Acholi or Lotuko necklet

Acholi or Lotuko necklet
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
?Sudan , ?Uganda
[Southern Sudan] [Upper Nile]
Cultural Group:
?Acholi ?Lotuko
Date Made:
?By 1939
Glass , Cowrie Shell , Plant Nut , Plant Seed , Cat Claw Animal , Cat Tooth Animal , Grass Fibre Plant [Bead]
Twisted , Knotted , Perforated , Moulded , Strung
Strung L = 348, diam cord 1.3; tooth L = 72.3, W = 21.6, th = 13.3; claw L = 45, ,W = 50.5, th = 14.5 mm; gwen bor beads diam 2.8 to 5 mm; ring beads diam 9 mm (red), 7 mm (blue), worn ring beads diam = 8.2; faceted octagonal beads W = 8.8, purplish blue
78.2 g
Local Name:
[gwen bor]
Other Owners:
Found unentered in 1942, with the original donor being uncertain; it may be Armine Charles Almroth Wright, based on the likely object provenance, in which case Wright was probably collector as well as donor; however note that Seligman also donated Acholi
Field Collector:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
PRM Source:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
Donated by ?1942
Collected Date:
?By 1939
Neck ornament made from a yellow plant fibre cord (Pantone 7508C), made from two strands twisted together and tied in a knot at the top. This has been strung with a variety of beads and pendants that cover most of the cord's surface. The design is partially symmetrical, in that the maker has placed broad blocks of similar colours and shape on either side, with some sections mirroring each other closely - but then there are anomalies, such as the block of red, which appears on one side only, or the inclusion of a black seed on one side where a cowrie shell appears on the other. There are 37 beads down one side, 2 beads and 2 pendants at the base, and 38 beads up the other side. Several different types of beads are used in its construction. These include 2 sizes of cylindrical beads with a white core and a turquoise outer coating (7 small, 8 large), of the type the Lotuko call gwen bor , with some variation in tone from deep blue, mid blue to blue-green (Pantone 301C, 7474C and 7473C). These range in diameter from 2.8 to 5 mm. There are 7 examples of a larger type of ring bead, with a typical diameter of 9 mm, with flat cut ends and slightly convex sides, made in a similar way with a white core coated with red glass (Pantone 187C). There are 7 ring beads in various tones of blue, from royal blue (Pantone 2747C) to turquoise (Pantone 7468C), which have the same colour throughout their body, and a typical diameter of 7 mm; 2 very worn dark blue ring beads that look much older than the others (Pantone 294C), and are 8.2 mm in diameter; a series of 5 faceted octagonal beads, mostly in royal blue (Pantone 2758C), measuring 8.8 mm in width; a hexagonal sided cylinder bead in a different tone of purplish blue (Pantone 2718C) with a width of 5.2 mm, and 8 hexagonal beads with the corners flattened to create additional facets, in royal blue (Pantone 2747C), and 1 in turquoise (Pantone 325C) which measure 7 mm across. There are also 2 sizes of opaque glass beads with broad flat moulded midribs, in sky blue (Pantone 310C, 9 examples) and royal blue (Pantone 2728C, 1 example) - these have diameters of 4.8 and 5.5 mm. Finally, there are 3 cowrie shells, with varying amounts of their backs removed to allow them to be strung; an opaque black seed with convex sides that has been perforated through its centre (diameter 14 mm), and 2 dark brown nuts with hemispherical bodies and knobbed exteriors, bearing red ochre staining, that measure 15 mm in diameter. Dominating the base of the necklace are two large pendants, one being the incisor tooth and the other the claw of a large animal, possibly a lion. These are separated by two royal blue ring beads, and framed on their outer sides by the knobbed plant nuts. The tooth is 72.3 mm long, 21.6 mm wide and 13.3 mm thick; the claw is 45 mm long, 50.5 mm wide and 14.5 mm thick; this also includes the bony surrounds. Both have been perforated near their tops. The necklet is complete, and in good condition. It has a length, as strung, of 348 mm, with a cord diameter of 1.3 mm.

This object was found in the Museum collections in 1942, having not yet been accessioned. At the time, it was suggested that it may have come from the 'Upper Nile', perhaps from Armine Charles Almroth Wright. The style of the object cannot be placed precisely, although there are elements that point to an origin in the Southern Sudan/North Uganda border region, perhaps amongst a group such as the Acholi or Lotuko. Wright is not the only possible collector, however, as Charles Gabriel Seligman and Samuel P. Powell had both presented material from this region to the museum prior to 1942.

Note that the beads are plant seeds or nuts, not wood; their form is entirely natural; the same type of bead is seen on 1942.1.448, which may be of Acholi origin. Knobbed nuts of this type are also seen on an Acholi necklet, now in the Museo Preistorico ed Etnografico 'Luigi Pigorini' in Rome, accession number 96122 (Boccasino, 1964, "Contributo allo studio dell’ ergologia delle popolazioni Nilotiche e Nilo-camitche. Parte quarta. Il vestito, il tatuaggio, le deformazioni del corpo, gli ornamenti e la circoncisione",
Annali Lateranensi XXVIII, fig 47). The turquoise blue beads with white cores are the same type of bead that the Lotuko call gwen bor. The faceted dark blue beads look similar to those seen on 1934.8.69 (also Lotuko), and 1942.1.450. The glass beads with mould lines around the centre appear on a variety of other objects collected around the 1930's and 1940's, in a range of colours (see 1934.8.62, 1934.8.66, 1934.8.76 - all Lotuko, 1934.8.104, Jur, and 1940.7.049, Labwor?). The same bead shape appears in Arkell's collection of trade sample cards, purchased in Omdurman and el Fasher and originally made in Jablonec nad Nisou in the Czech Republic (see 1971.15.195, 1971.15.196 and 1971.15.257). Similar red beads with white core are also found decorating a Bari pouch (1934.8.43).

Rachael Sparks 14/9/2005.

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. 89] 1942.1.449 - Necklace of coloured beads, cowries, knobbed wood beads (same as those of 448), one animal’s (?lion’s) tooth and one animal’s (?lion’s) claw strung on grass (or fibre) string. No provenance given. UPPER NILE region, probably from the same locality as 448.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 29/1/2004].

Related Documents File - It is possible the donor has been incorrectly identified as Henry Balfour. In the Related Documents File is a list detailing: "Donors, or probable donors, of material entered under Mr. Balfour's name. 1942.1.44-451, Belts etc. ?A. C. A. Wright" [MR 2/5/2000].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Necklace of beads, cowries, seeds and ?leopards tooth + claw. ?UPPER NILE. 1942.1.449 [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 9/11/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
Help | About | Bibliography