Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Drum (Apentemma) goblet shaped open drum with a hollow pedestal, the main body made of wood (Cordia africana), with six wood pegs (Baphia nitida), a skin head (deer or antelope?) and cord made of two main vegetable fibres (Clappertonia ficfolia and Raphia) - among others - which is around the head of the drum and attached to the pegs; there is a coating on the wood of proteinacious glue and ochre-containing iron oxide pigment. The top half of the drum has the pegs and no decoration, there is a raised ring with vertical lines carved around the middle of the circumference of the drum, and decoration below this raised ring consisting of carved notches, which divides the drum into three vertical sections and within those sections designs with rectangels or squares that are alternately blank or with carved vertical lines. The foot of the drum has no design.


  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 18thC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 41 centimetres
    • Diameter: 24 centimetres
    • Width: 28 centimetres (at widest)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

        Handwritten in pen
      • Inscription Position

        on the drum's surface
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        A Drum
        from Virginia
  • Curator's comments

    The apentema (aka Apentemma) was made in the early 18th century and would have been part of one of any number of drum groups or ensembles from West Africa - fontomfrom , Adowa, Kete or Abofoe. the drum is played with an open hand, not sticks.

  • Bibliography

    • Romanek 2010 bibliographic details
    • MacGregor 2010 86 bibliographic details
    • MacGregor 1994 p. 234, p. 243 (note 93) bibliographic details
    • Vlach 1978 p.20, fig.5 bibliographic details
    • Watkins 1976 p.75, fig.51 bibliographic details
    • King 1999 p.79 bibliographic details
    • Braunholtz 1970 pl. 17, pp. 20-27 bibliographic details
    • Braunholtz 1953 pl. VIII bibliographic details
    • Bushnell 1906 pp. 676-678, pl. XXXV bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G26/dc3

  • Exhibition history


    1976, National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution; A Nation of Nations
    1994-1999 Oct-May, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool; Transatlantic Slavery Gallery
    1999-2010 25 Jun-9 Aug, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The Southeastern Woodlands"
    2010 10 Aug-12 Oct, BM Room 3; Akan Drum: The Drummer Is Calling Me
    2010-2011 12 Oct-1 Oct, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The Southeastern Woodlands"
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2011-2012 25 Oct - 5 Feb, Perth, Western Australian Museum, Extraordinary Stories from the British Museum
    2012 2 Apr- Present, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The Southeastern Woodlands"

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The Sloane register records that this drum was acquired from a Mr. Clerk of Virginia, then a British colony, by Hans Sloane in the early eighteenth century. The records suggest that Clerk may have collected it from an "Indian" group, although its association with the slave trade is clear based on the African materials and origin.

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Am1753D10.1368 (old CDMS no.)
Drum made of wood, root (cedar), skin (deer).

Drum made of wood, root (cedar), skin (deer).

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: ENA213

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help