Clapper bell

Clapper bell
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Sudan? , Kenya?
[Southern Sudan?]
Cultural Group:
Dinka? Nuer? Ganda? Nandi?
Date Made:
By 1932
Iron Metal
Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Bent , Perforated
L = 97; W top = 107; mouth W = 48, depth = 52; wall th = 1.5, diam hole = 8 mm [RTS 5/9/2005].
182.3 g
Field Collector:
Mervyn David Waldegrave Jeffreys
PRM Source:
Wellcome Historical Medical Museum
Donated 1942
Collected Date:
Clapper type bell, made from 2 rectangular sheets of iron, pinched closed on the top and side edges, with the central part opened up to form a near cylindrical hollow with almost circular plan view. The bell narrows towards its mouth. A hole has been punched through the upper part; this would normally be used to seat a suspension loop, either in metal or plant fibre, from which the clapper would be hung. In this example, both loop and clapper are missing. The bell body is otherwise complete, with some surface flaws in the metal; the surface has rusted slightly and is currently a dark reddish brown colour (Pantone Black 7C). The bell has a weight of 182.3 grams and is 97 mm long, 107 mm wide across the top, with a mouth that measures 48 by 52 mm across; the walls are 1.5 mm thick, and the suspension hole is 8 mm wide.

This bell was supposedly collected by Mervyn David Waldegrave Jeffreys in Southern Nigeria, and presented to the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, who subsequently donated it to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1942. The style of the bell is not consistent with a Nigerian origin, however, and it has been questioned whether this item originated with Jeffreys. The exact
origin of this bell is not known, as it is a type of widespread use. The museum has some Dinka examples (1934.8.14 and 1979.20.103), a Nuer example (1931.66.28), a somewhat larger Toposa example (1979.20.202) as well as unattributed versions (1884.108.6-7). Similar bells are also found in other cultures, such as the Ganda of Uganda; the Acholi also use this type as cow bells (M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, 1953, Tribal Crafts of Uganda, pl. 77I; p. 327). This object differs from Dinka, Nuer and Toposa versions in that the top edge of the bell appears to be welded shut, rather than just folded over, suggesting that these bells are made from 2 sheets of iron, not the more usual one. This may be indicative of a different cultural origin, although otherwise the shape is otherwise identical to the Nilotic examples.

Rachael Sparks 19/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry - Collections made by Dr M.D.W. Jeffreys, Bamenda, British Cameroons and given to the Pitt Rivers Museum by his direction from with his consent by the Wellcome Hist. Medical Museum 1020 Iron bell, made of two sheets of iron welded together, the upper part oval, the mouth circular in section, with flat ridge running down each side and a thin edge along the top and down the sides, with circular hole through front and back of the casing near the top edge, for suspension of the striker and of the bell itself. Striker missing Height 3 3/4" width at top 4 1/5 at the mouth 2 1/5" Probably a cattle bell ?Kikuyu [insert] Nandi [end insert] tribe Kenya E Africa (Orig No 36846 f) [Drawing]
Added Accession Book Entry - To 1942.WJ 1015 - 1024 These ten bells were labelled "Cattle bell S Nigeria Jeffreys coll" It is likely that they were included in the Jeffreys coll. by mistake, none of them can possibly be from S Nigeria. The type represented by 1942 WH 1015 - 1019 1942 WJ 1021 and 1942 WJ 1024 is stated to be specifically East African by Ankermann (Die Afrikischer Musik instrument pp 67 and 101) who records specimens from the north of Tanganyika Territory. It seems also to have a wide distribution in Kenya colony. Routledge records it from the Akikuyu (with a prehistoric people, p 112 113 Pl CXV 3) and there are several specimens from the Akikuyu in the Museum. Hollis figures a specimen from the Nandi (the Nandi, Pl XXX Calves' bell). The type represented by 1942 WJ 1020 and 1022, not mentioned by Ankermann, seems to be at home on the Upper Nile, the Museum has three specimens, labelled Central Africa, from the Petherick coll 1858 and one Dinka specimen collected by Major Powell Cotton 1934 a Nuer specimen is figured by Evans Pritchard (The Nuer p 32). But it is also known further south, Hollis figure a specimen from the Nandi (The Nandi Pl XXX, Cows' bell). The pellet-bell 1942 WJ 1023 not mentioned by Ankermann resembles the thigh bells worn by Akikuyu dancers and described and figured by Routledge (with a prehistoric people pp 112 and351, Pls CXV I and CIV). The museum has a specimen dd WS Routledge 1905, The leather support seems as a rule to be studded with cowries. See also the slit, pod shaped pellet bell worn by Masai warriors. Hollis The Masai pl XII 2. A specimen closely resembling 1942 WJ 1023 with the same plain leather support, is figured by Hollis, The Nandi, Pl XXXI Warrior's thigh bell. If all the ten bells described here are from the same people, which is a likely assumption, then they are probably from the Nandi, since they are, as far as can be ascertained, the only people that possesses all the three different types.
Added Accession Book Entry - Note on collection Daukes 3 June 1942 (see pocket) states that the following is the correct description: Jeffreys coll. d.d. Wellcome Hist. Medical Museum

Card Catalogue Entry - EAST AFRICA, KENYA, ?NANDI W.J. 1020. Wrought iron bell, made of two sheets of iron welded together, upper part oval, mouth circular, with flat ridge down each side and a thin edge along the top and down the sides, and circular hole for suspension of striker (missing) and bell itself. Probably cattle bell. Coll. M.D.W. Jeffreys, 1932. d.d. Wellcome Hist. Med Museum, 1942.

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Cattle bell. S. NIGERIA. 1942.W.J.1020 (orig. No. 36846F). Probably WHITE NILE region, ? DINKA [Circular metal-edged label, tied to object; RTS 1/9/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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