Object: Cattle Horn Container

Ethiopia: Cattle Horn Container
Ca. 1960
Materials: Cattle Horn, Leather

This object is a cattle horn container with a stopper and strap from Ethiopia. The horn container has a carved horn stopper. Both ends of the horn are covered with leather which has been dyed red and stamped with designs. These designs consist of rows of leaves, rows of concentric circles, straight-lined bands and six-sag bands with the double circle designs within the triangular sections. A leather strap is threaded through slits in the red leather and its ends are tied to the strap using fiber thread. The red leather is sewn in place using fiber thread. The stopper is carved from horn with a tapered groove section which is used to actually plug the container. The remainder of the stopper is knob-shaped with grooves at the top and bottom.

The horn used for this object is a kind of hard, permanent structure projecting from the head of certain mammals, such as cattle, goats, or antelopes. The horns consist of a bony core covered with a sheath of keratinous material. Animals have a variety of uses for horns, including defending themselves, or to root in the soil or strip bark from trees. Since cow horns are hollow, they make good containers for dry goods such as salt or gunpowder. They are also useful for holding liquids like drinking water.

Livestock production plays an important role in Ethiopia’s economy. Hides and skins constituted the second largest export item for Ethiopia. Almost the entire rural population is involved in some way with animal husbandry. Ethiopia is in east-central Africa, bordered on the west by the Sudan, the east by Somalia and Djibouti, the south by Kenya. Originally called Abyssinia, Ethiopia is sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest state. Judeo-Christian legend assigns the Biblical Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia. The country claims Solomonic dynasty descent from King Menelik I, traditionally believed to have been the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.

Archeologists have found the oldest known human ancestor in Ethiopia, Australopithecus afarensis, commonly known as “Lucy.” She is estimated to be about 4.2 million years old.

[Debra Taylor]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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