Lotuko necklet

Lotuko necklet
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
?Uganda ?Sudan ?Kenya ?Tanzania , ?Sudan
?North western Uganda [?Upper Nile]
Cultural Group:
?Lotuko [Otuho]
Date Made:
?By 1939
Ostrich Eggshell Bird , Glass , Cowrie Shell , Animal Hide Skin , Plant Fibre , ?Bast Fibre Bark Plant , ?Aluminium Metal
Twisted , Knotted Plaited , Chip Carved , Perforated , Strung , Polished
L = 353 mm, W across top necklet = 280 mm, W hide band = 6, diam wire bound area = 6 mm; ostrich eggshell beads diam = 6 to 14 mm, glass beads diam = 8.7 mm, L = 7 mm [RTS 25/8/2004].
approx. 850 g
Other Owners:
Entered under the name of Henry Balfour for convenience, but the original donor may have been Armine Charles Almroth Wright [RTS 25/8/2004].
Field Collector:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
PRM Source:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
Donated by ?1942
Collected Date:
?By 1939
Neck or chest ornament consisting of one or more cords of twisted plant fibre, possibly bast, bent into 14 loops and secured at either end weaving them in and out of a horizontal band of hide plaiting, with two short lengths continuing beyond this on the inside edges where they probably served as ties to fasten the ornament in place around the neck. These appear to be made of 4 strands twisted together. The plaited hide bands are formed from two narrow hide strips with a series of slots cut into the body, through which the other strip is passed. Their ends extend beyond the edges of the necklet, where their lower parts are bound around with a length of white metal wire, possibly aluminium. Above this, each band has been woven around a single cowrie shell bead with its back removed, with the two strips slotted through one another to secure them on the other side. In addition, on either side two narrow lengths of hide strip project from the plaited band area, and may also have acted as fastening ties. The top 13 strings of the ornament have been decorated with a series of disc shaped beads chipped from a cream coloured ostrich eggshell; these gradually increase in diameter from a minimum of 6 mm at the top, to 14 mm on the lowest string. The strings also change, with the top 4 strings being virtually horizontal and straight, and subsequent strings becoming gradually more curved. They also become gradually longer, with the top shell string having 163 beads in place, and the lowest one carrying 305 beads. The edges of these beads appear to have been polished. The lowest and final string has been decorated with 88 octagonal faceted beads with flat sides and ends, a typical example of which is 7 mm long and 8.7 mm wide. These are made of a opaque cobalt blue glass (Pantone 534C). The necklet is essentially complete, but the edges of some of the eggshell and glass beads are chipped and one of the eggshell beads is only half complete. The necklet has a length of 353 mm as strung and a width of 280 mm across the top; the wire bound tabs have a diameter of 6 mm and the plaited hide band is 6 mm wide. It weighs around 850 grams.

The collector and donor of this item is not certain, but may have been Armine Charles Almroth Wright or possibly come in as part of the collection of Charles Gabriel Seligman (see 1940.12). The object may have originated in the Southern Sudan or North Western Uganda.

This neck ornament has similarities to 1934.8.69, a single string necklet strung with ostrich eggshell disc beads and two blue faceted beads of the types seen here, and of similar dimensions. This was collected by Powell-Cotton in 1933 from the Lotuko, and it is possible that 1942.1.450 has a similar cultural origin. These blue beads also appear on a Dinka neck ornament in the British Museum (exhibited in the British Museum reading room in 2004 as part of exhibition 'Sudan Past and Present').

Carey suggests that ostrich eggshell beads were made by chipping the material to the correct size then boring a hole through it, after soaking the eggshell in water to prevent the material splitting. Several partially worked beads could then be strung together and the edges ground to finish them off. It was possible to make around one hundred beads of this kind per day (M. Carey, Beads and Beadwork of East and South Africa, 1986, p. 9).

Currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 105B.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

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] 1942.1.450 - Chest ornament (?) consisting of thirteen rows of ostrich egg-shell discs and a fourteenth row of blue beads strung on strings of twisted bast fibres, the rows increasing in length and the size of discs from top to bottom. No provenance given. EAST AFRICA (?S. A[NGLO].-E[GYPTIAN]. SUDAN, UGANDA-KENYA or N. TANGANYIKA TERR[ITOR]Y).

Card Catalogue Entry - No additional information provided on tribes card [RTS 26/1/2004].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - ?Chest ornament of ostrich egg-shell discs and beads. EAST AFRICA. 1942.1.450 [tied to object, RTS 25/8/2004].

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].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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