Surviving Works: context in Verre arts

Part One, Chapter Two: Documenting the early colonial assemblage - 1900s to 1910s

Tim Chappel, Richard Fardon and Klaus Piepel

Special Issue

Vestiges: Traces of Record Vol 7 (1) (2021)

ISSN: 2058-1963

Preface and Acknowledgements ( HTML | PDF )


Chapter 1 The Verre ( HTML | PDF )

Chapter 2 Documenting the early colonial assemblage - 1900s to 1910s ( HTML | PDF )

Chapter 3 Documenting the early post-colonial assemblage - 1960s to 1970s ( HTML | PDF )

Interleaf 'Brass Work of Adamawa': a display cabinet in the Jos Museum - 1967 ( HTML | PDF )


Chapter 4 Brass skeuomorphs: thinking about originals and copies ( HTML | PDF )

Chapter 5 Towards a catalogue raisonnée

5.1 Percussion ( HTML | PDF )

5.2 Personal Ornaments ( HTML | PDF )

5.3 Initiation helmets and crooks ( HTML | PDF )

5.4 Hoes and daggers ( HTML | PDF )

5.5 Prestige skeuomorphs ( HTML | PDF )

5.6 Anthropomorphic figures ( HTML | PDF )

Chapter 6 Conclusion: late works - Verre brasscasting in context ( HTML | PDF )


Appendix 1 The Verre collection in the Jos and Lagos Museums in Nigeria ( HTML | PDF )

Appendix 2 Chappel's Verre vendors ( HTML | PDF )

Appendix 3 A glossary of Verre terms for objects, their uses and descriptions ( HTML | PDF )

Appendix 4 Leo Frobenius's unpublished Verre ethnological notes and part inventory ( HTML | PDF )

Bibliography ( HTML | PDF )

This work is copyright to the authors released under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Chapter 2 Documenting the early colonial assemblage - 1900s to 1910s

There is substantial, if uneven, documentation of both the major 'assemblages' of Verre objects, as we are calling the entirety of objects collected respectively in the years following first the onset and later the ending of direct European colonialism in Adamawa. Within these wider historical contexts, the methods of collection, and the interests of the collectors affected the composition of the two assemblages in specific ways, so we shall need to look at the changing mobile cultures of collection involved.

The largest part of the early colonial assemblage is the collection made by the members of the expedition led by the German Leo Frobenius during 1911-12 (Arriens 1928; Kuba and Hambolu 2010; Kuba 2020). This left a complicated legacy that justifies unravelling at some length. The few smaller collections made in the same period, some preceding Frobenius, add a little to what becomes apparent from Frobenius's activities without changing the larger picture, so they are most helpfully treated as supplements. In total, this early colonial assemblage of Verre materials consisted of at least 400 objects. The entirety was collected in little more than a decade between the invasion of Yola, the capital of the Adamawa Emirate, in 1901 and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Britain and Germany had been laying the basis of what they anticipated would be a long colonial relationship: between 1907-9 (Col. Whitlock 1910; see also the evidence of donations by von Stephani below) and again more intensively between 1912-13 (Capt. Nugent 1914, Leut. Detzner 1923) the 360 miles long boundary between the British colony of Nigeria and the German colony of Kamerun was surveyed from Yola to the Cross River, a collaborative undertaking about which both parties left reports and reminiscences. Formal demarcation on the ground by the second expedition saw border markers planted along the agreed boundary. In order that the Adamawa capital not be separated entirely from its hinterlands to the south and east, a 'Yola arc', agreed earlier in 1893, diverted the colonial boundary for about thirty miles around the capital of Adamawa, with the result that most of the Verre remained in Nigeria, and under the more or less direct administrative authority of the Fulani in Yola. 1 These international demarcations were refashioned after the First World War, when the League of Nations made the, smaller, western part of the northern 'Cameroons' a British Mandate; the eastern part being mandated to the French. The northern Cameroons Mandate became a Trusteeship after the Second World War, and later joined an already independent Nigeria in 1961 following a plebiscite. These changes refashioned local administrative arrangements between Fulani and others in the area south of Yola on several occasions, sometimes with consequences for the reconstruction of the provenance of objects collected.

The Frobenius expedition in summary

Leo Frobenius's third (or fourth) 2 Africa expedition traversed Nigeria in 1910-12, roughly during the mid-period of the Anglo-German border demarcation.



The route of the Frobenius expedition (and detail) - Frobenius Institute FoK004

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The European party was composed of the artist Carl Arriens (Pfisterer 2019) and the engineer-surveyor Albrecht Martius (Kuba 2019). Despite allegations of underhand dealings and theft from Yoruba in Ibadan and Ife in 1910 that became notorious (Ita 1972: 681-6; Penny 2002: 116-22; Platte 2010), subsequent relations on the ground with the British seem to have been cordial. As they headed eastwards, Frobenius's party received logistical support from British officials, who in turn relied on the Fulani of Adamawa to administer that vast territory with only occasional oversight. When Frobenius ascended the River Benue and crossed into German Kamerun in 1911, he remained dependent on his Fulani hosts, erstwhile nominal subjects of Yola now cut off by the border and administered from Garoua (Garua in German records). Here, he turned south down the Faro-Deo river system. At least two months were spent in the Fulani chiefdoms of the river valley: predominantly, September in Tchamba [Tschamba], and October in Koncha [Kontscha], before returning west up the River Taraba and so back to the Benue in Nigeria. 3 There is no evidence that Frobenius's European party spent any time among the Verre; a few excursions aside, the collection method at this point involved summoning villagers, apparently through the Fulani, and sourcing objects through intermediaries. Collection of most Verre materials is likely to have occurred while at Tchamba given its greater proximity than Koncha to the Verre Hills. If Frobenius involved himself in the collection of Verre works this has left no trace since the scant records are attributable to Martius. Verre living within the Yola arc would have been in Nigeria, whereas the expedition was now based in Kamerun. As we saw earlier, the Verre were considered by the Fulani to fall not under the authority of Tchamba but under that of the non-succeeding branch of the Yola ruling family. A draft survives in the early pages of Martius's diary for September 1911 of a letter, most probably written to the Lamido of Nassarawo, urgently requesting Verre informants (Notizbuch V LF 251, 'Anfang Sept - 7. Okt' pp.4-5). Perhaps it was meant for translation before being delivered. The Lamido of Nassarawo throughout the German colonial period was Muhammadu Bello (known to the British as Maigari) who weathered the change in colonial regime and even became, although very briefly, Lamido of Adamawa (1924-28) despite being a grandson of Hamidu, a non-succeeding son of Modibbo Adama. There is no evidence that the appeal for help yielded much: a few notes on the Verre occur in the same notebook but consist of little more than brief remarks on objects collected. 4 These notes were typed up in the same way as Frobenius's more detailed enquiries, but we presume proved too insubstantial to warrant publication. An English translation can be found in Appendix 4.

There is a striking mismatch between the collection of objects and the ethnological record. The expedition was to make one of its largest collections, of around three hundred items, from the Verre, but unlike several of the other peoples among whom Frobenius carried out ethnological investigations through interviews, the Verre were not to be the subject of a chapter, or even part chapter, in his later writings. By contrast, two chapters were devoted to the Chamba (respectively on Chamba Daka and Chamba Leko) in both of Frobenius's major descriptive works about the region (Und Afrika Sprach Volume III 1913, expanded in Dichten und Denken im Sudan 1925, transl. to French Mohammadou 1984/1987) although the number of Chamba objects collected was modest. That few Verre were subjects of the Fulani lamidates in Kamerun is part of the explanation for this mismatch between the collection of objects and texts; that said, the border was porous and Frobenius refers to interviews with at least one Chamba chief (from Kiri) who lived further from Tchamba than did the Verre. The quantity of Verre objects in the absence of the Verre themselves may also be an indication of their significance in the provision of local trans-ethnic networks. Verre wares, notably in metal, may have been available both directly from their settlements and at regular markets. It is noticeable that although iron works were frequently acquired in multiples, there are only single examples of most brass works. This suggests that the African intermediaries tasked by Frobenius with collection would have been able to meet his needs readily when these concerned pieces that came to market, but that the more valuable pieces may have been made on commission rather than sitting around in multiples awaiting a buyer. Not being subject to the Frobenius's Fulani hosts in Kamerun, Verre may have felt no compulsion to present themselves at the request of a 'European' expedition. Whether or not these explanations are accurate, the fact remains that little documentation survives about the uses or meanings of the Verre objects that were collected beyond a local name that was included in the lists made when the objects were packed; these names were later copied onto the accession sketches made of them, and from these sources they found their way into the records of the museums which received the objects directly or via dealers (see Appendix 4). Correspondences between such traces help us to collate these different, and often partial, records.

On arrival in Germany, the collection was again inventoried and some pieces, presumably those deemed most important or saleable, were illustrated (it is not clear whether any, and if so which, surviving illustrations were drawn in Africa rather than in Germany, we tend to believe none). The expedition had been supported principally by museums in Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig, hence the need to acquire many objects in multiples, often threes. 5 Objects were also acquired on Frobenius's own account, and perhaps on behalf of his companions, and these were sold via dealers, sometimes to the same museums that had sponsored the expedition. The names of Umlauff, a Hamburg dealer, 6 and slightly later Konietzko occur most frequently on accession records for Verre objects that entered museums individually via dealers, some of them as late as shortly before the Second World War. The upshot of these complex trajectories, unevenly documented, is that objects appear and disappear from our view along their travels which we shall reconstruct insofar as we can. The fact of our coming across pieces adventitiously suggests the strong likelihood that further items must survive in places not known to us.

Of the textual sources extant in the archives, the closest to the collection events is a handwritten, numbered list which also enumerates the crates in which objects were packed in West Africa for shipment to Germany (Frobenius Institut LF 840, see Appendix 4). Items identified as Verre are in the continuous number range from 4757 to 4864, hence 107 individual entries, many of them in multiples under 32 object types (for instance, 21 wooden figures; 6 tobacco pipes; 6 leg rattles; 6 flutes; 4 leather food sacks, and another 27 object types singly or in multiples of two or three). But this was far from the entirety of the Verre collection.

We have yet to discover an original listing of the decorated gourds (Kalabasses) collected by the expedition, should one survive, but accession records show that at least 105 examples were subsequently acquired from the expedition by museums in Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden and Bremen. 7 Only a small proportion of these survive, not all of which are intact. This is evidence of a thriving industry in the first decades of the twentieth century in which it seems at least some Verre women participated. To judge from the post-colonial assemblage, these works had disappeared without trace from Verre villages fifty years later (by contrast, the practice continued in the Highlands further north, see, Chappel 1977, Berns and Hudson 1986).

Verre were most widely renowned as makers of metal goods, particularly the brassware that was traded regionally. Martius collected several examples which, like the decorated gourds, were not included in the handlist of packed objects. Surviving accession records provide evidence that these were sold individually to museums via dealers rather than being included in the agreement with the three sponsoring museums. Detailed sketches of Verre brassware in the Frobenius Institute archive carry numbers which also appear in the accession records of the different museums, implying that this enumeration predates dispersal of the brassware collection. The numbers on these illustrations, which we shall later examine in detail, range from 97a/b to 121. If these were the beginning and end numbers for examples collected from the Verre, and if all the intervening numbers were also of Verre brassware, two big assumptions, then originally there would have been at least twenty-six pieces. As it is, we have some form of evidence for fourteen pieces of brassware; of which eleven can be traced to specific collections, all of them sold by the Umlauff dealership either to Hamburg (five items in July 1914) 8 or to Dresden (one item in May 1914; and three recorded to have been purchased in September 1915, as well as another two that were likely to have been part of the same purchase given their accession numbers). The brass pieces for which we have some indications comprise five bracelets (three of them stylistically similar but differently sized), two strings of beads (plus the two sets, each of four beads, purchased by Munich in 1918, see note 5), and single examples of: a brass and iron composite dagger or short sword with scabbard, a tobacco pipe bowl, a drinking bowl, circumcision crook, bell, double clapperless bell or hand gong, and a fan. This seems a modest total given the likely museum demand for brassware and suggests that multiples were not as readily available, or as willingly sold, as some other object types. Most pieces look to have been acquired with little wear. This apparent scarcity that contrasts with the abundance of brassware available for purchase by the time of the second assemblage composed of collections made during the early post-colonial period.

Adding the decorated gourds and brassware to the handlist of objects made when they were packed for transport to Germany brings the total of objects collected by the Frobenius expedition to well over two hundred. To this we might add 76 related items enumerated separately in the accession records of the Hamburg Museum (accessioned in October 1916 via the petroleum magnate Wilhelm Anton Riedeman). These consisted of seven (of what seem from their descriptions to have been different types of) bowstring tighteners or bow-pullers, seven bows, and seven quivers (containing altogether fifty-two arrows, and two parts of arrows). 9 Like the brassware and decorated gourds, these weapons were not included in the handlist of packing cases. Taking these and the calabashes individually into account, an informed guess would be that Martius acquired around three hundred items on behalf of the expedition.

Other early colonial collections

Although Frobenius's expedition made the only professional collection of the early colonial period, and by far the most extensive, a few other pieces entered German and British museum collections in consequence of exploration and colonial, commercial and military activities during the same period. These are worth surveying chronologically. With only a few exceptions, the object types they collected resembled those acquired by Frobenius.

The earliest Verre items to be accessioned that we have so far identified entered the Bremen Museum (Bremer Überseemuseum) in 1902 by donation from the colonial officer Oltwig van Kamptz and consisted of five decorated gourds (B05442 - B05446, of which B05445 is now missing). They may have been collected in 1898-9 while von Kamptz engaged on the Wute-Adamaua-Feldzug (campaign) which took him to northern Kamerun. The Linden-Museum acquired a Verre lute from the colonial officer Hans Glauning in 1904 (036887).

In 1909, Oberleutnant H.F. Johannes von Rothe included a brass amulet in his gift to the Dresden Museum (Dresden 24235). He might have acquired this a couple of years earlier during a tour of Kamerun. This skeuomorph of an Islamic protective charm attributed to Verre is, thus far, unique. In 1929, Dresden acquired a second piece collected by von Rothe indirectly by exchange with the Landesschule Klotzsche: a tobacco pipe with brass bowl and iron and wooden stem (Dresden 44290). This may well have been collected at the same time as the amulet.

The Bremer Überseemuseum added to its collection in 1936 when at least three Verre objects were included in a purchase of several items from Kamerun made from the J.F.G. Umlauff, 'Museum Umlauff Hamburg': a gourd spoon (B07889; original number 1541 on its 'Museum Umlauff' label); a 12cm horn with leather wrapping (B07890; original number 1543 on its 'Museum Umlauff' label); a decorated gourd (B08037; no original label visible). Although they lack further documentation, our assumption until demonstrated otherwise is that these were Frobenius materials sold via his usual dealership.

Mention should also be made of the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig, the African collection of which received a large donation from Kurt Strümpell (Hauptmann of the Schutztruppe [Protection Force] and Colonial Resident in Dikwa, Bornu). His 900 pieces had been collected between 1901 and 1908 throughout Kamerun, notably in the North between the Adamawa Emirate and Bornu. In Dorothea Hecht's catalogue of the collection (1968) we find pieces attributed to the Duru, a related people living to the south of the Verre with whom they were often treated as a compound entity, Duru-Verre, in early sources, particularly in relation to metalwares. 10

The only British collection of the period known to us was made by Olive MacLeod (later Temple) who, in company with District Officer Percy Amaury Talbot and his wife Dorothy, both of whom were botanists and ethnographers, followed in the footsteps of her fiancé Boyd Alexander, killed in 1910 (MacLeod 1912). Her itinerary, and the accession records at the British Museum, suggest these pieces were acquired in Yola rather than in situ, as does the attribution, as noted above common at the time, to either Verre or Duru (Dourou, Dii). As Mrs Temple, in 1913 Olive MacLeod donated nine objects attributed to Verre-Duru to the British Museum: three wooden anthropomorphic figures; what is described as a brass anklet though judging by its size an arm cuff; and a dancing cap made of cane, cowries, lizard skin and horsehair of the type worn by Verre initiates at circumcision. At least one of the objects in iron, an oversized, ceremonial women's hoe may have been made for Chamba; two spears or staffs surmounted by rattles rather than points would have been at home in either Chamba or Verre insignia, and an archer's thumbguard that may have been made for Verre but was probably used widely. Mrs Temple, or her father on her behalf, made further donations to museums in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Maidstone and the Pitt Rivers in Oxford. Some slender brass bangles donated to Edinburgh might be Verre but are too generic in form to attribute a narrow provenance with any confidence. The Liverpool collection includes copper alloy pieces attributed specifically to Verre and not Verre-Duru, including one necklace of brass beads and another of brass bells, presumably crotals ( & 95). 11

Between the collection of these pieces in the decade 1902-1912, and the large- scale collecting of the 1960s, very few Verre materials known to us were added to museum holdings. In the previous chapter, we itemized the Cullen donation to the Lagos Museum in 1946 and noted that in 1954 the British Museum acquired two Verre women's hip or buttock pendants in the form of oversized beads from the Wellcome Collection (Af1954,23. 1492.a-b; Wellcome Collection 29095). These are less likely to have been collected locally than purchased in Britain, which together with the period over which the Wellcome Collection was assembled, means the beads may be at least contemporary with those Cullen donated to Lagos and could be slightly earlier. Although these brass hip pendants are strikingly large, 12 later examples were to become larger yet, their size speaking to the increasingly abundant supply of brass for display purposes. A matter we take up in the next chapter.

A catalogue of metalware in the early colonial assemblage

It is worth considering some types of object in the early assemblage twice: in the context of collection and overall composition, and then again, in Part Two, when we consider evidence about particular object types. Given the Verre reputation as workers in metal, we shall for the most part concentrate on objects in iron or brass, but given the ritual uses of many metal objects, we shall feel free to include other ceremonial items, as well as more mundane ones when they provide the prototypes for brass skeuomorphs.

Berlin, donated by Waldmann in 1903-04

Berlin III C 17644; dimensions 15x9cm (Maas archive) Berlin III C 18318; dimensions 2x7.9x7cm

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The earliest pieces attributed to Verre that we have so far located include a cuff donated by Waldmann in 1903 (Berlin III C 17644), described in its accession record as a child's anklet (Fusspange), and a manila, described by the same term for anklet (Berlin III C 18318) donated the following year, also by Waldmann. Given the dates, he may either have taken part in one of the expeditions shown on Moisel's Karte von Kamerun to have traversed the region between 1901-3, or else acquired the manila from someone who did. The plaited ornamentation on both ends of the manila occurs on other brass pieces we know to have been made by Verre, but manilas, which were manufactured and traded widely between Europe and Africa, are notoriously difficult to attribute definitively (for a guide to the specialist literature, see Denk 2017). A man by the name of Kurt Waldmann (born 21 Jan 1875, died 21 December 1905) is recorded to have been buried aged thirty in Douala having been a local official (Stationsbeamter). 13 In the absence of other candidates, he may have been the donor.

Dresden, collected by von Rothe

Dresden 24235

Dresden 44290

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Oberleutnant Rothe donated the skeuomorph 'amulet' in 1909, and the pipe in a composite of brass, wood and iron, followed it to the Dresden museum twenty years later via the Sächsische Landesschule in Klotzsche, with which Rothe or his family presumably had an association. An officer of the same name and rank, serving in the 2nd Bayerischen Pionierbataillon, took part in the Yola-Cross River demarcation of 1907. 14

The brass pipe bowl with its squared-off stand is comparable to an example collected by Frobenius, of which a sketch remains, that was once in the Hamburg museum (see below, item 120). Brass pipe bowls were plentiful to judge by the number of them in the later collection made by Tim Chappel in the mid-1960s. The small, apparently phallic, frontal protrusion is present on many of them, as are the two lower flaps which make the pipe freestanding, and which might also have gendered symbolic motivation. So far unique in form within the Verre corpus is this skeuomorph of an amulet or Islamic charm designed to be attached to personal clothing or perhaps to horse tack.

Braunschweig, collected by Kurt Strümpell

The extensive Africa collection of the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig was expanded by a donation from Hauptmann Kurt Strümpell, German Resident in Adamaua for two periods between 1906 and 1909. Stationed in Garoua but frequently on tour, Strümpell took a keen interest in local languages, cultures and history, writing the earliest extensive history of the Adamawa Emirate (1907a/b, 1910, 1912, see Mohammadou 1982). He gave the Braunschweig Museum a collection of more than 900 of the pieces he had acquired in Kamerun (according to the catalogue by Dorothea Hecht 1968: 367). 15 While Hecht's catalogue of this collection identifies none of the pieces as Verre, some are attributed to the Duru (Dourou, Dii) who, as noted, are typically elided with the Verre in early sources concerned with language and with the production of metalwares. Another piece is attributed to Chamba, whose eastern communities habitually bought works in metal from the Verre.

The only brass pieces attributed to Duru are personal ornaments. The illustration of one of the nine brass cuffs ( Handmanschetten 1968: 130 & 141, for VW 4.0-40/14; the other eight, VW 4.0-40/13a-h, are not illustrated), donated by Strümpell in 1905, is stylistically similar to examples collected from the Verre by the Frobenius expedition.

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All nine cuffs are described as cylindrical and decorated with grooves, spirals, and circular and semi-circular ornamentation, only 40/14 is 'closed', the other eight are open to one side (allowing the arm to be inserted laterally into the cuff, rather than being pulled over the hand). If this cuff is indeed of Duru origin (and the attribution proposed for the group of objects is shared with the 'Ngiri' which may indicate indecision), then they were making works that at least appear to have been similar to those made by the Verre. An example of an open-sided cuff was included in the Jos display cabinet installed in 1967 (see Interleaf), and probably came from the Mandara Mountains, although we are unable to link it to a particular accession record.

Other objects, wholly or partly in metal, attributed to the Duru, were collected by Strümpell two years after the brass cuffs in 1907. These include a club (Keule) (Vw. 6.8-52/9) described as a very old piece, 60cm in length: 'in dark brown, polished hardwood with a shaft and a thick, knee-like curved head, thickly covered with flat iron pins' (Hecht 1968: 153). It is not illustrated in the catalogue of Braunschweig's Strümpell collection, and we have seen nothing answering that description in other Verre holdings. There is also a spear (Vw6.0.0-50/22), 184cm in length, not illustrated but presumably unremarkable and with a metal point (Hecht 1968: 189). A 65cm iron object distinguished as a 'staff' with rings (Schellenstab) (Vw. 6.0-74/5) is described as 'forged (ausgeschmiedet) in two places to form a pair of crescent-shaped rings. The end of the rod is flattened into two spirals' (Hecht 1968: 298, not illustrated). As described, the object is not easy to envisage; its length would appear to preclude it being similar to the rattle spears donated by the Temples to the British Museum (almost three times the length, see below), yet the term used for it is Stab rather than Lanze, which is applied to the spear-like protective object hung with clappers collected in 1908 from Chamba (Vw 6.0-66/3, Hecht 1968: 251) that would be stuck in the ground alongside a compound entrance to ward off malign influences. This could have been collected from Chamba living around the Nigeria-Kamerun border who acquired metalwares from the Verre. A double clapperless bell, or handgong, attributed to the Duru collected in 1907, is similarly indistinguishable from the same object collected from the Verre (Vw. 6.0-74/2, Hecht 1968: 295, illustrated 290). As an officer of the German Empire, Strümpell was obliged to make later donations of objects and documentation to what is now the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin rather than to Braunschweig; the two items attributed to Verre about which we know, were cited in note 15 above.

Olive MacLeod collection

During her travels to Nigeria and Tchad in 1910 to learn the fate of her fiancé, Lt Boyd Alexander, Olive MacLeod met and later married Charles Lindsay Temple and returned to live in Nigeria until 1917. MacLeod's initial journey had taken her to Yola, which is cited in accession records as the place of acquisition for objects of probable Verre origin. Lack of further information about the origins of items in the collection suggests that they were either bought in the market or acquired from District Officers. Nigerian materials were subsequently donated in the names of Charles and Olive Temple, in some cases by Olive's father, to several museums in Britain.

Ten brass bracelets donated to the museum in Edinburgh in 1925 were probably collected during MacLeod's first traversal of Nigeria. 16" title="" id="_ftnref16> All were collected from the Bachama but, given a regional trade in brassware, this does not necessarily mean they had been made by Bachama. Of the nine bracelets in Edinburgh for which we have descriptions, three consist of strings of beads, while six are solid. The two bead bracelets of which we have illustrations, each of which includes a pair of small crotals, differ only slightly, while five of the six solid bangles for which we have illustrations are almost identical, the sixth lacking in decoration. Irrespective of who made them, the amount of metal in each of these pieces is notably slight compared to brassware collected later.

A.1925.386 Bracelet of brass A.1925.387 Bracelet of brass beads

and blue glass beads

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A.1925.389 Solid brass bracelet, A.1925.390 Solid brass bracelet A.1925.391 Solid brass bracelet

A.1925.392 Solid brass bracelet A.1925.393 Solid brass bracelet A.1925.394 Solid brass bracelet

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An earlier donation of nine items made in 1913 in the names of Mr and Mrs C.L. Temple to the British Museum included only one piece in brass, accessioned as an 'anklet' with bells (Af1913,1013.22). Like seven of the other eight objects, all of which had been acquired in Yola, it was attributed to Duru-Verre. Similar pieces have been accessioned both as anklets and as cuffs; this example is in a very dark brass alloy with a raised central band ornamented with crotals.

Four more of the objects donated were predominantly or solely in iron. What is recorded as a hoe (Af1913,1013.21) is in fact a ritual object, as evidenced by both the small, lightning, tang on its blade, and the russet stripe suggesting it may have been decorated with red clay at some point. If made for Mapeo Chamba, in Chamba this would be termed a jeem baan, or hoe for a woman's cult, the insigne of its priestess. The small lightning point on this ceremonial version of an archaic planting hoe corresponds to a similar device on the priest's ritual sickle. Women sow by digging into the ground, while men harvest by an act of cutting; this contrast has wide symbolic resonance, clustering together acts of separation that include the circumcision of young men and the retrieval and retention of ancestral skulls.

A more or less identical hoe had been bought by the Hamburg Museum from Franz von Stephani who had served between 1907-09 on the Yola-Cross River border expedition.

Hamburg 185.10 (42.8x17.6 cm)

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The Temples donated two rattle-topped, iron staffs to the British Museum. We know from Chappel's research that these were used by the Verre themselves, and from Fardon's research that they were also found among Chamba. Although not weapons, these staffs are called spears in Chamba (səəm sagɛn Mapeo dialect) who use them as display objects that may be shaken or stuck in the ground.

Left: Af1913,1013.105 Iron staff (with rattle).

Height: 184.8 centimetres, width: 11.5 centimetres, depth: 2.6 centimetres

Right: Af1913,1013.106 Iron staff (with rattle).

Height: 183.5 centimetres, width: 13.5 centimetres, depth: 2.5 centimetres.

The other small piece of metalwork donated by the Temples may not be Verre at all given the broad accession note, and the fact of archery accoutrements being made widely.

Af1913,1013.34 Archer's thumb guard made of iron, leather,

Kamuku or Duru-Verre or Gbari (Gwari Makangara)

The few Verre objects donated to the Liverpool Museum, enumerated earlier, including two pieces of brass bead ware, are otherwise consistent with these (see note 11).


Even in their entirety, these early colonial collections are dwarfed by that made during the passage of the Frobenius expedition of 1911. We provide an indication of how large that collection was in Appendix 4. Evidence for it is incomplete and scattered, so there is every likelihood our account will be improved. In the expectation that future research will shed more light on them, the range of brasswares collected by the expedition is of sufficient interest to justify describing both the objects individually and our research in relation to them. Our starting point has been the detailed sketches of Verre brassware in the Frobenius Institute archives which carry numbers in a series that are replicated in the accession records of the pieces that reached the Dresden and Hamburg museums (though not apparently in those of Berlin, Leipzig or Munich). This enumeration, which must predate dispersal of the brassware collection to museums, enumerates brass objects separately from the bulk of the Verre collection. We show in Appendix 4 that the brasswares were not included in the main handlists of Verre objects apparently destined for the sponsoring museums. Subsequent accession records suggest that works in brass moved predominantly through dealerships rather than going directly to museums. We list brass items here under this original numbering and provide a cross-reference to the online image catalogue of the Frobenius Institute (prefixed KBA), together with whatever indication we have of the subsequent itinerary of the piece. Many objects remain to be traced. We do not know whether the Verre series began with 97a, or whether all the missing numbers for which we have no information corresponded to further Verre brass objects. We noted earlier (footnote 5), two sets of four beads in the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich that were bought from Frobenius directly in 1918 which might easily be amongst the 'missing' enumerated brassware.

97a - KBA 02991 thirty-five, strung, oval, brass beads. Overall length of 80cm length; individual beads just under 2cm. Acquired by the Hamburg Museum (14.134.7) via the dealer Umlauff in July 1914. Four similar beads were acquired by the Munich Museum directly from Frobenius in 1918.

KBA 02991 Munich 18.7.20

Hamburg 14.134.7

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97b - KBA 02990 brass beads, 83cm length, individual beads .5 to 1cm, i.e. the largest are half the size of the beads of 97a (current whereabouts unknown; a set of beads in Berlin III C 29432 although originating from Frobenius's collection are described as an anklet of 'Eisenperlen' rather than brass and their dimensions differ). Another four small brass beads were acquired four years later by the Munich Museum (18.7.21).

KBA 02990 Munich 18.7.21

(98-99 - no information)

100 - KBA 03003 brass bangle, ornate narrow band 9cm in diameter [Armring] (current whereabouts unknown). The ornamental protruding knobs are a common decorative feature of Verre pieces collected later but they are also to be found on brass bangles from other producers, notably in the Mandara Mountains.

KBA 03003

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(101-105 - no information)

106 - KBA 02941 brass bracelet, ornate with two spiral motifs placed on a plaited background. It is a bracelet rather than a narrow ring like the piece above (both are described in German as Armring, we outline the lexical distinctions made by Verre in Chapter 5). The diameter of 9cm is the same as that of 100 (the proportions of the sketch suggest a width of 3cm). Current whereabouts unknown, but this bracelet is similar in design to the next two, which are also consecutively numbered, as well as to examples in the early post-colonial assemblage collected over fifty years later.

KBA 02941

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107 - brass bracelet [Armring]. No illustration of this piece survives in the archive of the Frobenius Institute, but the number 107, fitting into this series, appears in the accession record of the Dresden Museum (33647) '8.5 x 5.3cm Armring', which was acquired from the dealer Umlauff in May 1914. A companion piece to 106, near identical in diameter, its design differs by the addition of a third, larger central spiral to the two, almost doubling the width.

Dresden 33647 photograph and accession record

108 - KBA 09293 brass bracelet [Armring] acquired by the Hamburg Museum (14.134.18) and, like 107 acquired from the dealer Umlauff in July 1914. Apparently, a companion piece to numbers 106 and 107, and only slightly narrower in diameter (8.3 x 5.2cm). This is most elaborately decorated of the three examples with rows of four and three four spiral motifs, as well as a diagonal band, on the same plaited background.

KBA 02939a

Hamburg 14.134:18

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109 - KBA 03289 brass circumcision crook, acquired by the Hamburg Museum from the dealer Umlauff in July 1914.

KBA 03289

Hamburg 14.134.2

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The decorated brass circumcision crook is a prestige version of the plain iron tamba pictured below, which in turn is partly a citation of the everyday sickle. The handles of both the brass and iron crooks terminate in a knob, which was motivated as phallic by Chappel's later informants.

KBA 10626

110 - KBA 03290 brass fan (or 'fly whisk', Fliegenwedel) with remaining wisps of horsehair acquired by the Dresden Museum (33662) from the dealer Umlauff in September 1915. Although the Dresden database numbers both this and the knife below as 112, both the record in the Frobenius archive and the original accession card at the Dresden Museum illustrate what is unmistakably the same object numbered as 110. How far the current state of the fan represents its condition when collected depends on whether the lower image on illustration KBA 03290 (below) records a reconstruction of an undamaged original or is an accurate rendition of its state at the time.

KBA 03290

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Dresden photograph and accession record

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(111 - no information)

112 - EBA-B 00696 (illustrative plate showing from left to right: brass and iron composite sword with scabbard, three composite daggers with scabbards, and two brass dagger hilts). No original sketches for this plate survive in the Frobenius Institute archive, but the number 112 appears on a Dresden accession card, where it entered the museum as Dresden 33691 (48cm), by purchase from Umlauff in September 1915. The pommel is decorated with eight crotals arranged symmetrically, four either side of a central head, hence nine devices in total. This arrangement bears close resemblance to the detailed sketch of a knife handle at the bottom right of a diagram of a sword and five daggers identified as 'Jola', 'Batta' or 'Werre'. By 'Jola', or Yola, we should most probably understand a sword of the kind used by Fulani or their troops in the capital. Although four of five of the illustrated short swords or daggers are identified as Bata, little has been published on Bata brasscasting; given their resemblance, it is conceivable that they were Verre castings bought by Bata from whom they were subsequently collected.

EBA-B 00696

Dresden 33691 photograph and accession record

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113 - KBA 02988 man's brass cuff [Manschette] acquired by the Hamburg Museum (14.134.20) from the dealer Umlauff in July 1914. Unlike the pieces described as Armringe, this larger and more complex object stands at just under 12cm and has a prominent, flared waist ornamented with crotals, as well as four bands of decoration. It is very similar to the cuffs collected by Strümpell and MacLeod around the same time.

KBA 02988

Hamburg 14.134.20

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(114-16 - no information)

117 - KBA 03258 ornate brass bell, 22cm, acquired by the Dresden Museum (33678), now lacking its original accession card. A finely cast bell, crotal ornaments around its shoulder and bands of decoration.

KBA 03258 Dresden

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(118 - no information)

119 - corresponds to KBA 03275, [Tanzschelle] an ornate brass, double clapperless bell, or handgong, its connecting handle covered with reptile skin, and a leather strap. Originally cast in two sections, the connecting handle is now broken, a fate common to similar brass pieces in the postcolonial assemblage. It was acquired by the Dresden Museum with the accession number (33679) following 117 (33678), and like 117 it has lost its original accession card.

KBA 03275 Dresden photograph

120 - brass pipe bowl, acquired by the Hamburg Museum (14.134.33) from the dealer Umlauff in July 1914, and accessioned with reference to the earlier stock number 120, which we assume referenced a sketch in the Frobenius series that does not survive in the archive. The overall form is reminiscent of the pipe donated to Dresden Museum by Rothe in 1909. Such pipes commonly have a phallic frontal protuberance and rest on a pair of lower flaps.

Hamburg 14.134.33

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121 - KBA 02894 decorated brass bowl with stem [Schüssel] slightly under 18cm high, acquired by the Dresden Museum (33671) from the dealer Umlauff in May 1914. 17" title="" id="_ftnref17>

KBA 02894

Dresden 33627 photograph and accession record

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If all the numbers in the range between 97a/b and 121 were, like those that survive, illustrations of Verre brassware, then they would have numbered at least twenty-six. If 97 and 121 were not respectively the beginning and end of the range of numbers, then there would have been correspondingly more pieces. As it is, evidence survives for fourteen pieces of brassware (not including the two sets, each of four beads, in Munich); of which eleven can be traced to specific collections, all of which were sold through the Umlauff dealership either to Hamburg (five items in July 1914) 18" title="" id="_ftnref18> or to Dresden (six in all: two items in May 1914; another two recorded as purchased in September 1915; two more items purchased together on another occasion given their consecutive accession numbers). The pieces for which we have some indication comprise five bracelets, armrings, or cuffs (three of them stylistically similar but differently sized), two strings of beads, and single examples of: a short sword or dagger, tobacco pipe bowl, drinking bowl, circumcision crook, bell, double clapperless bell or handgong, and a horsehair fan. A final addition would be the lower of the two rings in this illustration, which is described as Gelbguss or brass, the upper being iron. Both may be the rings used to impart spin to arrows noted earlier.

KBA 08315

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The totality of brass objects seems modest given the likely museum demand for brassware and suggests that objects in multiples were neither as readily available nor as willingly sold to the expedition as was the case for more mundane object types, for instance those in iron, of which the packing list of the expedition (Appendix 4) itemizes: (4757-59) 3 farming hoes, (4765-70) 6 men's ankle rattles, (4771-73) 3 rings, (4774-75) 2 women's anklets, (4850-52) 3 dance rattles, (4853-55), (4862-64) 3 ceremonial iron staffs, and so on. We indicate only a few examples here.

Some items in iron acquired by the Berlin Museum have been lost, but they may well have corresponded to at least two sketches that survive in the archive of the Frobenius Institute: two ceremonial rattle spears (III C 29355-6, one of them 172cm tall, and so probably identical to those donated to the British Museum by Olive MacLeod), 19" title="" id="_ftnref19> as well as a double clapperless bell (III C 29420, 39cm), which is identical in height to the larger of two illustrated examples.

KBA 09384 KBA 09372

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The smaller double clapperless bell, described as made by Verre but collected from the Koma (09371 'Karenschi. Tanzschelle Komai. Werrearbeit', 14cm), was among the items acquired by the Hamburg Museum (17.20.117), as was at least one of the bow pullers collected by the Frobenius expedition.

KBA 09371

Hamburg 17.20.117

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KBA 08905

Hamburg 16.97.1833

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One of the iron anklet rattles worn by dancers (3/29.10, iron ankle dancing ring with 3 rattles) was acquired by the Dresden Museum via the dealer Konietzko in 1920. Other examples of what are described as men's dance ankle rings were accessioned in Hamburg (17.20.103-4).

KBA 14867

Dresden 3664

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The whereabouts of a few other metal objects, including a ceremonial iron rattle and a double iron hoe, of which there are illustrations in the archive of the Frobenius Institute remain unaccounted for.

KBA 09486 KBA 10937

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The fact that the double hoe ('jischu') for the use of women dancing does not appear in the main packing list (translated in Appendix 4) reinforces our conviction that additional Verre items must have been included in other lists we have not located.

Conversely, there are examples of objects now in German museum collections for which we have as yet found no trace in the records or illustrations of the Frobenius archive. While there would be every reason to believe that Verre smiths made full-sized swords, we lacked direct evidence for this before learning of swords donated by Frobenius to the Munich museum in 1915: a sword 66.5cm in length (15.26.166 (1)) with leather covered handle together with its scabbard (15.26.166 (2)); a second, without measurement but also described as a double-edged sword with sheath, covered with leather and reptile skin (15.26.170). As well as being double bladed, both swords have the distinctively rounded tips to their blades that Wente-Lukas noted to be characteristic (1977: 226; another example, 1977: 223 fig. 296, was accessioned only as from 'Adamawa', Stuttgart 39.226, so might also be Verre).

Munich 15.26.162

Munich 15.26.166 labelled: N. Kamerun, Werre, Schwert

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The same donation included two daggers or short swords (15.26.172 & 173) also with part-reptile skin scabbard covering and an attachment, presumably of narrow-loomed cloth (these were noted by Wente-Lukas 1977: 226). Another dagger and scabbard, 48cm, was attributed to the Bata (18.7.46 a&b). The four Verre weapons, part of a gift made by Frobenius, were augmented by purchase in 1918 of the two sets of four 'bronze' (brass) beads for waist girdles (1918.7.20a-d, and 21a-d) illustrated earlier, as well as three small bell-like girdle ornaments, two of them in bronze or brass, collected from the 'Dakka' of the Alantika Mountains, people we know to have bought brassware from the Verre (18.7.27-29).

Munich 18.7.29 brass Munich 18.7.28 (iron)

(also illustrated in Und Afrika Sprach facing p. 160, 2a & 2d)

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Thanks to the assistance of museum curators in Germany, a welcome outcome of our research has been just how many of the items listed and/or illustrated in the Frobenius expedition archive are identifiable in museum accession records and/or as survivals in museum collections. Given the losses of the Second World War, our expectations had been modest. As museum records are digitized, and the Frobenius records transcribed (since they are not all easy to decipher) there will be scope for further research. For instance, a fuller account of Verre works would look systematically at types of objects on which we have touched only lightly here or not at all: decorated gourds, pottery, drums and wind instruments, shields and weapons and so on. 20" title="" id="_ftnref20> And Verre are, of course, only one among numerous peoples of Adamawa represented in the collection made by Frobenius's expedition.

1 From north to south, the direction Frobenius took, the border followed the River Faro from its confluence with the Benue before veering west across the Nassarawo Plain just to the south of the Verre Hills which were thereby placed in Nigeria.

2 The publications of the expedition describe it as the third, however, Frobenius later included a North African expedition when making his definitive listing, so that this expedition later became the fourth (Richard Kuba, personal communication; see also, Fardon and Kuba forthcoming).

3 Triangulating the published accounts, and the pictorial and written records in the archive of the Frobenius Institute, we can specify most of this period with some exactitude. Despite it being swollen by the rains, an advance party, led by Frobenius, forded the River Faro on the afternoon 28 August 1911. The main party followed on 29 August once veiled threats of his replacement had roused the Galadima of Tchamba to assist them. On 1 September, the three Germans ascended the Alantika Mountains to visit the Koma at Ndera. When Frobenius and Martius descended a few days later they left Arriens behind to recuperate from his recurrent bouts of illness; he came down off the mountain only towards the end of the month as the party prepared to move south. According to Martius's diary, the expedition left Tchamba on 2 October, to spend 3-4 October in Yelba ('Jelba'), and 5-6 October in Laro, reaching the large lamidate of Koncha ('Konscha') on 7 October (Martius Notizbuch V - LF 251, 'Start of September - 7 October, Tchamba - Konscha'). Martius's next surviving diary (Martius Notizbuch VI - LF 252 '25 October - 12 December, Konscha - Lokodja', the diary covering 8-24 October would appear to be missing) suggests that the party remained in Koncha during October, a stay Frobenius later wrote of appreciatively (1913a II: 677). Brief lists of objects occur throughout the notebooks and may reflect the moments Martius found to collate his materials as well as the sequence in which acquired them. This chronology is supported by those of Arriens' dated sketches on which he also provides place names: a Fulani compound in Tchamba on 28 September 1911 (EBA-B 02702), followed by a zebu cattle head on 8 October (EBA-B-02714), and a sketch of a Chamba Daka warrior on 26 October 1911 (KBA 12249) both in Koncha, demonstrating that the expedition had not left Koncha before then (KBA 1181, EBA-B 00486, Martius Notizbuch IV - LF 250; Frobenius 1913a II: 667-68).

4 In his history of Garoua, Eldridge Mohammadou (1980: 55 and passim) records that Lamido Bouba Déwa (1901-21) ruled throughout the German colonial period. Although the addressee of Martius's draft letter is difficult to decipher, it is apparently not him.

5 A few objects made their way to other museums, on occasions via one of these. We look at the significant Dresden holding in detail but simply note here that the Linden-Museum received a small collection of Frobenius objects via Berlin in 1913. Research underway on the accession records suggests these items were duplicates of relatively mundane objects, including six men's leg rattles for dancing (08311-6) and at least ten tobacco pipes (083388-96 & 98), a farming hoe (083579), and two circumcision crooks (083592-3) probably in iron, and a clay beaker with a stem (083430), which can no longer be located but is likely to have corresponded to the sketch KBA 05721 in the archive of the Frobenius Institute. Other pieces reached the Bavarian Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, now the Museum Fünf Kontinente, in Munich in 1915 and 1918. These included a sword described as 66.5cm in length (15.26.166 (1)) with leather covered handle and its scabbard (15.26.166 (2)), and a second, without measurement but also described as a double-edged sword with sheath, covered with leather and reptile skin (15.26.170); these two weapons provide unique evidence of Verre sword making. Our confidence that we are dealing with swords in this case is reinforced by the same donation including two daggers or short swords (15.26.172 & 173) also with part-reptile skin scabbard covering and an attachment, presumably of narrow-loomed cloth (these were noted by Wente-Lukas 1977: 226). Another dagger and scabbard, 48cm attributed to the Bata (18.7.46 a & b) would also warrant investigation given the trade between these two peoples. The four Verre weapons, part of a gift made by Frobenius, were augmented by purchase in 1918 of two sets, each of four 'bronze' (brass) beads for waist girdles (1918.7.20a-d, and 21a-d). We note below that we cannot yet account for some of the numbered original inventory of brassware; these two sets of beads might correspond to some of the 'missing' numbers. The 1918 Munich purchase from Frobenius additionally included three small bell-like girdle ornaments, two of them in bronze or brass, collected from the 'Dakka' of the Alantika Mountains, people we know to have bought brassware from the Verre (18.7.27-29). As records in German museums are digitized and connected, it seems likely that the destinations of more of the Frobenius collection will become apparent.

6 Based at the Tierpark in Hamburg, Umlauff was a prominent dealer of ethnographic items, with an associated 'museum'. The business was established in 1868 by Johann Friedrich Gustav Umlauff (1833-1889) and survived until 1974.

7 The complexity of tracing the fate of Frobenius's collection is apparent simply from this one type of object. Of more than a hundred collected, the three sponsoring museums acquired: Hamburg, 58 decorated gourds, 15 gourd spoons, and two small gourds (accessioned in December 1913 following purchase from Frobenius); Leipzig, 27 gourds and one gourd spoon (of which 10 gourds and the spoon are now missing, though this may include those tranferred to Dresden). There is no record of decorated gourds entering the Berlin collection. Dresden later acquired five gourds (three of these [4133, 4135, 4138] transferred from Leipzig in 1920; another two bought from the dealer Konietzko also in 1920). Bremen subsequently acquired one gourd spoon and one gourd.

8 There might be a sixth item, Hamburg 14,134.39 bought from Umlauff at the same time but described only as a bell.

9 Frobenius Institute KBA 07732 illustrates the variety of Verre arrow heads, as well as the knots to attach strings to Verre bows.

10 The 9 brass cuffs (Handmanschetten 1968: 130; VW 4.0/13a-h; 14, Strümpell 1905 illustrated, see below; - Keule (club) (p. 153) - Vw. 6.8-52/9 - Strümpell 1907, length 60 cm - no photo; Speer (p. 189) - Vw6.0-50/22 - Strümpell 1907, length: 184 cm - no photo; - Schellenstab (staff with bells) (p. 298) - Vw. 6.0-74/5 - Strümpell 1907, length 65 cm - no photo - the description sounds similar to objects that Verre made for Chamba: 'Eisenstab, der an zwei Stellen zu je einem Paar sichelförmiger Schellen ausgeschmiedet ist. Der Stab endet abgeflacht bzw. in zwei Spiralen', 'Iron staff which is forged in two places with a pair of sickle-shaped bells. The end of the staff is flattened into two spirals'. Discussed below.

11 Other pieces attributed to Verre include a grass plaited anklet (Liverpool, as well as bow rings in iron and tin or zinc described as 'instrument worn on the hand for shooting, and said to give the arrow a spin' (, other brass rings 'use uncertain', and a broken large two-handled pot ( & 313).

12 From their accession records, (a) 2.75 x 3.75 inches, (b) 1.75 x 2.75 inches; in rounded terms (a) 7 x 9.5cm, (b) 4.5 x 7cm).

13 The earlier Waldmann donation included two further objects of which we lack illustrations: C 17645 which was described similarly to C 17644, and C 17646 a brass pipe bowl.


15" name="_ftn15" title="" id="_ftn15>15 A further two pottery vessels for 'magic' were donated in 1910 to the Berlin Museum (Berlin III C 26052/3). We discuss a brass-handled knife in the same donation (Berlin III C 26589) in Part Two, Chapter 5.4.

16" name="_ftn16" title="" id="_ftn16>16 A.1925.385 bracelet, Bachama, is neither described nor illustrated; A.1925.388 is described 16as a bracelet of brass beads but not illustrated.

17" name="_ftn17" title="" id="_ftn17>17 A brass goblet with male caryatid stem, Dresden 33671, which shares the same original accession number and was also bought via Umlauff, would be unique in documented Verre style. We cannot presently explain the duplication. No illustration of it survives in the Frobenius archive.

18" name="_ftn18" title="" id="_ftn18>18 As noted earlier, there may have been a sixth item, Hamburg 14,134.39 bought from Umlauff at the same time but described only as a bell.

19" name="_ftn19" title="" id="_ftn19>19 Although slightly shorter than the rattle spears collected by Olive MacLeod/Temple at 185cm.

20" name="_ftn20" title="" id="_ftn20>20 There is scope to relate Frobenius's archive to several other pieces in German museums. To give only a few instances: the wind instrument illustrated as Frobenius KBA 09176 may well be Berlin III C 29415; the drum KBA 09923 resembles that accessioned as Hamburg 17.20.123; the sieve KBA 05050, or another similar to it, survives as Hamburg 17.20.102; the shield KBA 06903 is like Berlin III C 29423.

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Go to Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Interleaf | Chapter 4 | Ch5.1 Percussion | Ch5.2 Personal Ornaments | Ch5.3 Initiation helmets and crooks | Ch5.4 Hoes and daggers | Ch5.5 Prestige skeuomorphs | Ch5.6 Anthropomorphic figures | Chapter 6 Conclusion | Appendix 1 | Appendix 2 | Appendix 3 | Appendix 4 | Bibliography