Waist ornament

Waist ornament
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Uganda? , Sudan?
?Northeastern Uganda [Southern Sudan?] [?Upper Nile]
Date Made:
?By 1939
Animal Hide Skin , Lizard Skin Reptile , Iron Metal , Brass Metal , Tin Metal? , Bead , Plant Fibre Ochre
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Bent , Twisted , Perforated , Stitched Strung Recycled
L (partially extended) = 550, (in its current doubled over form) = 360; W band = 4.5, th = 4 mm; amulet L = 150 with tassels; skin part L = 36, W = 38.4, th = 5.8; tin strips L = 30, W = 6; tassel W = 3; bead diameter c. 5.3 mm [RTS 16/6/2005].
34.0 g
Other Owners:
Donor unknown, assigned to Henry Balfour for convenience; actual donor possibly Armine Charles Almroth Wright [RTS 15/6/2005].
Field Collector:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
PRM Source:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
Donated by ?1942
Collected Date:
?By 1939
Waist ornament consisting of a narrow hide strip, spirally twisted along its length, with traces of buff to orange animal hair across the surface (Pantone 729C). This has been perforated at one end, where a second, shorter strip has been attached to extend the length of the waist band, secured at the other end with a loose knot. At the centre of this hangs an ornament or amulet, attached by 2 iron rings with slightly open ends (Pantone 877C). The amulet body has been made from a piece of greenish yellow reptile skin (Pantone 7501C), folded over a circular iron frame that seems to be made of 2 separate loops placed together. This has been stitched together around the edges with a length of plant fibre cord, leaving the base open and the frame slightly exposed. The suspension rings are attached through holes near the top edge, while various decorative elements hang from the base. These include 3 rectangular strips of a flexible white sheet metal (Pantone 8003C), most probably tin or tin-plated steel, and possibly recycled from a tin can. Each strip has been folded over the iron frame, to hang down with one side longer than the other. There are also 2 iron disc beads threaded onto the ring between each strip. Interspersed between these are 4 tassels, made from narrow hide strips fitted through holes in the lower part of the reptile skin body and doubled over. These have been strung at the top with a group of 4 beads, 2 brass (Pantone 871C) then 2 iron, leaving the rest of the hide strip to hang down as a double tassel. The beads are disc-shaped, with sides varying from straight, to slightly convex sides. The object is complete; the hide is no longer flexible, and there is some surface corrosion on the iron and brass elements. Red ochre has been smeared over most of the surface of the object (Pantone 478C). It has a weight of 34 grams. The waist band has a length of around 550 mm (it could not be stretched out to its full, original length), and is 4.5 mm wide and 4 mm thick; the decorative pendant has a total length of 150 mm; the skin body is 38.4 mm long, 36 mm wide and 5.8 mm thick, while the tin strips are 30 mm long and 6 mm wide, the tassel strips are around 3 mm wide, and a typical bead has a diameter of 5.3 mm.

The original collector and donor of this object are not known, but it may have come from Armine Charles Almroth Wright; an origin in the Southern Sudan or Northern Uganda is probable. The style of the object is in keeping with a Nilotic origin; it is reminiscent of a number of amulets collected by Donald Gunn around the Lake No region of Southern Sudan (e.g.: 1903.16.122), although they differ in a number of details.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [XI, p. 75] - The late H. BALFOUR, Esq. F.R.S. Specimens from different parts of AFRICA found unlabelled. As it is impossible to identify the real donor, or donors, it is assumed for convenience in using the Donor's Index that the specimens are given by Mr Balfour. Mostly without indication of provenance. [p. 87] 1942.1.444 - Belt of twisted hide thong, with a [insert] suspended [end insert] small flat circular ornament of lizard skin with attached [insert] short [end insert] hide thongs, iron beads and strips of sheat [sic] iron. No provenance given. Probably UPPER NILE (S. SUDAN or N.E. UGANDA).

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 28/1/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Belt ?UPPER NILE 1942.1.444 [L.Ph 'DCF 2004-2006 What's Upstairs?' 29/4/2005]

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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