Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province, Mount Hagen region / Bird Figure / date unknownPapua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province, Mount Hagen region
Bird Figure
date unknown

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Pacific; Melanesian; New Guinean; Papuan
Creator Name-CRT: Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province, Mount Hagen region
Title: Bird Figure
View: Principal view
Creation Date: date unknown
Creation Place: Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province, Mount Hagen region
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Materials and Techniques: Stone
Dimensions: H. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)

Stone bird figures are enigmatic remnants of a vanished culture that once flourished in the highlands of New Guinea. This unknown culture produced a variety of stone objects, including figures of birds and other animals. As none have been excavated in controlled archaeological contexts, their date within the 40,000-year sequence of New Guinea prehistory remains unknown. This example was discovered in the Mount Hagen area. While nothing is known of their original use, prehistoric stone objects serve important functions among the Enga and other contemporary Highland peoples. Unearthed by chance in gardens, washed out by streams, or rooted up by foraging pigs, the unusual stones are regarded as the work of spirits. Endowed with powerful magic, their uses range from hunting magic to healing to deadly forms of sorcery.

In recent times, stone objects were primarily associated with the fertility of pigs and sweet potatoes. Powerful stones were ritually anointed with pig's blood to magically replenish the herd and were buried in fields or placed in living shrines of colorful plants to assure abundant crops. On occasion, large groups of stones were massed for Kor nganap, a ceremonial cycle devoted to a female spirit who protected the community and brought success in warfare and traditional exchanges.

AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York
ID Number: 1996.373.2
Credit Line: Purchase, Discovery Communications Inc. Gift, 1996
Copyright: Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art . All rights reserved.
AMICA ID: MMA_.1996.373.2
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright (c) 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All Rights Reserved

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