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Arm ring

Arm ring

  • Place of origin:

    Zimbabwe (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast bronze

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Major F. A. Fortescue

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Bronze jewellery and personal objects (amasongo) were designed to show social status and wealth. Museum documentation suggests that this arm ring (amasongo) was taken from the body of Mzilikazi (also spelt Mosilikatze, ca.1790–1868), a southern African leader who founded the Matabele (Ndebele) kingdom in present-day Zimbabwe. A letter written by the donor to the Museum on 18 January 1898 notes that the arm ring ‘was taken off the skeleton of Moselekatze [sic] … when his grave was opened … I can vouch for the authenticity of the bangle as it was given me when I was at Bulawayo in [18]96 by the man who opened the grave’. Mzilikazi had been given a king’s funeral and his body placed in a cave at Entumbane, on the northern periphery of the Matopo Hills.

Physical description

Solid bronze arm ring, oval in shape and flattened on each side.

Place of Origin

Zimbabwe (made)


ca. 1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cast bronze


Diameter: 9.5 cm at widest point, Thickness: 0.7 cm, Depth: 0.5 cm

Object history note

Accessions register entry - 'Bangle of bronze, oval in shape and flattened on each side; said to have been taken from the skeleton of Moseleskatze on the opening of his grave at Bulawayo, Matabeleland, South Africa. Given by Major F.A. Fortescue.'
Letter enclosed: "69 Eaton Terrace, Jan. 18 1898, Dear Mr Clarke, I am sending by the bearer who brings this a small parcel, containing a bangle, the history of which is that it was taken off the skeleton of Moselekatze [name much amended by a second hand] (I think that is how the name is spelt) when his grave was opened. Some buttons which were recently exhibited in the Museum of Bulawayo were found at the same time. The bangle contains a certain percentage of gold and I was told resembled the metal used for ornaments by the Phoenicians; of this you will be a better judge than I am. I can vouch for the authenticity of the bangle as it was given me when I was at Bulawayo in '96 by the man who opened the grave. I shall be very glad to give it to the Museum, if you consider it worthy. Yours truly, (Signed) F.A. Fortescue."

Descriptive line

Solid bronze arm ring, removed from the body of the Matabele (Ndebele) leader Mzilikazi (ca.1790-1868), Zimbabwe, ca.1850

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Object subject of a V&A web story 'Arm ring of an African leader' [http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/hiddenhistories/arm_ring/index.html]




Africa; Jewellery


Metalwork Collection

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