Imatong tobacco pipe

Imatong tobacco pipe
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1940.7.087 .1 .2
[Southern Sudan] [Al Istiwa'iyah] [Equatoria] Eastern Equatoria ?Jebel Imatong
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1940
Cane Plant? , Bamboo Plant? , Pottery , Plant Fibre , Glass , Bead , Ash Wood Plant Tobacco Plant Ochre? Pigment?
Carved , Handbuilt , Fire-Hardened , Twisted , Strung , Tied Decorated Incised Inlaid
L = 279, pipe stem L (as visible) = 223, diam stem = 10.7 by 9.7, diam int. hole = 6 mm; beads L = 3, diam = 4 mm; cord diam = 1 mm; pottery pipe bowl L (stem to base) = 55, L (mouth to pipe rest) = 77; max diam stem = 22.3 by 22; diam mouth ext. = 35.5 b
70.7 g
Other Owners:
Samuel P. Powell
Field Collector:
Samuel P. Powell
PRM Source:
Samuel P. Powell
Loaned July 1940
Collected Date:
By 1940
Woman's tobacco pipe, made in several parts. The mouthpiece appears to be missing. The stem, 1940.7.087.1, has been made from a short cylindrical length of cut cane or bamboo, with a segmented body and hollow interior that shows signs of sooting; this is a warm yellowish brown colour (Pantone 7509C). The lower end has been shaved to allow it to fit into the top of the pipe bowl. A short handle has been attached, made from 2 strands of plant fibre twisted together to make a single cord; this is a light yellowish brown (Pantone 7508C). This was wound twice around the lower part of the pipe stem, with the two ends then brought together to act as a double handle and threaded with a series of cylindrical glass beads, in an opaque light blue colour (Pantone 2975C), with 2 slightly darker blue beads (Pantone 5493C) and a single green bead (Pantone 346C). The ends of the cord were then wound several times around the upper part of the pipe shaft, then threaded along the length of this binding to leave a small loop projecting from its top; this loop was also strung with light blue beads, and was probably used for suspension. 106 beads were used in the entire construction. A separate pipe bowl, 1940.7.087.2, was then fitted onto the base of the shaft. This has been hand made from a well levigated fabric with numerous tiny mica inclusions, fired black all over and burnished over the outer surfaces (Pantone black 7C). The bowl is hollow throughout. It has a cylindrical upper part, with a narrow flat topped rim and a body that swells out immediately below before becoming slightly concave. This joins onto a second piece at right angles, with a tapering spur forming the pipe rest on one side, and a body that swells out to form a trumpet-shaped bowl mouth on the other with a slightly raised collar rim, bevelled on its upper surface. The mouth is nearly circular, and the interior walls have been coated with white ash; there is a darker deposit of ash and perhaps tobacco visible in the base of the interior. The pipe bowl has been decorated with incised patterns, some of which appear to be deliberately infilled with red ochre or pigment (Pantone 484C). This consists of two main zones. The first occurs on the cylindrical stem, which has 2 parallel lines around the circumference, then a band of crosshatching that covers the swollen area below and a further incised line around its base. The second focuses on the bowl mouth and is quite strongly coloured red; it consists of 5 parallel lines around the lower part, at the point where the bowl comes off the stem body at right angles. Above this there is a broad band of crosshatching, divided into four quadrants by vertical motifs, made up of a single column of ^-shaped chevrons, that alternates with a double column of stacked squares. Above this, the sides of the bowl are slightly stepped, with each of the 2 steps being covered in similar crosshatching. The object is complete, except for the missing mouthpiece; there is some damage to the surface at the top of the pipe stem. It has a weight of 70.7 grams and is 279 mm long. The visible part of the pipe stem is 223 mm long, with a diameter of 10.7 by 9.7 mm; the hole through the centre has a diameter of 6 mm. The blue beads are of roughly similar size, with a typical example being 3 mm long and 4 mm in diameter. The twisted cord has a diameter of 1 mm. The pottery pipe bowl is 55 mm long, from stem top to base, and 77 mm long from bowl mouth to pipe rest. The swollen stem is 22.3 by 22 mm wide; the bowl mouth has a diameter of 35.5 by 35 mm and the rim is 4 mm wide.

Collected by Samuel P. Powell and given to the museum on loan in 1940. It is said to come from the
'Imatong' tribe, who are presumably a group located somewhere around Jebel Imatong, which is a mountain peak in Southeastern Sudan, in Eastern Equatoria, south of Torit.

This pipe was used by women; the beads are said to be trade beads. Lightweight pipes of similar type are known amongst other groups in the region; the closest is 1979.20.162 from the Northern Larim, also associated with women and with some similarities in decoration, but see also 1925.14.13 from the Lango, 1934.8.100 from the Jur and 1903.2.2 from the Bari. Most of these have a separate mouthpiece; it seems likely that the mouthpiece in this example is missing. Similar beads are known on objects from the Northern Larim (1979.20.154), Toposa (1979.20.206) and the 'Upper Nile' (1942.1.446).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [Loans II, p. 308] - ESTATE OF S.P. POWELL, C/O N.H. HASLAM, Esq. Manager, Westminster Bank, Stony Stratford, Bucks. Collected by himself. Data from his labels and notes. [p. 313] From the IMATONG TRIBE. EQUATORIAL PROVINCE, ANGLO-EGYPTIAN SUDAN. 1940.7.087 - Woman's pipe, pottery bowl, cane stem, decorated with 2 strings of blue trade beads.

Related Documents File - Appears on undated typed list: "Imatong pipe, as smoked by the women". List is annotated by hand on back: "List of Curios" and "Far from complete" [RTS 16/12/2003].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Woman's pipe. IMATONG. S.P. Powell [brown luggage label, tied to object; RTS 7/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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