spear (ceremonial weapon)

Ceremonial spear with flattened oval form at its mid-shaft, the shaft incised with a key motif, and the board features pierced fretwork and relief carving of a curvilinear design.

Ceremonial Spear, Yahray People, Mapi River, Merauke Province, West Papua Before they converted to Christianity in the mid-20th Century, the Yahray people of the Mapi River in south-eastern West Papua had been vigorous headhunters for many years, and existed in a prolonged state of warfare and revenge with their Awyu and Marind-Anim neighbours. Ceremonial spears such as this example played a central role in the elaborate culture of headhunting for several peoples of eastern Merauke province. Immediately before a force of Yahray men descended on their enemy in surprise attack to do battle for their heads, a ceremonial spear of this kind would be thrown by one of the leading warriors in the direction of the enemy camp or village, to ensure success in the raid. Spears with this distinctive fretwork panel were also used for the same ritual purpose among the neighbouring Marind-Anim and Tugeri peoples straddling the border with Papua New Guinea. Wood. Early 20th Century.


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