Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Object J.0014: Manilla Currency Piece - By Ellen Seidell

J.0014 is a manilla currency piece composed of a copper alloy material. The object is roughly 11.0 centimeters long and 10.5 centimeters wide with a spiral height of 4.0 cm and is composed of one thin strand of metal that has been twisted together approximately 45 times to form a rigid, semi-coiled bracelet. No clasps or mechanisms have been used to connect the ends of the bracelet most likely due to the fact that the material is inflexible and would have loosely fit on the wearers wrist or ankle. Compressed soil deposits can be seen in the grooves of each coil, obstructing some details of the piece. In addition, four locations possess mild copper corrosion that is blue-green in color, though there are no signs of flaking or powder to suggest instability or bronze disease. Given the light corrosion and present soil deposits, it appears that no previous treatments have been performed. Overall, the artefact is stable and no changes are necessary for its current storage. 

Excavated in the Calabar Province of Nigeria by M.D.W. Jeffreys between the years of 1890 and 1954,   
J.0014 is believed to have been a ‘Bochie’ style manilla that would have been used for value judgements during ceremonies such as weddings and burials. This style of manilla differs from the general currency manilla that was mass produced between the 15th and mid 20th centuries both in Africa and European countries like Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands. General manillas were no longer recognized as a currency in 1948, however, natives of the Calabar Province reluctantly took to this mandate and still continued to utilize all types of manillas in ceremonies and local trade. In particular, general currency manillas and those like J.0014 were composed of a transactional iron or copper, also known as ‘red-gold’ in Africa. The weight and size of the manilla would determine its value; J.0014 weighs a total of 440.0 grams which is lighter than some that weigh as much as 2300 grams. 

Due to the international production of manillas and their continual circulation for multiple centuries, the exact provenance of J.0014 remains unknown. Often when foreign manillas were brought to Nigeria, their metal would be recycled by local craftsman and forged into other manilla forms. Since J.0014 was used for ceremonial functions, it may have more likely been forged in the Calabar Province, though this would need to be validated using instrumental analysis such as X-Ray Energy Spectrometry. 

Condition image of J.0014 side 1 

Condition image of J.0014 side 2

Sketch exhibiting locations of soil deposits on frontal surfaces of J.0014 

DinoXcope image at magnification of 30 of soil deposits on coils of J.0014 

DinoXcope image at magnification of 25 of mild copper corrosion on end 1 of J.0014 


British Museum 2019, M. Jeffreys: Biographical Details. The Trustees of the British Museum.
< bioId=38608 >
UCL Ethnographic Collections 2019, J.0014 - Twisted Copper Anklet. UCL Ethnographic Collections Online Catalogue. 
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Edwards, E. 2010, Object Biographies: Manilla or Penannular Bracelet Currency, Rethinking Pitt-Rivers: Analysing the activities of a nineteenth century collector. < object-biography-index/19-prmcollection/78-manilla/index.html >
Ibitoye, S. A. and Ilori, M. O. 1998, ‘Indigenous metal casting in Nigeria: Its technology, attendant problems, business prospects and policy implications’, Technovation. Elsevier Ltd, 18(11), pp. 705–711. doi: 10.1016/S0166-4972(98)00052-2.
Jeffreys, M. D. W. (1950) ‘Contributors to this Number’, African Studies. Taylor & Francis Group, 9(2), p. 94. doi: 10.1080/00020185008706823.
Johansson, S.O. 1967, Nigerian Currencies: Manillas, Cowries, and others. 2nd Edition. ALFA- TRYCK, Skolgaton.
Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. 1960, ‘The Major Currencies in Nigerian history’, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 2(1), p. 145.
Logan, J. 2002, ‘Identifying Archaeological Metal’ Canadian Conservation Institute, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada
< institute/services/conservation-preservation-publications/canadian-conservation-institute-notes/ identifying-archaeological-metal.html >
Logan, J. 1988, 'Storage of Metals’ Canadian Conservation Ins)tute, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada
< conservation-preservation-publications/canadian-conservation-institute-notes/storage-metals.html >

Saturday, 18 April 2020

B.0073 Nigerian Quiver and Arrows

Object Description

                B.0073 is a bamboo quiver with four arrows (Figure 1) from northern Nigeria.  Altogether they artifact is 70 cm long and weighs 264.5 grams.  The arrows are made from iron and bamboo.  Arrows A and B have plant-based wrappings at the end of the bamboo shaft, near the nock, and on the arrowhead’s shaft which help fix it to the bamboo shaft.  Arrows C and D appear to have sinew wrappings instead, but otherwise are of the same design as arrows A and B. 

Figure 1. Quiver and Arrows
Figure 2. X-ray of Arrows A-D

Arrow A (Figure 3) weighs 27 grams and has a length of 71.9 cm. 

Figure 3. Arrow A

Arrow B (Figure 4) weighs 28 grams and has a length of 70.9 cm. 

Figure 4. Arrow B

Arrow C (Figure 5) weighs 38 grams and has a length of 71.5 cm. 

Figure 5. Arrow C

Arrow D (Figure 6) weighs 37.5 grams and has a length of 71.1 cm. 

Figure 6. Arrow D

Object Biography and Statement of Significance

            Dr. Michael Garfield Smith, who was the head of the Anthropology Department at UCL from 1969-1975 donated the artifact to the Material Culture Room.  Unfortunately, there is no record of exactly when he donated it to the MCR.  Additionally, it is unknown exactly where and when he acquired the artifact, but he did conduct numerous field research expeditions to northern Nigeria throughout his career. His first trip to Nigeria was from 1949-1950, and again in 58-59, 1972, with the last time being in 77-78.

Throughout history and even up to modern times, the bow and arrow has been an essential party of daily life for many Africa tribes that inhabit the regions of northern Nigeria.  Its chief use is to hunt game and associated goods like animal skins or horns.  Additionally, in some areas tribesmen use bow and arrows to hunt fish in rivers and streams.  Successful hunts brought not only food to the tribe, but helped the chieftain maintain his status.  In addition to hunting, the bow and arrow remains a key aspect of warfare between tribes.  Arrows are also an economic commodity in some areas, as not all tribes have access to blacksmiths to make new arrows. 

Assessment of Condition
                The artifact is in good shape, although the quiver is missing its leather sling.  There is some discoloration from use and exposure to sunlight.  The most obvious issue is corrosion forming on the iron arrowhead (Figure 7), which requires future intervention.  Additionally, the sinew wrappings on arrows C and D are beginning to fray (Figure 8). 
Figure 7. Corrosion on Arrow C

Figure 8. Sinew Wrappings on Arrows C and D

Kallab, M. (ed.), 1994, Testament: Life and Work of M. G. Smith 1921-1993, New York: Research Institute for the Study of Man

Planet Doc, 2014, Hunting Tribes | Tribes & Ethnic Groups, Retrieved on 14 April 2020 from World Wide Web:

Smith, M.G., 1953, The Social Structure of the Northern Kadara, London: Colonial Social Science Research Council

Smith, M.G., 1955, The Economy of Hausa Communities of Zaria, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office for the Colonial Office

Smith, M.G., 1975, Social Organization and Economy in Kagoro, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University

Friday, 17 April 2020

Object Assessment : K. 0010 - Flute

1. Object description

K. 0010 is a flute from UCL the Ethnographic Collections (Fig. 1). The object composites three parts: horn mouthpiece, long wooden stem and linen string that connected these two objects. The materials of the flute are bone, wood and linen.

Fig. 1 Photo of K.0010, the flute (Source: UCL the Ethnographic Collections, 2015).

The length of the wooden stem flute is 749mm (UCL Ethnographic Collections, 2020).

The horn piece was shaped by reductive method – removal of the sharp end. It can also be observed that there were decorations pattern craved on the horn mouthpiece (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Photo of the craved decorations on the horn mouthpiece (Source: Author, 2020).

It is predictable that the original material of the wood was millet millet–stalk (Fig. 3) which was one of the manufacture traditions of Flani (one of the composed members for Yauri Emirate) vertical flute (Erlmann, 1983).

Fig. 3 Photo of African vernacular fencing using millet-stalk which indicate the appearance and properties of this material (Source: Pinterest, 2020).

The wooden flute was shaped by cutting away as obvious tool mark can be observed (Fig. 4). There are three holes on the main tube of the instrument (Fig. 5).

Fig. 4 The trace of tool marks is indicated in the picture (Source: Author, 2020).

Fig. 5 The photo of holes on the tube (Source: Author, 2020).

Bite mark can be observed on the horn piece (Fig. 6). It can be deducted that horn piece would cover the narrower end of the wooden stem when performed (Fig. 7) and the musicians would place his/ her mouths on the horn and fingers on the holes (Fig. 8).

Fig. 6 Bite mark on the horn piece (Source: Author, 2020).

Fig. 7 Sketches indicated the process of covering the horn piece on the narrow end of the wooden stem (Source: Author, 2020).

Fig. 8 Sketches of how to use the flute by according to author’s imaginary and deduction (Source: Author, 2020).

2. Object biography and Statement of Significant

2.1 Object biography

The owner of K.0010 is P.G. Harris. The details of the object are included in his book ‘The Yauri Day Book’. It can hence be predicted that the object was discovered in Yauri Emirate. Yauri was a historic kingdom and traditional emirate (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020), located in the north-western corner of Sokoto State, Nigeria (Salamone, 1985, p. 141) (Fig. 9). However, the content of the book is not accessible and instead, only several publications about Yauri Emirate are available. Resulting that there is a huge blank in object’s own biography.

Fig. 9 Reconstruction of the old Yauri Kingdon (Source: Harris, 1963, p.285).

2.2 Statement of Significance

Due to the limited accessible information available, the object can only be decided containing historic and aesthetic values.

2.3 Historic Value

The historic value of the flute, lies in that it was a witness of this British colonial history and Yauri Emirate’s history.

2.4 Aesthetic Value

The craftsmanship of the flute exemplifies the aesthetic value of the flute as it represents the indigenous and folk culture in Yauri Emirate that is unique among all other musical instruments around the world.

3. Assessment of condition

List of references

Erlmann, V., 1983. Notes on Musical Instruments among the Fulani of Diamare (North Cameroon). International Library of African Music: African Music, Volume 6, pp. 16-41.

Harris, P.G., 1930. Notes on Yauri (Sokoto Province), Nigeria. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 60, pp. 283-334.

Salamone, F. A., 1985. The Social Construction of Colonial Reality: Yauri Emirate. Annee: Cahiers d’Etudes africanes, Volume 98, pp. 139-159.

UCL Ethnographic Collections, 2020. Horn mouth piece and long wooden stem. Available at: (Accessed: 30 March 2020).

Object Assessment: M.0049 – Shrine of the Hand (“ikegobo” in Edo language)

This shrine was collected by Dr. R. E. Bradbury, the first social anthropologist to conduct extensive in-depth research in the Benin culture, probably in his last Benin tour in Nigeria in 1956-1961 (Gore, 2007, p.3; Bradbury, 1971, 1961). Carved by an Igbesanbhan, wood carvers who served the king of Benin, this shrine belonged to a wealthy, prestigious Bini warrior chief in Benin city. It is an endangered craft and a documentation of the local Cult of the Hand practices, in the times of dramatic social-political and change under British colonization (after 1897) and the independence of Nigeria in 1960.

A cylindrical, dark brown wooden sculpture with a dimension of 24 cm (H) x 22.2cm (D), it is carved from a block of heartwood of an unknown species of hardwood (might be kola nut tree or afzelia) (Ben-Amos, 1979, p.322, 1971, pp.79–80; Dark, 1973, pp.58–59). It is decorated with human figures and motifs on its top and vertical side with chisels, knives and a comb-like tool, mainly divided into 4 zones (Fig 1a-h): (i) a rectangular motif divided by a line in the middle (Fig. 1a), (ii) a main band of human figurines and motifs (Fig. 1c-h), (ii) a zigzag pattern of isosceles triangles with called ‘cloth of Ijebu’, (iii) a guilloche design of two wave-like ropes called ‘oba iri eva’, meaning guilloche with two ropes and continuous.

Fig. 1a Top of the shrine

Fig. 1b Bottom of the shrine

Fig. 1c Left side of shrine. An attendant consecutively supporting his master’s hand and holding a fan that symbolises accumulation of power and wealth.

Fig. 1d Front (centre) of the shrine. A chief is depicted in chains of crossed straps of coral beads and a wrapper, carrying a sword of authority in his right hand (The Museum of Primitive Art, 1974, p.10; Ezra, 1992, p.108). His hands are held by two attendants on each side. A bottle of palm wine, which a symbol of wealth, is carved next to him.

Fig. 1e Right side of shrine. An attendant is supporting his master’s hand while holding a shield with two spears in another hand.

Fig. 1f Right side of the shrine. A third attendant in the same outfit is carved. He has a sword in one hand and a spear impaling a human head on another hand.

Fig. 1g Back of the shrine. The upright, clenched right fist with an outward pointing thumb is the main motif of the cult of the hand symbolising ‘gathering up riches into one’s own hand’ (Ben-Amos, 1980, p.60).

Fig. 1h Back of the shrine. A feather of the vulturine fish eagle (igan-oghohon no-k’uhumw’ivie-), the feather worn by the chiefs on their beaded headbands, symbolizing high rank (Bradbury, 1961, p.136).

Unlike other type B ikegobo (Fig. 2a & 2b)(Bradbury, 1961), it does not come with a base or a peg on its top for supporting a tusk. It is generally stable with signs of previous pest infestations, multiple cracks, missing chips and other damages due to abrasion and usage (Fig. 3a-c). A dead larva or skin of an unknown pest is found in a large hole near the bottom (Fig. 4).

At the area of missing chip at the rim, a lighter reddish brown is revealed (Fig. 5). This darkening of colour on the surface of the wood might be due to prolonged exposure to UV, wood toning (e.g. wax or oil), or polishing with shoe polish (Unger et al., 2001, p.47; Florian et al., 1990, p.98).

No significant fluorescence, evidence of use of pyro technology (e.g. burn or charred marks), sign of separate material or previous repair (e.g. adhesive) is found under visual and UV examination (Fig. 6a-d). Tool marks remained on its uneven surface under raking light and no parallel or concentric grooves of sanding with sandpaper is found (Fig. 5)(Florian et al., 1990, pp.87–88).

Fig. 2a Original reference quoted by Bradbury’s type B ikegobo (Pitt-Rivers, 1900, Plate 43, ills. 333-5)

Fig. 2b  A type B shrine of the hand on a polished, whitened mud platform in the second public room of the house of a traditional chief. Photo by Joseph Nevadomsky.(Ezra, 1992, p.108, fig. 38)

Fig. 3a Back of the shrine.
Orange boxes – Areas of missing chips
Green boxes – Multiple cracks. Large cracks split through the motifs.
Blue boxes - Pest damages of various sizes and shapes.
Box A – An example of large hole made by previous pest infestation.
Box B - A dead larva or skin of an unknown pest is found.

Fig. 3b Close-up of Box A in Fig. 3a. Damage made by unknown pest.

Fig. 3c Close-up of at the thumb of the hand motif in Fig. 3a. Small circular entrance and exit holes possibly made by woodboring beetles.

Fig. 4 Larva or skin of an unknown pest inside a hole at the guilloche motif. Close-up of Fig. 3a (25X)

Fig. 5 A lighter reddish brown is revealed at the area of missing chip at the rim. Tool marks remained on its uneven surface under raking light.

Fig. 6a & 6b (Above) White accretion at the bottom under UV light;  (Below) under visual examination

Fig. 6c & 6d (Above) Weak green fluorescence at the bottom under UV light ; (Below) under visual examination (close up of Fig. 1f)


Ben-Amos, P. (1979) ‘“A la Recherche du Temps Perdu”: On Being an Ebony-Carver in Benin’, in N H H Graburn (ed.) Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World. University of California Press. pp. 320–333.
Ben-Amos, P. D. (1971) Social change in the organization of wood carving in Benin City, Nigeria. Indiana University.
Bradbury, D. R. E. (1971) University of Birmingham Staff Papers: Papers of Robert Elwyn Bradbury.
Bradbury, R. E. (1961) Ezomo’s Ikegobo and the Benin Cult of the Hand. Man. [Online] 61129–138. [online]. Available from:
Dark, P. J. C. (1973) An introduction to Benin art and technology. 1st edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ezra, K. (1992) Royal Art of Benin - The Perls Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Florian, M.-L. E. et al. (1990) The conservation of artifacts made from plant materials. Dale Paul Kronkright & Ruth E Norton (eds.). Marian del Rey: Getty Conservation Institute.
Gore, C. (2007) ‘Introduction’, in Art , Performance and Ritual in Benin City. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 1–8.
Pitt-Rivers, A. H. L.-F. (1900) Antique works of art from Benin collected by Lieutenant-General Pitt Rivers. London: Harrison & Sons.
The Museum of Primitive Art (1974) Gods of Fortune - The Cult of the Hand in Nigeria. New York: The Museum of Primitive Art.
Unger, A. et al. (2001) Conservation of wood artifacts : a handbook. Arno P Schniewind & Wibke Unger (eds.). Berlin: Springer.

Object Assessment: A.0015 - Nepalese Kukri Knife Set

A.0015 is of Nepalese origin and comprises a sheath with two knives (figures 1 and 2). The sheath is constructed from wood, leather and organic fibre, and features embossed decoration. At the tip is a copper alloy section. The small knife, or ‘karda’ is constructed from wood and iron. The blade is curved with a single edge and hidden tang. The large knife, or ‘kukri’ is constructed from iron. The blade is broad with a single, very sharp edge, double fullers and a notch. Both handles have a flared shape. The kukri handle has a raised ring, copper alloy decoration and embossed patterns. 

Figure 1
A.0015 - Kukri, Karda and Sheath 
Side 1 

Figure 2 
A.0015 - Kukri, Karda and Sheath 
Side 2

The kukri has been used in Nepal since at least the 18th Century (Gurkha Brigade, Easton 2014, part 1+2). A.0015 likely dates from the 19th Century due to the manufacturing techniques used (Easton 2014, part 1+2). The object was originally donated to the British Museum in 1960, 9 years after Nepal opened to foreign visitors (Delphine Mercier, Personal Communication January 2020). It may have been collected in this time or the earlier colonial period. There is insufficient documentation to state its origin with certainty. The notch, or ‘cho’, is likely to be Buddhist imagery (Gurkha Brigade). Its function is not fully understood. It is fairly ubiquitous, and its longevity hints at its significance. It has been suggested that it relates to the trinity of Bramah, Vishnu and Shiva (Gurkha Brigade). It is commonly speculated that it prevents blood from running onto the hand. Personally, I find this unlikely as blood does not travel exclusively on the edge of a blade.   

The attachment of the blades is sound. There are no areas of deteriorated stitching on the sheath. The surface condition of the leather is good, although desiccated. There is no indication of mould or pest damage. The only existing damage is a split in the side, likely from repeated removal of the kukri. The brass section has corroded, leaving a light-brown patina. There is widespread corrosion of the knife blades (figures 3-6). 

Figure 3
A.0015 Kukri Corrosion Detail (Side 1)
Potential fingerprint damage is highlighted in orange.

Figure 4
A.0015 Kukri Corrosion Detail (Side 2)

Figure 4
A.0015 Karda Corrosion Detail (Side 1)
Potential fingerprint damage is highlighted in orange. 

Figure 5
A.0015 Karda Corrosion Detail (Side 2)

There is notable accumulation of corrosion products and pitting in some areas (figure 7). Some damage appears to have been caused by improper handling, leaving fingerprints (figure 8). The kukri handle is corroded between the brass decoration (figure 9). There is very little use damage. Both edges are sharp, without brittle fractures or chips. There are some areas of erosive wear, leaving small surface scratches. 

Figure 7 
A.0015 DinoXcope Image (Mag. x80)
Kukri Blade Corrosion Products (Side 1)

Figure 8
A.0015 DinoXcope Image (Mag. x80)
Kukri Blade Fingerprint Corrosion Products (Side 1)

Figure 9
A.0015 DinoXcope Image (Mag. x80) 
Kukri Handle Corrosion Products (Side 1)


Easton, M. 2014 Kukri – The Gurkha Knife of Nepal – Part 1 [Accessed 9th February 2020] 
Available at:

Easton, M. 2014 Kukri – The Gurkha Knife of Nepal – Part 2 [Accessed 9th February 2020] 
Available at:

Teague, K. 1995 Tourism, Anthropology and Museums: Representations of Nepalese Reality 
Journal of Museum Ethnography, No. 7 (May 1995) pp. 41-62 [Accessed 10th February 2020]
Available at: 

The Gurkha Brigade Association [Accessed 11th March 2020] 
Available at:

The Gurkha Museum [Accessed 10th March 2020] 
Available at:

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