Nuer shield

Nuer shield
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Wahda near Lake No
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By November 1923
Cattle Skin Animal , Animal Hide Skin , Wood Plant , Animal Hair , Iron Metal , Metal Wire , Animal Leather Skin
Carved , Perforated Stitched , Recycled , Covered Tied Plaited , Decorated Tooled , Bound Wound
L = 1718; shield body W = 480, L = 390, th at rim = 11; handle diam at cente = 13, top shaft diam = 11.5; cord W = 6, th = 5.5; hide handle W = 13.5 mm [RTS 31/8/2005].
>1000 g
Other Owners:
Collected by W. Sherlock Lennon on 17th February 1923 [misread as 17th November 1923 when making the accession book entry], donated to the PRM by his sisters Kathleen Constance Averina Knowles and Mrs Cameron in August 1946 [RTS 26/8/2005].
Field Collector:
W. Sherlock Lennon
PRM Source:
Kathleen Constance Averina Knowles & Mrs Cameron
Donated August 1946
Collected Date:
17 February 1923
Shield consisting of a small hide body mounted onto a long support stick. The body has been made from a thick piece of dark brown bullock hide (Pantone 7533C) with yellowish brown coloration in areas (Pantone 7509C). The outer edge has been folded up at right angles to form a projecting rim, and the centre moulded into the shape of a cone with hollow underside that serves as a space for the hand-grip. 4 slots have been cut down the centre, forming loops which hold the central pole in place. The inside edge of the shield has been fitted with a rectangular strip of hide with traces of dark brown and reddish brown hair preserved on its surface (Pantone 469C), moulded in place and then stitched together in 2 places using hide thongs . Holes have been cut in this sheath to allow the support pole to pass through its top and bottom. An oval piece of the much thicker hide has been used to line the interior of the hand-grip, still thickly covered with buff coloured and dark brown hair on its visible face (Pantone 7506C and 440C); this is held in place by the central pole, threaded through holes cut in its top and bottom; the central part of this pole serves as a handle. There is some use-wear around this area. An additional handle of reddish brown hide runs down the length of the shield body, parallel with this pole (Pantone 412C). On the front, this strip has traces of black hair and follows the contour of the shield body, similarly perforated along its length to match the loop holes and with some additional holes of unclear purpose; it then turns over at the ends and fits over the pole shaft through a large perforation in the hide. At this point, the top of the strip end has been perforated, while at its lower end, the hide divides into a series of narrower strips that run across the grip area before being tied off at the top. There is one short piece of hide binding around this handle. 2 additional loops have been added, made from recycled strips of leather belt sewn into a loop with hide thongs. These have a band of decorative tooling along either edge, and one piece has several holes down the length (for the buckle tongue on the original belt). A thick length of European plaited rope, square in section, has been doubled up and tied onto either end of this handle, providing a larger and more flexible suspension loop; this is a dirty yellow colour (Pantone 7508C). The wooden pole has a segmented body, and is roughly finished at both ends, making it unclear whether it is complete or not. The narrower part, possibly the upper part, has been decorated with a circular disc of hide, threaded onto the shaft, and then a length of copper or brass wire spirally bound around the body below. This may be a reused spring. The lower part of the shaft has been wound round with light grayish brown coloured strips of hide (Pantone 468C), with traces of long animal hair preserved at six places down the length, mostly a dark brownish black colour (Pantone Black 6C). The object may be complete, but the leather is perishing and one piece has broken away. It has a weight in excess of 1000 grams and is 1718 mm long; the shield body is 480 mm wide, 390 mm long and 11 mm thick; the wooden handle has a diameter of 13 mm and a diameter at the top of the shaft of 11.5 mm; the cord is 6 mm wide and 5.5 mm thick, and the hide handle has a width of 13.5 mm.

Collected by W. Sherlock Lennon near Lake No on 17th February 1923, and donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum by his sisters Kathleen Constance Averina Knowles and Mrs Cameron in August 1946.

For a similar shield, also collected in this region by Lennon, see 1925.2.1; there are minor differences, such as the use of metal bands versus wire to decorate the shaft, and the way in which the secondary hide handle has been attached.

Rachael Sparks 31/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 143]- LADY KNOWLES, 3 BRADMORE ROAD, OXFORD & MRS. CAMERON. Specimens collected by their brother, CAPT MAJOR W.S. LENNON, from the NUER TRIBE, SUDAN, 1923. Labelled by G. R. CARLINE. Coll. 17 Nov. 1923 [see research notes field]. [p. 144] 1946.8.95 - WHITE NILE, near L[AKE] NO. Circular Oval shield. of cow [insert] bullock [end insert] hide, with [insert] some [end insert] red and black hair remaining. Threaded on stick bound with hide and decorated with hair-tufts. Diam. of shield 18" x 15". Length of stick 5' 8". Iron wire wound spirally loosely round stick above shield. Stick threaded through short axis of shield.
Additional Accession Book Entry [page facing 143] - Major W. S. Lennon was District Commissioner in the Sudan.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 23/7/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - NUER shield WHITE NILE near L[ake] No. Coll. by Major W.S. Lennon 17 Feb. 1923. d.d. Lady Knowles & Mrs Cameron. 1946.8.95 [rectangular metal-edged tag, in 2 joining fragments; stored in Related Documents File]; AFRICA, SUDAN, WHITE NILE; NUER. Shield. Don. K. Knowles & Mrs Cameron 1946.8.95 [plastic label with metal eyelet, tied to object; RTS 26/8/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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