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Hello,

At Mervyn's request, here is a selection of the Zulu material held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Only a minority of the objects are weapons but I would thought I would post the lot as they make a good cultural 'bundle'. The majority of our Zulu items are headrests, bracelets/armlets, and bead belts.

The dates vary considerably - ignore any dates in museum numbers in the photographs - they can often be years later that than the date of collection. Some do date to the time of the Zulu Wars, acquired and brought back by British soldiers or the families of civil servicemen in S. Africa. Others are much later (post ww2).

If you have any specific queries about an object, please ask. Otherwise, any comments about any of the items would be interesting to hear.

Enjoy!

Helen

(P.S. The boring bit but I am supposed to say it - 'All images are under copyright as property of the University of Oxford and should not be reproduced or distributed either electronically or in print without full permission'. Thank you! :)

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Dear Helen - I must say thankyou for your time and trouble . I kept asking because I thought you would have some rare pieces in the collection - and boy ! was I right. Many people will look at these and see tribal artifacts, but the Zulus have to be looked at as Africa's largest tribe (12.5 million) and also, culturally, as one of the most succesful. Granted - they did not have the written word - or, the wheel in the 1820's when they were first exposed to Europeans - but what they did have were a stable monarchy, the best weaponry and a sound family system.

When I have posted some Zulu items, members have shown interest and now, thanks to Helen, we have a selection of historical pieces which even many Zulus,will not be aware of and will never have seen.

I feel qualified to write a short description of each item - however, please don't think of it as definitive - they are my observations and other members must comment how they see them. Helen can put us right - although, I am sorry to say, I don't think much of the label descriptions.

I feel that some background on numbers may be helpful. Shaka inherited the throne from his Father in 1816 and at that time there were approx. two and a half thousand 'Zulus' - it was the family clan name and Shaka made other clans that he conquered take the generic name. When we fought the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, the general concensus, is that there were between two hundred and three hundred thousand Zulus and the Impis - or, army, numbered some 80,000 men. When I lived in Sth. Africa in the mid-1950's the Zulus numbered three and a half million - the last census showed twelve and a half million. I will go by Helen's post numbers - each of which have two or, three items :

1 Brass anklet - this could also be an upper arm band - one has to measure. The date is prior to 1879 - we destroyed all the brass castings.

2 Ivory - or, bone, comb. From the dull look prob. bone. Hand carved they were greatly prized.

2 MAAS spoon. This is like a curdled yoghourt and very popular and nutritious. As used to be with Welsh bridegrooms these were often carved

by the young man as a gift to his bride. The conical top represents a penis. One for an un-married girl will often have the shaft as two pieces.

3 .577 Martini bullets. These have been fired and were probably picked-up from one of the battle sites. Conical one has been filed down and the

round ones are musket balls fired from old 'trade' muskets - sold to the Zulus by European dealers. (Think of Native-Americans in the 1860's.)

3 Penis sheath - made from grasses and worn to give some cover to the genitals and to prevent erections. Over this they wore a small hanging

cover - often genet (mongoose) tails - called an iNendla. The back cover - from goat skin - is called an iBeshu.

4 Small dance shield- this is old, but they still use them in some ceremonies.

4 This is an old item - could easily be earlier than 1850's. A stool , and only the head of the Kraal was allowed to sit.

4 This is not for jiggers ( a particularly nasty insect, that lays eggs under the skin and which then happily 'munch' their way around your body.

It is in fact a concealed dagger and they were often carried for protection - they even had a type of sword stick. This is not to say that it

wouldn't be useful to take out thorns and larvae. The person who collected it probably saw it being used for this.

5 Zulu Axe. There are three types of Axes - those made by the Sotho people , those by the Swazis - usually triangular shaped and the homemade

Zulu ones - shaped like a hoe blade or, crescent.

5 Four legged headrest - used from the early 1900's by the women to keep a new hairstyle off the ground. The decoration has either been burnt in

or, they have carved the design and colured the raised bits.

5 Another dance shield. Too small to fight with - except in demonstrations.

6 Naive carving of a woman carrying a water jar. They make better weapons then they do sculptures. The best carvers are from Malawi.

6 Strip of brass rolled around a core of grass to make a neck band - men or, women.

7 Poor example of an IKLWA or, short style stabbing spear - reputed to have been invented by Shaka - in my opinion a copy of a Roman gladius.

This has had the leather binding renewed and I don't think it is Zulu - it lacks the tong marks that are always present - unless covered by the

binding. Also lacks the swollen handle end, which is necessary to pull the spear from a body.

7 Powder horn. Yes -the Zulus did use cow's horns for carrying the gunpowder for the 'trade' muskets. However, with the handle, I think this has

been turned into a beer horn for passing around - that, or , water. What is interesting, is that the studs are from British soldiers boots and

taken from the bodies after Isandlawana and other battles. They often turn up as decoration.

7 Aluminium necklace - made from an old saucepan.

8 This is a very rare item. When they saw how effective the long Martini bayonet was on the rifle - they made some of their axes with an

elongated top part in order to stab as well as slash. Not many were made. This one has a lovely handle.

8 Dick King's powder horn - used on the ride to Grahamstown. I think I would want more proof than a label. Dick King and his Zulu helper rode

700 miles from Durban to Grahamstown - the nearest British settlement - I think it was in 1838(?). Our first settlement was being besieged

by the Boers - who didn't like us then - or, later... He came back on H.M.S. Southampton with the 45th. Regt. and the siege was raised. Their

is a large bronze of him on horseback in Durban and he is one of our local heroes.

8 Typical necklet for man or, woman. Could be hand carved verdite - a semi-precious green stone.

9 UMUTSHU worn by married Zulu ladies around the waist. Shows their married status and stops men annoying them.

11 As in 3. Penis cover. Postcard shows it being worn - the actual grass cover is in the bag. Millions are sold to tourists.

12 The rarest item you have shown - and I have never seen one. Only the King could declare when an Impi had reached 'maturity' - it could be

as old as 40. He would then take on the responsibility of providing wives for the - up to - 1000 men. To show that they reached this seniority

the men would allow their hair to grow. When long enough they would have the centre of ther head shaved and the fringe was then rolled-up

inwards to the centre of the head. Heavily greased it eventually set as hard as wood - and remained with them for the rest of their life.

The name for this is the ISIKOKO and it marked them as men. I am ashamed to say, that in the Zulu War many Govt. officials put a bounty

(think of Native Americans and scalp bounties) on the bringing-in of Isikoko's and many warriors were killed and tortured to get this trophy.

So, this is a man's hair - made into his mark of maturity.

I hope that the descriptions have not been too long - but, at the end of the day we are dealing with the artefacts of a highly respected - and

formidable - tribe.

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Mervyn - thanks for taking the time to add these wonderful comments and insights - they will add greatly to our documented knowledge about some of these items....as you say the label info on some of them is pretty vague and sometimes just plain wrong! :) I will reply under each object's remarks, and sometimes provide a little more contextual information where I have it as it will help confirm or anticipate some of Mervyn's observations.

Today I only have time to tackle the first 4 but will get round to the rest later this week!

This is literally a toe-dip in the pool of the 500+ Zulu items we have. Unfortunately, our storage for the museum is only suitable for smaller objects...anything bigger than hand-size is kept off-site and often are not photographed. However, I will add more as and when I can.

Helen

1 Brass anklet - this could also be an upper arm band - one has to measure. The date is prior to 1879 - we destroyed all the brass castings.

Yes, the date '1884' on the label means this was formed part of Pitt Rivers original collection of around 20,000 items, given to found the museum in 1884. The notes say it was obtained by WA Fox Pitt (same family) of the 92nd Highlanders. This must be prior to 1881 then as this was when, I believe, the 92nd and the 75th combined to become the Gordon Highlanders. It measures 10cm in diameter.

2 Ivory - or, bone, comb. From the dull look prob. bone. Hand carved they were greatly prized.

We've got 'man's comb of horn'. Maybe the dullness is just a result of my photography skill! Collected in 1897. A little note attached says 'late matron, Berea Hospital, Durban, SA'. Quick search on google didn't reveal much about any such place.

2 MAAS spoon. This is like a curdled yoghourt and very popular and nutritious. As used to be with Welsh bridegrooms these were often carved

by the young man as a gift to his bride. The conical top represents a penis. One for an un-married girl will often have the shaft as two pieces.

Spot on, although I didn't know about the anthropomorphic representation! We've had it down as 'porridge stirrer, known as ukezo'. Collected by Antoinette Powell-Cotton from the Hluhluwe Reserve in 1935. The two Powell-Cotton sisters collected over 5000 Zulu objects, almost half of which they gave to the British Museum.

3 .577 Martini bullets. These have been fired and were probably picked-up from one of the battle sites. Conical one has been filed down and the

round ones are musket balls fired from old 'trade' muskets - sold to the Zulus by European dealers. (Think of Native-Americans in the 1860's.)

Yes, they were apparently from the battlefield of Kambula, 1879, part of the collection of General William Knox Leet. They came with a 'Zulu Kaffir headring' bound with plant fibre string and covered in parts with a black resin. I attach a photo of this in the next post, together with pictures of two other similar headrings, one believed to be Zulu, one Swazi.

Zulu headring collected by Knox, on or before 1879

old label: 'CHIEF'S HEAD-RING, PREPARED AND READY FOR WEARING. BELONGED TO THE SWAZI CHIEF Imbandene'.

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Old label: 'INDUNA'S HEAD RING, CUT FROM THE WEARER'S HEAD, WITH THE HAIR REMAINING ATTACHED. KAFFIR [sic], NATAL'

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Helen - item 2. Not horn - almost certianly bone. If Ivory it will feel 'cold'.

Item 3 and the Isikoko's. The bottom one - cut straight from the scalp is the correct one. However, I think that we have stumbled on something very important and which I was not aware of - I will contact the Museum at Ulundi and it will be interesting if any of the anthropological experts in UK have opinions. Quite simply, my observation is that these others are 'wigs' ! Many African peoples have a tendency to lose their hair as they get older - but, an Isikoko is a mark of status and it would be almost unthinkable for a senior chief to appear without one. Therefore, I think they had copies made , which could be worn in public. People living at the time may have been aware of this, but, I have never seen reference and I think it has been forgotten. Mervyn

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Mervyn & Helen

Fantastic stuff! I have read of the head rings before and that resin or wax was used to harden and hold together but I'd never heard of the gruesome custom of putting bounites on them. Sadly, it doesn't surprise me. Many people 'know' about the Native American custom of sca;ping dead foes but most don't know that the custom was in fact restricted to a small number of tribes/cultures until the Europeans arrived and began paying for scalps - the french for British scalps and vice versa. In fact I recall reading that a major reason for Texas finally lifting the bounty on Apache scalps, well after the American Civil War, was to do with the fact that scalps from peaceful Mexican farmers were far easier to collect and could not be readily distinguisehed from the hair of 'good Indians'. (General Phil Sheridan, who helped 'pacify' the American West famously remarked that "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

Mervyn, I have to call you on one thing. The idea of boot hobs being pried off for use as ornaments is a charming one but not, I fear very likely. One of my odder pastimes is hobnailing boots for fellow military re-enactors. Hobs properly installed actually peen over into a 'J" or fishhook shape most of the time and are the blazes to pull out, even using cobblers pinchers built for the job.

Also, the metal ornaments on the drinking/powder horn are not hobnails, which are square (pyramidal, not hemispherical or conical) by mid-nineteenth century and have grooves in all four faces. The metal on the horn look to be the brass tacks sold for ornament and in great numbers by the British - many many American native weapons and artifacts display decorative patterns picked out in tacks and I suspect they were used in Africa as well. They are still around as "furniture nails".

Wonderful information. Thanks to both of you for sharing the photos and your knowledge.

Peter

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Peter - yes, that's true - we have a number of American items (such as a Northern Plains gunstock club) decorated with brass, trade 'furniture tacks' (although they are a bit shinier than on this powder horn!). I suppose they could just have easily made it to Africa...?

Here is a picture.

Helen

P.S. This club (red on the opposite side) is one of my favourite objects in the museum!

Edited by helen

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Peter - very good point and I'm glad to have correct info.. 1879 period - yes- they did use hobnails from the boots - and they were the pyramid shaped ones you describe , and with wear on them. I think from that , we had assumed all of these studs were from boots. Thankyou - and it's good that at least two people are reading !

Helen - the attached carving of a Zulu man shows the Isikoko being worn. This is by a famous local artist and was carved in the last 40 years - however, it shows the importance of the 'ring'.

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Mervyn,

I have some bead bracelet's and ankle bracelets that were brought back to the UK by my Great great aunt from the Natal area in about 1900. I'll try and scan them. I hope that you may be able to give me some background information on them.

I was told by my Grandfather that they were "Zulu"

I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Mike

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