. Although the rim may have been blackened by burning, the majority of decoration has been applied using a technique similar to that used by the Northern and Southern Larim, who incise a pattern into the surface using a needle, then rub charcoal over the lines to colour them (see 1979.20.150). It differs from that used by the Dinka, who mark out their designs in charcoal, cut them into the surface with an iron needle then burn them in using a heated spear or knife blade (for an example of this method, see 1979.20.91). The Nuer and Zande also use pyroengraving techniques.

Rachael Sparks 18/8/2005.

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. 416] [insert] 79-81 [end insert] - [One of] 3 Large gourd bowls, awäl , for beer, water, or porridge, engraved all over the outside with figures of cattle, people, etc. etc. ANUAK.
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 415] - 1936.10.80 Number given. LMC. H[eight] = 140 mm; Max[imum] dia[meter] = 280 mm. [red biro insert above accession number] A13.F26.1-4.

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

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan. ANUAK tribe. Gourd bowl with figured decoration. Coll. & d.d. E.E. Evans-Pritchard. 1936.10.80 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 18/8/2005].

Written on object
- Awäl . Beer-bowl. ANUAK, E. SUDAN. d.d. E. Evans-Pritchard 1936 [RTS 18/8/2005].

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Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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