- an inventory of string figures mounted on card, string figures on film, string figure photographs, and recordings of string figure songs
Compiled by Martin Probert
Other Archives with String Figure Artefacts
Survival, Origin and Mathematics of String Figures
PEABODY MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
I wish to thank Patricia Kervick, Associate Archivist, for supplying details of the photographs from Liberia (in Dec 2002) and (in Dec 2005) for supplying updated information on photographs from the Belgian Congo and for details of the notes by Daniel Sutherland Davidson.
I am also greatly indebted to Dr. Irene Good who contacted me with details of the Cora Du Bois collection from Alor Island: this was an exciting find from the Peabody Museum as it represents the first report of string figures from the Lesser Sundas Islands. I must further thank Dr. Good for supplying, in response to my request, the string figure data on the Alorese figures.
Photographs (3) of string figures from Liberia
- Culture: Kru and Peripheral Monde; Tribe: Gio
- Study: Ethnology of Liberia
- Photographer: Rev. G. Schwab
- Date: 1929-1930.
- Form: Negative
- N8644 "Cat's Cradle". Image of male figure making cat's cradle.
- N8991 "Woman Making Cat's Cradle"
- N9123 "Woman Making Cat's Cradle"
Photographs believed to be of Belgian Congo string figures taken in 1905-1906 by Frederick Starr
- Accession number for collection: 59-2
- Form: 5x7 b&w
- The museum also possesses a partial draft by Daniel Sutherland Davidson entitled "String Figures in the Belgian Congo: Comments on the photographs taken in 1905-1906 by Frederick Starr."
- Starr’s 1909 paper “Ethnographic Notes from the Congo Free State” appeared in the Proceedings of Davenport Academy of Sciences 12: 148-175.
- The photos are in two folders. One folder contains 76 loose photos: 53 unique images and 23 duplicates. Another 62 photos are mounted on pages of the Davidson "notebook" together with drawings of the string figures: 17 of these are not found in the loose photo collection. There thus appear to be 70 unique images.
Notes and drawings by Daniel Sutherland Davidson of aboriginal Australian string figures
- Reference number for the notes and drawings: 59-2
- Davidson was Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University and authored the paper "Aboriginal Australian String Figures" (Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol.84, No. 6, August 1941, pp. 763-901). The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology have Davidson's original notes and drawings for the paper. The drawings appear to be more representative of Davidson's research for his work than his own collecting.
- String figures are represented from North, Western, Central, South Australia, and Victoria. 74 string figures are illustrated with steps for making the figure. The collection includes galleys for Aboriginal Australian String Figures (with pencil notes), the author's copy of Aboriginal Australian String Figures, bibliographic notes with drawings, typed data charts of string figures world-wide, handwritten data 1933, and research notes and drawings.
- String figures of Australian design made by D.S. Davidson and mounted on card are listed on this website under the University of Pennsylvania entry.
18 annotated string patterns stitched onto cardboard from Kalabahi, Alor Island, Lesser Sundas Islands, Indonesia
- Collected by Dr. Cora Du Bois from Kalabahi, Alor Island, on the 18th of October, 1938. Du Bois lived and conducted research on Alor from 1937 to 1939.
- This important collection (communicated to me by Dr. Irene Good of the Peabody Museum on 16 Dec 2002 during the fourth year of my investigation into surviving string figure artefacts in public collections) contains the only known string figures from the Lesser Sundas Islands. Construction details are not given, but the Cora Du Bois Kalabahi collection also qualifies as the largest single collection of finished figures from the whole of Indonesia. Brief references to the existence of string figures have been recorded from the Greater Sundas Islands of Java, Borneo and the Celebes (see the Introduction by A.C. Haddon in String Figures, C.F. Jayne, 1906, pp. xiii-xv; Dover reprint 1962), and methods of construction of six string figures have been recorded from Philippine sources (Jayne pp. 43, 46, 271, 324, 339, 340). Extensive collections have been made outside Indonesia to the East and South from Australia, The Torres Strait and New Guinea.
- Each figure is stitched to cardboard, and is annotated with the name and an English translation.
- 999-6-70/5805 "Kijaima (cooked kijai - a ravine plant)"
- 999-6-70/5806 "Kamaweg (cat) 1 = eyes (goat live & cat are reverse - see position of eyes)"
On back: Oct. 18, 1938 No. 2
- 999-6-70/5808 "Foenabaling (areca sprout)"
- 999-6-70/5809 "Toegra (sword) fak (sheath)"
- 999-6-70/5810 "la oepi (whole moon)"
- 999-6-70/5811 "Koe roeng (a sort of rat trap)"
- 999-6-70/5812 "Bilie ma - (a sort of bean[?] - cooked)"
- 999-6-70/5813 "Kafie re (goat live) 11 = eyes"
- 999-6-70/5814 "Takoijima (cooked beans)"
- 999-6-70/5815 "Fe ha wata (Pig his shoulder)"
- 999-6-70/5816 "Kafie mona (goat dead)"
Back of cardboard is stamped: "Prof. Dr. Cora DuBois, Kalabahi, Alor, Timor Residency, Netherlands East Indies."
- 999-6-70/5817 "Kafie tila (goat rope)"
- 999-6-70/5818 "Ko (tuber) boei (short)"
- 999-6-70/5819 "Arang Koeki lek (name of a castor plan[t])"
- 999-6-70/5820 "Je Kasing Moon part -- 1/2 moon"
- 999-6-70/5821 "Tada K Elaij"
- 999-6-70/5822 "Ko (tuber) lohoe (long)"
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Other Archives with String Figure Artefacts
The Mathematics and Origin of String Figures
Copyright Martin Probert 2002