So-called 'New Guinea Mancatcher', in all probability a hunting weapon used to kill wild pigs once they have been tangled in a net.
19th century British tales of New Guinea often focused on the 'savagery' of its inhabitants. As one of the last unexplored wildernesses in the world, the Melanesian peoples of the island were notorious as headhunters and cannibals. While these are aspects of warfare in New Guinea, these dramatic accounts ignore the complex farming systems which underpin most communities on the island. This object is an example of this exotic hysteria; reported as a 'man-catcher' in Frederick Horniman's original collection registers, it was imagined that these weapons were used in hunting human flesh through the jungles. In fact, it is a weapon used in hunting pigs; once a wild pig has been snared in a net, the hunters close in and finish off the animal with weapons like this. Collected by a traveller and then sold with an invented backstory to take advantage of the purported 'savagery' of the men of New Guinea, this was a classic example of a 19th century curiosity.