Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province / Bird Head / date unknownPapua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province
Bird Head
date unknown

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Creator Name: Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province
Creator Nationality: Asian; Pacific; Melanesian; New Guinean; Papuan
Creator Name-CRT: Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province
Title: Bird Head
View: Principal view
Creation Date: date unknown
Creation Place: Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Materials and Techniques: stone, pigment
Dimensions: H. 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm)

Unearthed in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, this ancient stone image may represent the head of the cassowary, an ostrichlike bird. Among many contemporary New Guinea peoples, the cassowary is regarded as a supernaturally powerful animal, therefore, this image indicates that such beliefs possibly extend far into prehistory. This head is one of a variety of stone objects produced throughout the New Guinea Highlands by an as yet unidentified prehistoric culture. To date, no examples have been excavated in controlled archaeological contexts and their exact age and original functions remain unknown.

Discovered by chance while gardening or rooted up by foraging pigs, such stone images are regarded by contemporary Highland peoples as the work of spirits. Endowed with powerful magic, the ancient images are reused in a number of ritual contexts, ranging from hunting and farming magic, to healing, to deadly forms of sorcery. The red ocher pigment on the surface of this example was probably applied in historic times, as the object was reused in a contemporary ritual context.

AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York
ID Number: 1978.412.1504
Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1966
Copyright: Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
AMICA ID: MMA_.1978.412.1504
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright (c) 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All Rights Reserved

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