Moru Misa jar

Moru Misa jar
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria ?Lui ?Lanyi
Cultural Group:
Moru Misa
Date Made:
By 1979
Handbuilt , Fire-Hardened , Decorated , Impressed , Burnished
Ht = 223, rim diam ext. = 115 by 113, shoulder diam = 200 mm [RTS 24/3/2005].
> 1000 g
Other Owners:
Purchased by Patti Langton between 27th January and 5th February 1979 for 25 piastres, as part of the British Institute in Eastern Africa's Expedition to the Southern Sudan [RTS 15/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Patti Langton
PRM Source:
Patti Langton
Purchased 1979
Collected Date:
Between 27 January and 5 February 1979
Pottery jar, hand made from a moderately well levigated reddish brown fabric (Pantone 470C) with tiny mica inclusions, soft fired a black colour over most of the surface (Pantone black 7C). This consists of a circular, everted pinched rim with mouth sloping down on the interior, on a short concave sided neck and globular body with high rounded shoulder and convex base. The shoulder, body and entire base have been covered with tightly spaced impressed decoration, probably rouletted. The impressed band that runs around the shoulder area has been further decorated with groups of incised lines that cut into it; these consist of lozenges, their upper parts made up of 3 parallel lines on each side, their lower parts of double parallel lines. These highly textured surface areas have been contrasted with glossy reserved areas, including a broad band covering the neck zone, and a narrower band on the shoulder, below the incised and impressed area described above. There are also 2 rows of smoothed alternating elongated ovals and circles running around the lower body on top of the impressed texturing. The surface of these smooth areas has a metallic sheen, and may have been applied using a ball of graphite. There are traces of this burnished finish on the rim and mouth interior as well, but the effect is not as strong as elsewhere. It would appear that the burnishing was done as the last stage in the decorative process, as it overlies the other forms of decoration in some areas. The object is complete, with a minor chip and hairline crack on the edges of the rim. It has a height of 223 mm, a rim diameter of 115 by 113 mm and shoulder diameter of 200 mm.

Purchased by Patti Langton for 25 piastres, as part of the British Institute in Eastern Africa's Expedition to the Southern Sudan. The collection place and date are not stated, but Langton appears to have been collecting Moru material from Lui and Lanyi between 27th January and 5th February 1979. Records do not indicate the local name for this vessel, or how it was used.

The black surface finish is described in museum records as a 'graphite finish'; amongst the tools of the Zande potter Mbitim was a ball of graphite that he used in decorating pots (see 1934.8.132.8), and it may be that Moru Misa potters made use of the same technique. For a photograph showing a female Moru potter using a roulette to apply decoration to a pottery vessel, see N. Barley, 1994,
Smashing Pots, p. 36 top (photograph by John Mack; this similarly covers large parts of the vessel surface). Different styles of grass roulette are also found in the collection; plaited grass strings (1979.20.28, Moru Misa; 1979.20.125-6, from the Dinka Tuich), and string wrapped around sticks (1949.20.27, Moru Misa). A number of South Sudanese clays seem to contain particles of mica, including those used by the Zande and Bongo (P.M. Larken, 1926, "An Account of the Zande", Sudan Notes and Records IX no. 1, p. 4; G. Schweinfurth, 1873, In the Heart of Africa Volume I, p. 292; Volume II, p. 25).

Rachael Sparks 29/8/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 185] - 1979.20 (.1 - 206) P[urchase] MISS PATTI LANGTON, DEPT. of ETHNOLOGY & PREHISTORY, OXFORD. Collection made by Patti Langton during the British Institute in East Africa's expedition to the Southern Sudan; Jan. - April 1979. The collection was made in three culture areas during the dry season. The amount paid for each object is listed if the information is known. In Jan. 1979 £1 is equivalent to 95 piastres (pt.) Sudanese. This documentation is based largely upon Patti's own list of objects and her notes on these. Sometimes objects included in the Pitt Rivers alottment of the collection do not appear on her list and have been added here. See Related Documents file as well. [pp 185 - 186] 1979.20.1 - 42 SOUTHERN SUDAN the MORU MISA The Moru Misa live about 100 miles west of Juba, the capital of the Southern Sudan. Part of the collection was made in Lui, a small town which has had extensive church and missionary activity over the past 50 years (excluding the period of civil war) and which now boasts a church, a hospital and a number of schools. The rest of the Moru Misa collection was made at Lanyi, 15 miles away, where the paramount chief of the area, Chief Elinama, arranged for people to bring artifacts for us to buy. Although money is known to the Moru, its use is limited and the concept of selling belongings is foreign to them. Hence the low prices and the relatively small number of artefacts. The Moru Misa are a geographical section of the Moru people. The Moru practice agriculture for subsistence; they do not keep cattle any longer. [p. 188] 1979.20.14 - Small burnished pot. H = ca. 22 cm.; Diam. = 11.4 cm. 25 pt., coll. no. 38.
Additional Accession Book Entry [in red biro under accession number] - A5-F32-4 A5-F23-1.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 2/6/2004].

Related Documents File - 1979.20 contains a typed packing list, which has been annotated; a typed list of objects arranged by Langton collection numbers and with pencil and biro annotations, and a handwritten list of objects by museum number, essentially repeating this information and annotated with PRM photo numbers in red. This handwritten list seems to be the direct source for the accession book entry. This file also includes a black and white photograph is enclosed, marked on back in red 'Moru', then in biro 'number 38, dark red ware; graphite finish', with a PRM stamp and reference 'A5 F23'. A letter from John Mack (Museum of Mankind) to Lynn Williamson (PRM), dated 1st July 1980, regarding discrepancies in the division of the Langton material, states that he had 'written on the back of your photographs where in each case the pots appear to come from. I think it is accurate.' This is probably the marking done in red pen; the biro matches Lynn Williamson's handwriting on some accompanying notes, which further describe this object 'roulette decoration over shoulders and all of body. Incised X lines on shoulder. Smoothed graphite finish over rim, neck, a band below shoulder, and round patches over rouletting. Rounded base. This vessel appeared on a typed list of objects in the RDF as a handwritten addition, and no details are given regarding where it was purchased or the purchase date [RTS 12/1/2004].

Written on object - 38 [white chalk], S. SUDAN, MORU MISA, Pat Langton, 38, 1979.20.14 [white ink; RTS 24/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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