Nuer cattle ornament

Nuer cattle ornament
Other views of this artifact:


Accession Number:
2005.40.1
Country:
Sudan , Ethiopia?
Region:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Gaawar Nuer? Lak Nuer? Thiang Nuer? Baggara Arabs?
Date Made:
on or before 1922
Materials:
Animal Leather Skin , Copper Alloy Metal , Brass Metal , Cowrie Shell , Plant Fibre , Palm Fibre Plant? , Grass Fibre Plant?
Process:
Basketry , Stitched , Cast , Bound , Wound , Dyed
Dimensions:
Cylinder L = 380; top diam = 89 x 87.5, lower diam = 97 x 94, cowrie L = 17, W = 12; strap L = 1320 and 1340, W = 35, th = 4, th with beads = 13 mm; bell L = 51, mouth diam = 45 x 37; suspension loop L = 30 mm [RTS 29/9/2005].
Weight:
> 1000 g
Other Owners:
Given to Percy Coriat in about 1922; auctioned by his wife Kay Coriat and daughter Honor Baines in the Autumn sale of Finian and Co on Saturday 9th October 1999, lot number 263; purchased by Douglas H. Johnson for 1650 at that sale, and donated to PRM on
Field Collector:
Percy Coriat
PRM Source:
Douglas H. Johnson
Acquired:
Donated 4th March 2005
Collected Date:
circa 1922
Description:
Ornament for decorating a favourite ox, consisting of a basketry cylinder fitted with long straps. The body has been built out of a series of fibre coils woven together with narrow strips of a yellow palm fibre or grass (Pantone 7508C), forming a long cylinder. This has been left open at both ends, one of which is slightly smaller than the other, and both openings covered with an edging of red dyed leather, sewn along their lower edges using red leather thongs (Pantone 4695C). The outer face was then covered with rows of cowrie shell beads. The back of each shell has been perforated with a large hole, and they have been laid end to end, with their lips facing outwards, and sewn onto the basketry body using narrow strips of brown leather (Pantone 7533C). These have been arranged as 3 horizontal rows at the top and bottom of the cylinder, with a series of vertical rows filling the space between. Three short suspension loops have been added along one long side of the cylinder, made from hide strips bound round with red leather thongs and sewn through the basketry wall.

On the opposite side of the object, two long straps have also been sewn in place, fastening over the smaller end. These are decorated on their upper surface by 3 rows of cowrie shell beads, matching the beading on the body. The placement of these beads suggests the straps were meant to extend downwards from the place where they have been attached - otherwise the shells would not be visible. The straps have flat-cut ends, each pierced with two holes. One of these has a brass bell attached by some leather strips (Pantone 871C). This has probably been cast, and has an elongated loop at the top, made in one piece with the bell body, which is conical and flares out to an oval bell mouth; the lip of the mouth and top of the bell are both delineated by slight collars and it is dented in one side. It is not clear if this bell was designed to have a clapper; none is now present. There are some broken thongs in the adjacent hole, and also in one of the holes on the other strap end, suggesting that there may once have been additional ornaments or bells in place.

The object is nearly complete; in addition to the missing bells, there is a single cowrie shell missing from one of the long straps, and a second shell missing from the edge of the larger opening. It has a weight in excess of 1000 grams. The cylinder is 380 mm long, with end diameters of 97 by 94 and 89 by 87.5 mm respectively; the cowrie shell beads vary in size, but a typical example is 17 mm long and 12 mm wide. The straps are 1320 mm and 1340 mm long, with a width of 35 mm and thickness of 13 mm, including the shells, or 4 mm for the leather by itself, while the bell is 51 mm long, with a mouth diameter of 45 by 37 mm; the small suspension loops are around 30 mm long.

This object was given to Percy Coriat by a Nuer in around 1922; it was auctioned after his death by his wife, Kay Coriat and daughter Honor Baines n the Autumn sale of Finian and Co on Saturday 9th October 1999 as lot number 263, where it was purchased by Douglas H. Johnson. Donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum on 4th March 2005.

This object is said to be a quiver holder that was strung on a young warrior's favourite ox. Both Johnson and Coote agree that it is probably
not a quiver (D.H. Johnson and J. Coote, pers. comm. 2005); if it had ever served such a function, it would have needed to be fitted with some kind of base. Johnson has suggested that Coriat probably obtained this object from the Gaawar Nuer around Ayod, where he was then serving, although it could also have come from Lak or Thiang Nuer on the Zeraf island. Although Coriat may have obtained the object from the Nuer, Johnson suggests that it was not made by them; "It resembles the type of decorated leather sheath the baggara Arabs of Darfur and Kordofan sometimes place over the horns of riding oxen (though its diameter is wider and the design does not follow exactly the types that I have seen). It is also possible that it came from south western Ethiopia, where the Gaawar often went to trade ivory for rifles" (undated letter on file in the museum).

This object has similarities to 1966.1.736, which is a leather strap with 5 rows of cowrie shells stitched to the outside face. It is wider than the Coriat object, but the style and technique of manufacture is very similar; it is said to be from the Badadiri tribe in North Eastern Bageshu in Uganda; see also 1940.7.0292, a breast ornament incorporating cowrie-covered straps.

Rachael Sparks 29/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Acquisition form - Received from: Douglas Johnson ... Oxford. Cowry-covered leather object that once belonged to Percy Coriat. See Donor's letter recieved 4 March 2005 for further details [in Related Documents File; ZM 26/7/2005].

Day book entry - AFRICA, SUDAN. Hollow leather cylinder with 3 suspension loops along one side and 2 long straps sewn onto one end. Cylinder and straps are covered in rows of cowrie shells, and there is a copper alloy bell attached. Given to Percy Coriat around 1922, in the Upper Nile Province; sold at auction by his wife Kay Coriat and daughter Honor Baines on 9th October 1999 (Lot no.263) as a 'Nuer quiver'. Purchased by Douglas Johnson for £1650 and donated to the PRM by him on 4th March 2005. [ZM 26/7/2005]

Pre-PRM label - Nuer quiver holder strung on young warrior's favourite bull. Given to P. Coriat about 1922, Upper Nile Province. CORIAT [Large blue and yellow label, printed 'COOKS WORLD TRAVEL SERVICE, cut down from original piece. Had been marked 'GUTERSLOT' on back and crossed out, replaced with 'CORIAT']; Part of Lot 263 [white paper label with sticker, from auction; stored in Related Documents File, RTS 29/9/2005].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan. NUER tribe. Hollow leather cylinider decorated with cowrie shells and bell. Coll. Percy Coriat ca. 1922. d.d. Douglas H. Johnson 2005. 2005.40.1 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 29/9/2005].

Related Documents File - Purchaser's invoice from The auctioneers Finan and Co., with sale date 9th October 1999, itemising several lots and including lot 263, which is the item donated, and which cost £1650 plus a buyer's premium. Undated letter from Douglas Johnson to Jeremy Coote [marked 'received 4/3/2005'] regarding donation of object with details of how the family described the object [see object tag]; Johnson states Coriat 'probably obtained it from Gaawar Nuer around Ayod, where he was then serving, but it could also have come from Lak or Thiang Nuer on the Zeraf island. It is not a quiver, but equally it probably does not originate with the Nuer. It resembles the type of decorated leather sheath the baggara Arabs of Darfur and Kordofan sometimes place over the horns of riding oxen (though its diameter is wider and the design does not follow exactly te types that I have seen). It is also possible that it came from south western Ethiopia, where the Gaawar often went to trade ivory for rifles'. Letter from Coote to Johnson, dated 4th March 2005, with thanks for the donation; letter from Johnson to Coote enclosing copy of auction catalogue pages relating to sale; letter from Coote to Johnson dated 25th March 2005 with further thanks and reference to the Coriat album of photographs that Johnson purchased in the same sale. The file also contains an original copy of the complete auction catalogue [RTS 26/7/2005].



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