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Connected and Disconnected: The Skull Art of the Bismam of West Papua

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Title:
Connected and Disconnected: The Skull Art of the Bismam of West Papua
Copyright Date:
2008

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Subjects / Keywords:
Canoes ( jstor )
Eggshells ( jstor )
Feathers ( jstor )
Head ( jstor )
Headhunting ( jstor )
Nose ornaments ( jstor )
Rituals ( jstor )
Sago ( jstor )
Skull ( jstor )
Villages ( jstor )

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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7/30/2007

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CONNECTED AND DISCONNECTED: THE SKULL ART OF THE BISMAM OF
WEST PAPUA














By

KATHERINE "ALEX" FLANAGAN


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2005

































Copyright 2005

by

Katherine "Alex" Flanagan
































This thesis is dedicated to my mother for her love, advice and financial support.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First and foremost, I must thank my thesis chair, Dr. Robin Poynor, for maintaining

a high level of encouragement through the many years of working on this project. He has

provided a multitude of edits at my request and has always given valuable advice. I feel

very fortunate to have worked with such an excellent academic who is both friendly and

has a charming sense of humor.

I must also acknowledge my cochair on this project, Dr. John Scott, who has been

very patient as I prepared this document. He provided insightful comments that are very

much appreciated.

The late Dr. Roy Sieber, formerly of Indiana University, was a Ham Museum

eminent scholar, who supervised my independent survey of Oceanic literature in

preparation for thesis writing. I am grateful for his support and topic recommendation.

Several scholars from museums have taken the time away from their busy schedule

to assist me. From the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia, Michael Quinnell

allowed me to view several examples of adorned skulls not typically on display as did Dr.

Roger Neich from the Auckland Museum in Auckland, New Zealand. Finally, Nicole

Peduzzi, Assistant to the Oceania Department from the Museum der Kulturen in Basel,

Switzerland, offered astute observations about my research project and responded to me

in a timely manner. I appreciate each of these scholars' time and energy extended on my

behalf.









Several faculty members from the Department of Art and Art History at the

University of Florida including Dr. John Ward, Dr. Barbara Barletta, Dr. David Stanley

and Dr. Robert Westin have worked with me throughout my years at the university, and

they have always taken time to encourage and advise me with regard to this project. I

appreciate all of their advice. Newer faculty members, Dr. Alex Alberro, Dr. Melissa

Hyde and Dr. Eric Segal, provided fresh inspiration to my project.

Over the course of my time at UF many students both art historians and artists, both

graduate and undergraduate, have listened to my repeated explanations of this project and

sympathize with my struggle to complete it. I wish to thank them for their patience,

encouragement and support. Most notable are Susan Cooksey, Barbara Palmer and Sarah

Smith, who have certainly listened the most sympathetically for the longest period of

time.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS



A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

LIST OF FIGURES ................................ .. ......... ............................ viii

A B S T R A C T ...................................................................................................................... x ii

CHAPTER

1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ................................................. .............................................. .

2 CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION ........................................................................7...

H history of C ontact................................................................................................. 8
E early E exploration ............................................................... .. .... ....................8.......
Contact and the Dutch Administration............................................................. 11
Later Contact and the Indonesian Administration.........................................14
A sm at or B ism am ? ............ ........... ...................................................... .... .... 17
A sm at A rt A areas .............. ................... ............................................... 18
B is Pole Production ................ .............. ............................................ 20
Asmat Language ...................................................................... 21
B ism a m ............................................................................................................ . 2 3
B a ck g ro u n d ................................................................................................................ 2 3
N natural E nvironm ent ................................................................... ................ 24
Social and Political Organization ..................................................29
Bismam Cosmology .............................................................................. 34

3 ANCESTOR SKULLS .................................................................................... 39

Dress and Adornment .............................. ............................................ 40
Fiber O rnam ents ............... ................ .............................................. 40
N e c k la c e s ............................................................................................................. 4 2
E a rrin g s ............................................................................................................ . 4 3
Nose Ornaments .............. ................................. 43
H e a d d re ss ............................................................................................................ 4 4
B ody P aint ..................................................................................................... 45
O rnam ents as A rm am ent ....................................... ...................... ................ 46
O objects T hat C onvey Status ........................................................... ................ 48
F u n eral ........................................................................................................ ........ .. 5 0









Death ............................................. ................................ 50
B u ria l ...................................................................................................................5 2
Ancestor Skull Assemblages ......................................................................53
Protection ............................ .................................................58
Spirits and Lifeforces ........................ ................................... 59
Protective Function of Shields and Ancestor Skulls ...................................... 61
Protective D esigns and O objects ...................................................... ................ 62
C o m m u n ic atio n ...........................................................................................................6 4
M yth of T walking H ead ............................................... .................... ................ 64
Communicative Function of Jipae Masks and Ancestor Skulls.......................67
Adornment of Jipae Mask and Ancestor Skull .............................................69
C o n c lu sio n ............................................................................................................... .. 7 0

4 T R O P H Y SK U L L S .................................................. ............................................ 73

R eciprocity and R evenge ........................................... ......................... ................ 74
H eadhunting R aid .... .................................................................. ... ............ 78
C a n n ib a lism ......................................................................................................... 8 1
The U se of Skeletal R em ains ......................................................... ................ 82
The Use of the Parts of the Head.................................................................... 83
B is R itu a l ............................................................................................................. 8 4
B is D isp lay ........................................................................................................... 8 8
Growth ................................................................................................. 90
Initiation R itual ........................................................................................... .. 9 1
A dornm ent of the Initiate ...................................... ...................... ................ 95
Adornment of the Trophy Skull ..................................................................... 96
Display of the Trophy Skull in the Initiation Ritual....................................... 98
P re stig e ...................................................................................................... ........ .. 9 9
Kus Fe Assemblage .............. ............... ............................................ 103
K us F e D display .......................................................................................... 105
C o n c lu sio n ............................................................................................................... 1 0 7

5 C O N CLU SIO N ............... .. .................. .................. ....................... .............. 109

LIST OF REFERENCES ...................................................................... ............... 180

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................................................................ 185
















LIST OF FIGURES

Figure page

1. Map of Asmat region with art style regions and inset of New Guinea..................... 114

2 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ............................................................................................................. 1 15

3. K usfe inside fam ily hom e........................................ ......................... ............... 116

4. Bamboo horns. Carved by Shuw. ....................................................... 117

5. B is pole w ith trophy skulls....................................... ......................... ............... 118

6. C central style shield ............. .. .................. ................ ............... ......... ... ........... 119

7. N orthw est style shield .. .................................................................... ............... 120

8 C itak sty le sh ield .......................................................................................................... 12 1

9. Brazza River style shield.. ........................................................... 122

10 M en in can o es ............................................................................................................ 12 3

1 1 D ru m ........................................................................................................ .......... 12 4

12 C arv ed p ad d le ........................................................................................................... 12 5

13. Jip ae m asquerade ............ .. .................. .................. ......................... ............... 126

14. Five major dialect groups of the Asmat language. ..................................127

15 T h e S iretsj R iv er ........................................................................................................ 12 8

16. Chopping the buttress of a mangrove tree. ......... .......................129

17 C o co n u t p alm ........................................................................................................... 12 9

1 8 B a n an a tre e ............................................................................................................... .. 13 0

1 9 J a c k fru it .................................................................................................................. ... 1 3 0

20. Sago palm ....................... .................................................131



viii









21. Capricorn larvae at bis cerem ony. ...... .......... .......... ...................... 132

2 2 P a p y a fru it..................................................................................................................1 3 2

23. Cuscus ................................................... .................. 133

2 4 T re e k an g aro o ...........................................................................................................13 4

2 5 C a ssow ary ....................................................................................... ..................... 13 5

26. Illustration of w white cockatoo ...................... ........................................ ...............135

27. Illustration of black palm cockatoo...................................136

2 8 F em ale h o rn b ill ..........................................................................................................13 6

2 9 F ly in g F o x ..................................................................................................................1 3 7

30. H unters w ith w ild boar .........................................................................................137

31. M ap of A m anam kai village ...................... ........................................... ...............138

32. Exterior Awok yeu along river ..................... ...........................................139

33. Interior of A w ok yeu ............................................................................................140

3 4 A n c e sto r sk u ll ...........................................................................................................14 1

35. Jewejmenmaq wearing a traditional awer. .................................142

3 6 W o m an w ith a w er......................................................................................................14 3

37. M an w ith ancestor skull ........................................................................ ...............144

38. Ndanim with sago strips in hair ..................... .........................................145

39. M an w ith three necklaces .....................................................................................146

40. M an w ith shell necklace ....................................................................... ...............147

41. Man with abrus and coix seed necklace................................148

42. W om an w ith earrings ...........................................................................................149

43. Man with ancestor skull on chest............ .............................150

44. Jaobenem with wild boar bone nose ornament ......................................................151

45. Bishop Sowada and man with bipane nose ornament ............................................152









46. Magasew with bipane nose ornament...... .... ...... ..................... 153

47. Selection of carrying bags...................................... ......................... ............... 153

48. M an on left wearing a carrying bag ...... ........... ........ ..................... 154

49 M an w ith plain paddle. .................................................................. ...................... 155

50. Man with cassowary feather paddle...... ........ ...... ......................156

51. M an with ancestor skull on back. ..... .............. ............ ...................... 157

52. W om en rolling in the m ud. ................ ............................................................ 158

53. Corpse on platform. ............................................ ........ ....................159

54 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 0

5 5 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 1

5 6 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 2

5 7 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 2

5 8 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 3

5 9 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 4

6 0 A n ce sto r sk u ll. ........................................................................................................... 16 4

61. Inside family home with ancestor skull .................................165

62. Shield with ancestor. figures Carved by Jane. ........................................166

63. Shield with bipane designs. Carved by Junum. .....................................................167

6 4 J ip a e m a sk ............................................................................................................... 16 8

6 5 J ip a e m a sk ............................................................................................................... 16 9

6 6 J ip a e m a sk ............................................................................................................... 17 0

67. Jipae masquerade..................... .. ........... ............................... 171

6 8 T ro p h y sk u ll ............................................................................................................... 17 2

69. H um an bone daggers... .................................................................... ............... 173

70. Mandible pendant .................... .. ........... ............................... 174



x









71. A tlas vertebra necklace ....................................................................... ............... 174

72. Bis pole. Carved by Chief Bifarq ...... ............. ............ ...................... 175

73. Interior of Amman yeu with bis poles...... ........ ..................... 176

74. B is poles displayed vertically.................................... ...................... ................ 177

75. Bis poles displayed horizontally. ...... ............ ............ ..................... 178

7 6 K u sf e ............................. ............................................................... ........... 17 8

77. E exterior of fam ily hom es ..................................................................... ............... 179















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

CONNECTED AND DISCONNECTED: THE SKULL ART OF THE BISMAM OF
WEST PAPUA

By

Katherine "Alex" Flanagan

August 2005

Chair: Robin Poynor
Cochair: John Scott
Major Department: Art and Art History

The Bismam people of West Papua, before conversion to Christianity and

colonization, practiced rituals that involved headhunting and cannibalism motivated by

the belief that powerful lifeforces were contained in the human skull. This belief was also

the impetus behind the retention of a deceased family member's skull. The Bismam used

cranial remains of enemies and relatives to create visual assemblages that suggested to

the viewer several symbolic connections to Bismam cosmology.

In this thesis, I examine secondary source material from missionaries, colonizers

and scholars to explore the history, environment, terminology, lifestyle, social

organization, political structure, and religious beliefs of the Bismam. I analyze the

adornment of the living and compare it to the adornment of the skulls. I examined the

methods for acquiring skulls and the rituals that require skulls.









The Bismam created the ancestor skull from the remains of a deceased relative who

died of natural causes. The skull was adorned with materials that created an

individualized portrait of the deceased, an image of the ideal headhunter, and also

represented an ancestral spirit. This assemblage was then worn by a living relative of the

deceased. This visual display also protected the living relative from spiritual enemies and

allowed the living to communicate easily with the dead.

The Bismam created the trophy skull from the remains of an enemy who was

ritually killed; then arranged them to create three complex visual statements. Trophy

skulls were suspended from the bis pole visually suggesting a fruit form while asserting

the power of the headhunter. This arrangement was also a statement to the ancestors that

their deaths were avenged, and it was a public declaration that balance had been restored.

A young man displayed the adorned trophy skull during several stages of the initiation

ritual visually connecting himself to the former living victim serving to transfer the

lifeforces of the victim within the skull to the initiate. The last configuration of trophy

skulls was purposely arranged in a vertical cluster resembling fruit. This visual

statement was publicly displayed to emphasize the power and prestige of a high status

headhunter, his family, his men's house and his community.

Skull assemblages were complex art forms used in a variety of contexts that served

to visually connect the Bismam viewer to symbolically rich ideas of their cosmology.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

This paper will examine the decoration and display of ancestor skulls and trophy

skulls created by the Bismam people, a sub-group of the Asmat people, who live in the

swampy delta of the south coast of West Papua, a province of Indonesia located on the

island of New Guinea (Figure 1). An ancestor skull is the preserved cranial remains of a

family member, and a trophy skull is the preserved cranial remains of an enemy. Both

types of skulls are adorned with a variety of materials creating an assemblage that

suggests a portrait of the deceased, as seen in the ancestor skull illustrated in Figure 2. To

suggest the likeness of the family member, the mandible is securely attached, maintaining

the original structure of the face. The eye sockets and nose cavity are filled with resin and

colorful seeds. A headdress is loosely fitted on the skull, which is a similar in form to the

headdress worn by the living. It is constructed from fiber netting allowing seeds and the

feathers to be attached. Ornaments such as a nose piece and earring forms may be added

to the skull to increase the viewer's identification of a portrait as one can see in Figure 2.

The two types of skulls are displayed in different configurations. An assemblage of

trophy skulls without decorations, known as a kusfe (Figure 3), is purposely arranged to

create a form that has symbolic associations of fruit, power, and prestige for the Bismam

viewer.

This assemblage was intentionally displayed in a private home for viewing by the

family, the community, and the spirits. It was also intentionally displayed in a more

public structure with a wider audience.









This paper will suggest that the many skull assemblages created by the Bismam

were complex visual forms that embodied several aspects of their cosmology and as

visual forms communicated these ideas to those who saw them.

Manipulated and displayed skull art has only been mentioned but not discussed in

the scholarship on the Bismam. Two authors who noted the use of skulls by the Bismam

were both missionaries, Father Gerard A. Zegwaard and Bishop Alphonse A. Sowada.

Father Zegwaard gave the first detailed account of the Bismam when he settled among

them in 1952 (Zegwaard 1959, 1020). By the time he had arrived, the Bismam had been

exposed to traders from Malaysia and Australia. The Dutch administration had attempted

to explore the region and pacify the people, and missionaries had begun to introduce

Christianity. Japanese and Australian forces had been engaged in the battles of WWII in

the region. As a missionary and anthropologist, Zegwaard documented cultural practices

such as headhunting, cannibalism, initiation rites, and ancestor beliefs that were on the

verge of change or had recently changed in his watershed essay titled "Headhunting

Practices of the Asmat of Netherlands New Guinea." In this description, he mentioned

the use of trophy skulls in the initiation ritual of young men, as part of the kusfe

assemblage, and placed in the forest to stimulate the growth of plants. Zegwaard also

included a brief note concerning remains of a family member when he stated, "...keeping

the bones and skulls of the deceased is another effective way of keeping the spirits at

bay..." but he did not elaborate (1040).

In 1961, Father (later Bishop) Sowada followed Zegwaard's example and traveled

to the Bismam region to begin his service with the Crosier Mission. In an article for the

National Geographic, he recorded his thoughts upon docking in this region:









Inland, not far beyond those trees, I knew men lived who had taken the heads of
their enemies in battle or in ambush, eaten their flesh, and then use their skulls as
pillows. These same people had a deep and obsessive fear of their ancestors' spirits
and wore some part of a forebear's skeleton to ward off his ghost-a skull as a huge
pendant, a vertebra on a necklace, or some other bone as a nose ornament. (Sowada
1968, 186)

Like Zegwaard, Sowada noted the presence of skulls among the Bismam.

However, he recorded that trophy skulls were used "as pillows" and stated that an

ancestor skull was worn "as a huge pendant." Both missionaries suggested that ancestor

skulls had a protective function, "keeping the spirits at bay," or "to ward off his ghost."

These two brief descriptions illustrate the scanty type of documentation on which

this paper is based; therefore, additional related facets of material culture such as body

decoration, sculpture, and masquerade, will be examined to gain an understanding of the

adornment, function, and meaning of these objects. Aspects of mythology, religion, and

cultural practices will also be reviewed when relevant. The focus of this paper is skull art

created at the same time period before the 1950s that headhunting and cannibalism were

practiced. The scholarship on the Bismam begins after these practices have ceased;

however, many scholars have noted the continuity in culture, beliefs and art forms. I rely

upon this continuity to suggest relationships to the skull art of the past.

The second chapter will provide preliminary material that allows the reader to

form a context in which these objects can be discussed. To begin, this section will briefly

review the history of contact with special attention to the missionaries, collectors and

anthropologists who provide relevant material from which this paper is drawn. The

methodology employed for this paper is an analysis of secondary source material

gathered by missionaries such as Zegwaard and Sowada, explorers, collectors and









anthropologists. I have not attempted to corroborate these assumptions with the members

of the Bismam culture.

The second chapter will also determine the appropriate term to describe the people

discussed in this paper. After reviewing the art styles used to distinguish regional

variations among the Asmat people, I have chosen to limit the focus of this paper to one

regional area, the Central Asmat. Then, I will discuss one definition of the word Bismam

as carver of bis, a memorial sculpture. I will also examine the other definition of the word

Bismam as speakers of the Bismam sub-dialect of the Asmat language. These factors

contribute to the proposal and use of the name Bismam to describe the people at the focus

of this paper.

The second chapter will also provide background information on seemingly

unrelated topics that have an influence on Bismam life and thus the construction of skull

art. To begin, a brief survey of the natural environment of the Bismam will be made.

Next, I will examine the men's house as a social organization as a factor in the lives of

the Bismam. In Melanesian societies, the bigman is a man of political power that is

earned rather than inherited. I consider the role of the bigman as political leader in the

Bismam community. Finally, the second chapter concludes with a review of a few ideas

central to Bismam beliefs that have an impact on the construction of skull art. The reader

will be introduced to two myths, one that explains the origin of the Bismam and one that

explains the origin of the sago palm. In addition, a metaphorical relationship between

humans and trees will be discussed. Finally, the journey an ancestral spirit is believed to

make will be explored.









This third chapter examines the production, adornment and function of the

ancestor skull in Bismam society. The analysis begins by examining the personal

adornment of the living, including fiber ornaments, necklaces, nose ornaments, earrings,

headdresses, and body paint. The assessment of the living's adornment will conclude

with a discussion of functional objects such as a carrying bag, ceremonial paddle, and

ancestor skull that signify the status of an individual. The next section will review the

funeral rites that occurred when someone died of natural causes and the treatment of the

corpse as these practices relate to the preparation of the ancestor skull. Then, a formal

analysis will be made of adorned ancestor skulls, and this adornment will be compared to

the adornment of the living.

The third chapter continues with a discussion of the function of the ancestor skull

as protective device. The reader will be introduced to the spirits and lifeforces that are

believed to affect the Bismam sometimes maliciously. The protective function of wooden

decorated shields, objects traditionally used in warfare, will be examined to suggest that

the ancestor skull has a similar protective function. Certain designs such as ancestor

figures and bipane nose ornaments carved into the shield enhance its power. This

decoration will be compared to the use of a bipane nose ornament for adorning the

ancestor skull suggesting that a similar power is expressed in this visual element.

Finally, the third chapter will suggest that the ancestor skull also functions as a tool

to maintain contact with the ancestor realm. To understand this function, the reader will

be introduced to a few Bismam myths about communicating with the dead. Thejipae

mask is a physical embodiment of the ancestor spirit and will be compared to the ancestor

skull to suggest that these objects have a similar communicative function. Thejipae mask









and the ancestor skull share a few elements of adornment that suggest a pattern is used to

depict an ancestral spirit.

The fourth chapter will look at the method of acquiring the trophy skull, displaying

the trophy skull, and interpreting the symbolism connected with each display. The first

configuration of trophy skulls that this chapter will discuss involves the bis pole, a

wooden sculpture carved to memorialize deceased relatives. During the bis ritual

enemies' skulls were hung from the projecting element of the pole. This display of skull

on the poles stated that revenge had been exacted. This section will also address how

revenge was achieved and describe the bis pole, its preparation and the bis ritual.

Then, I will study the initiation ritual and the use of the adorned trophy skull to

facilitate growth in a male child by associating the adornment of the skull with the

adornment of the young boy. The adorned trophy skull and the adorned child were also

displayed throughout the initiation ritual, suggesting to the group gathered to witness the

ritual a connection between the boy and the deceased individual.

Finally, I will study the assemblage of trophy skulls in a kusfe configuration. This

configuration makes several visual statements. It expresses the relationship of humans to

trees, the power of the headhunter, and the prestige of the bigman. The assemblage is also

displayed in the men's house and the family home so that the visual statements that are

embody by the kusfe are seen by a public audience and a private audience.

The fifth chapter will provide a comparison of the ancestor skull's adornment,

display, and function to the trophy skull's adornment, display, and function exploring the

complex visual statements that these objects convey about relationships between the

living who use the skull and the dead represented by the skull.














CHAPTER 2
CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION

This chapter reviews different aspects of contextual information concerning the

Bismam. The first section highlights a few historical contacts in which explorers, Dutch

colonizers, missionaries, Indonesian colonizers, and scholars come into the region. These

various outsiders have either had an impact on traditional Bismam culture or have

documented the impact of others on traditional culture. The Dutch administration and

missionaries were able to curtail headhunting and cannibalism while the military

presence of the Indonesian rule stopped any lingering headhunting and cannibalism

(Schneebaum 1990, 60). By the end of the twentieth century, Christianity had been

accepted by the Asmat (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 80). The rituals that demanded

decorated and displayed skulls have ceased or have been dramatically altered. The

scholars who first entered the Asmat region approached these practices as events in the

recent past that nonetheless still affected daily life. The period of colonization that

connects the end of headhunting to contemporary life can still be considered a time of

transition. A review of the time periods when scholars were researching allows the reader

to gauge at what point in this transition specific scholars were working.

The second section examines the use of the terms Asmat and Bismam to describe

the people who are the focus of this paper. In order to assess which name is more

applicable, I will determine the region of skull art, the region in which bis poles, and the

region of speakers of the Bismam sub-dialect of the Asmat language. Finally, I will

propose the term Bismam to define the people discussed in this paper.









The final section of this chapter reviews several different aspects of Bismam life.

The elements of the natural environment are listed. A brief review is made of the men's

house as a social institution and the bigman as a political leader. Finally, a few aspects of

Bismam religious ideas will be noted. All of these aspects of Bismam culture bear on the

function of skull construction.

History of Contact

This section briefly reviews a history of contact between the Bismam people and

outsiders. This section provides a few notes on history, colonization and researchers

while giving a review of the scholarship on the Bismam, especially the sources used for

the construction of this text. To act as a historical outline, this section is divided into early

exploration, contact and later contact.

Early Exploration

The first Europeans to document seeing New Guinea were the Portuguese in 1512

(D'Alleva 1998, 32). The Portuguese Governor of the Moluccas, Jorge de Meneses, was

the first to land on the island, which he named "island of the Papuans" (32). Yet, the

Spanish were the first Europeans to claim New Guinea as their property in the 1545

(Wassing 1993, 27). Captain Yfiigo Ortiz de Retes named the island, New Guinea,

suggesting the familiar African Guinea Coast (Trenkenschuh 1982, 2: 25). The Spanish

were not very interested in colonizing the island; however, the Dutch were (Wassing

1993, 27).

The Dutch captain, Jan Carstensz gave one of the first accounts of the Asmat, in

1623, when he briefly noted, "... a people with pierced nostrils and a curling gourd or a

snail-shell on their penis" (Schneebaum 1990, 17). He observed the Casuarina trees from

which this coastline would later take its name (Amelsvoort 1964, 57). He also described









the snow on large mountain peaks as he sailed past the coast on his journey to search for

exploitable resources (Beaglehole 1966, 117). The mountains became known as the Snow

Mountains. Now, they are known as the Jayakesuma Mountains (Schneebaum 1990, 17).

In 1770, the English captain James Cook stopped at what is now Cook's Bay in the

Asmat region (17). He was on a journey to observe the transit of Venus across the sun,

search for the theoretical southern continent, and look for any undiscovered land that

would be of interest to empire-building England (Beaglehole 1966, 231-237). As he

passed New Guinea, the crew was in need of fresh water and Cook recorded this

encounter:

I went a shore in the Pinnace accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander... but
had not gone above 200 Yards before we were attacked by 3 or 4 Men who came
out of the woods a little before us, but upon immidiatly firing upon them they
retired; finding that we could not search the Country with any degree of safety we
returned to the boat and was followed by 60 or as some thought about 100 of the
natives who had advanced in small parties out of the woods. (Schneebaum 1990,
17)

He also reported that the locals pursued the crew throwing lime dust (Amelsvoort

1964, 57). Lime dust was made from burnt and pulverized shells (Schneebaum 1990, 33).

According to Eyde, "Lime is associated with a female element in the universe which

makes men "hot", that is, brave and aggressive, so that throwing lime is really another

way of calling the enemy female" (Eyde 1967, 71). This was the first time Europeans had

landed in Asmat territory. The next attempted landing over fifty years later, in 1826, was

very similar, including the insult of lime dust, when the Dutch Captain Kolff sailed into

Cook's Bay (Schneebaum 1990, 17).

The Dutch East India Company, attempting to safeguard their trade routes to the

Spice Islands, was the motivating force behind the Dutch government's interest in New

Guinea (Wassing 1993, 27). In 1828, the Netherlands solidified their claim to this









western half of the island with a new treaty and a proclamation of sovereignty over New

Guinea west of the 141st degree east longitude line (Knauft 1993, 33).

Toward the end of the 19th century, missionaries began to move to New Guinea

(Trenkenschuh 1982, 2: 25). The Dutch government was not interested in contact with

the indigenous people, but, with the urging of missionaries, the first administrative post

was established in 1898 in the northwest region (Knauft 1993, 33). The urging of the

British government led to the establishment of the second Dutch administrative post, on

the south coast of New Guinea, to pacify the Marind-anim people who were headhunting

in British territory (Wassing 1993, 27).

Between 1903 and 1917 this post in Merauke also became a launching point for

interior exploration (28). Explorers ventured into Asmat territory in an attempt to reach

the snowcapped peaks of the Jayakesuma Mountains, which Cartensz had first described

(28). The explorations were conducted as military, geographic and scientific studies and

signaled the beginning of many collections of Asmat objects, including those of Von

Siebold, Lorentz, and Gooszen (Lamme 1993, 137).

The Dutch were seeking exploitable resources such as minerals from the mountains

(Zubricich 1997, 288). From this period, J.H.Hondius van Herwerden recorded an

interesting description of the Asmat.

Up till now they lived in the stone, bone and shell age. That it is possible to achieve
fine results [in woodcarving] without iron utensils is demonstrated by the open
work lances present in the Van Herwerden collection. Most curious of all are
perhaps the ornamented bamboo tubes used as shell-trumpets for blowing far
reaching audible signals.... More unmanageable material than the smooth bamboo
surface to be worked up with flint stone, shell or boar's tusk does not exist.
(Wassing 1993, 28)

This is an early example of the interest many have taken in Asmat woodcarving.

The intricately carved bamboo horn was used in battle to disorient and scare the enemy









and for signaling after success in battle (Figure 4) (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum

1981, 177).

During this period of early exploration Major A.J. Gooszen, who served in the

Dutch Indies army, gathered over nine hundred Asmat objects, which he gave to the

National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden (Lamme 1993, 144). In total, he collected over

six thousand objects from Southwest New Guinea (144). Objects collected at this time

had little or no documentation, and the Asmat were not yet distinguished as a group in

collection records (Gerbrands 1967, 20). Notably, in 1922, Paul Wirz, who was gathering

objects from many areas of west New Guinea, acquired a bis pole with skulls attached

(Figure 5) (Schneebaum 1990, 17).

Northwest of the Asmat, the Dutch government set up a post in 1925 among the

Mimika (Wassing 1993, 28). The Mimika, also known as the Kamoro, have a few

similarities with the Asmat such as language, diet, and large memorial sculpture

(Trenkenschuh 1982, 1:77). The Mimikas knew the Asmat as we mana we or "men who

eat men" (Wassing 1993, 28).

Contact and the Dutch Administration

In 1939, along the Asewets River close to Flamingo bay, the Dutch government

established the first government post in the Asmat region at the village of Agats, but it

was abandoned with the outbreak of World War II (28).

During the war, the Japanese controlled the Asmat region. As the war ended,

headhunting seemed to increase and scholars have speculated this was due to the drastic

changes brought on by the war (29). Over 6,000 Central Asmat fled to Mimika territory

to escape the intensified headhunting between 1946 and 1948 (29). At this point,









missionaries, especially Father Zegwaard, began to learn the Asmat language and

customs (29).

By 1949, the Asmat were persuaded to return to their old villages (29). Father

Zegwaard oversaw all mission activities among the Asmat and in 1952 moved to Agats

(29). Serious scholarship on the Asmat began with Zegwaard's article "The Headhunting

Practices of the Asmat Netherlands New Guinea" published in 1959.

The Dutch government, along with missionaries, introduced aspects of Western

culture to the Asmat and attempted to stop headhunting (30). Institutions such as

churches, clinics and schools were opened (30). Farming, animal husbandry and logging

stimulated the economy (30). Logging, in particular, drastically affected hereditary land

ownership in Asmat because the government has a policy of taking the land it deemed

necessary for commerce (Zubrinich 1997, 298). For example, Agats was developed to

house the Dutch administration (Trenkenschuh 1982, 2:28).

The period from 1954 to 1963 saw a number of missionaries, collectors and

anthropologists come to work in the region and document many aspects of Asmat culture

(Wassing 1993, 30). Vincent Van Amelsvoort was the Dutch medical officer from 1961

to 1964 and wrote Culture, Stone Age and Modern Medicine (Gerbrands 1967, 8). In

1961, Father Alphonse A. Sowada, who trained as an anthropologist writing his thesis

titled, "Socio-Economic Survey of the Asmat Peoples of Southwestern New Guinea,"

came to the region with the Crosier Mission (Sowada 1968, 192). He and Father Frank A.

Trenkenschuh, began a collection of information on the Asmat known as The Asmat

.sie h I Book based on their notes, articles by other visitors, and notes gathered by Father

Zegwaard (Trenkenschuh 1982, 1:3). Originally, the material was to provide a resource









for incoming missionaries to learn about the Asmat, their customs, and the mission, but it

became a tool for incoming scholars as well, who later published in the .\keit Ih Book (3).

This collection was first published in 1970 as two volumes; however, by the last year it

was published, in 1982, it had grown to eight volumes. While continuously contributing

to the .,s\keih Book, Sowada has also written many articles on the Asmat people published

in other venues. From 1959 to 1960, Carleton Gajdusek was in the region to conduct

genetic research (Gajdusek 1990, 76). He collected over one thousand objects that are

now housed in the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts (76).

1960 through 1962 was a very interesting time for research in Asmat because

several scholars came to the region. The Dutch anthropologist Adrian A. Gerbrands

arrived in Amanamkai at the end of 1960 to study ethno-aesthetics and to collect for the

Rijkmuseum in Leiden (Gerbrands 1967, 7-9). He studied Asmat woodcarvers and their

uniqueness of style within the framework of traditional forms. He collected almost six

hundred objects for the museum (Lamme 1993, 147). Gerbrands wrote Wow-Ipits: Eight

Asmat woodcarvers of New Guinea, filmed a documentary on woodcarving, and edited

Michael Rockefeller's journal for publication.

At the same time as Gerbrands, David Eyde, an anthropologist from Yale

University, settled in Amanamkai (Wassing 1993, 30). He studied the relationship

between economy welfare and warfare patterns for his dissertation, Cultural Correlates

of Warfare among the Asmat of S ,,ihV-West New Guinea. Also at this fruitful time, C.L.

Voorhoeve studied linguistics for two years in the same village (Gerbrands 1967, 9). His

work, The Flamingo Bay Dialect of the Asmat Language, added to the work of Father P.









Drabbe who had first documented many of the different dialects of the area (Zubrinich

1997, 67).

Michael Rockefeller, a photographer for the Harvard-Peabody expedition studying

the highlands of New Guinea, came to the Asmat region in 1961, surveying the

possibilities of collecting in the area (Rockefeller 1967, 5). He returned later in the year

to collect for the Museum of Primitive Art in New York, where he was a trustee (5).

After his death, his journal and photographs were edited for publication in The Asmat of

New Guinea: The Journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller (5). Rene Wassing, an

anthropologist working for the Dutch's Bureau of Native Affairs, helped Rockefeller to

collect (Zubrinich 1997, 70). Wassing was the curator of the Department of Oceania at

the Rotterdam Museum.

Later Contact and the Indonesian Administration

In 1962, the Dutch government ended its colonial rule of western New Guinea,

and in 1963, the Indonesian government began its colonial rule (Wassing 1993, 31). As

Kerry Zubrinich, points out "The succession of names given to the western half of the

island of New Guinea reflects its continuing political engagement with colonization"

(Zubrinich 1997, 30). When the Dutch were claiming the area, names such as Dutch New

Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea were applicable (30). The Indonesians renamed the

area Irian Barat, then Irian Jaya (30).

The Indonesian government banned all feasts and ceremonies as well as anything

that could be construed as part of the headhunting cycle, including dancing, drumming

and carving (Wassing 1993, 31). They also destroyed the communal men's houses (31).

They, like the Dutch government before them, extracted resources from the land such as

oil, minerals and timber, and when possible, used Asmat labor mostly for the logging









industry (Zubrinich 1997, 311). This introduced the Asmat to the concept of a cash

economy (105). The Crosier mission was able to negotiate with the Indonesia

government to retract the ban, and some traditional activities began again, attracting art

collectors back to the area (O'Neill 1996, 24). The Crosier mission also helped to

preserve some aspects of traditional culture by adopting them and including them in their

church ceremonies (24).

With the help of the United Nations, J. Hoogerbrugge began the Asmat Art

project to encourage woodcarvers who had stopped sculpting to make their traditional

carvings again (Schneebaum 1990, 15). By 1970, Asmat woodcarving reemerged, and the

momentum generated by this resurgence led the newly installed Bishop Sowada and the

Crosier mission to the establishment of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress in

Agats (Wassing 1993, 31). The major goal of the museum was to preserve the art for the

Asmat people (Schneebaum 1990, 19). Tobias Schneebaum, an anthropologist and artist,

began the process of researching, exhibiting, and cataloging the growing collection

(Smidt 1993, xii). His work for the museum was titled Asmat Images: From the

collection of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress. Later, he assembled an

exhibition with Gaj dusek's collection from the Peabody Museum titled Embodied Spirits:

Ritual Carvings of the Asmat for which Gajdusek, Sowada and Zegwaard contributed

articles (Schneebaum 1990, viii).

Another contributor to the Asmat ,\keI hI Book was Peter Van Arsdale who did

anthropological research, in 1973 and 1974, investigating the economic changes among

the central Asmat titled Perspectives on Development in Asmat (Zubrinich 1997, 70). His

wife, Kathleen Van Arsdale, also an anthropologist, wrote "Music and Culture of the









Bismam Asmat of New Guinea: A Preliminary Investigation." She was in the Asmat area

in 1979 (Arsdale, K. 1982, 17). Abraham Kuruwaip, who later became director of the

Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress, studied the bis pole, in 1973, and wrote an

article titled "The Asmat Bis Pole: Its Background and Meaning, also published in the

Asmat .\keiN h Book (Kuruwaip 1978, 11). Robert Mitton made several journeys into New

Guinea while working for mining companies between 1971 and 1973 (Mitton 1983, 160).

He was an amateur anthropologist, and his journal notes are published in The Lost World

oflrian Jaya (160).

Also in the 1970s, Gunter and Ursula Konrad began an eleven month zoological

research project in the Asmat area (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 13). They gathered cultural

material from all over the Asmat region, especially the undocumented Brazza River area

(Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 10). They have continued to return to the

region over twenty-five years adding to their substantial collection of objects, which has

been documented in several books and catalogs including: Asmat Life i ith the Ancestors:

Stone Age Woodcarvers in our Time, Asmat Myth and Ritual: The Inspiration ofArt, and

Asmat: Mythos undKunst im Leben mit den Ahnen (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 15-17). In

addition to writing for their own publications, the Konrads contributed articles to the

Asmat .\ketI. h Book.

After the seventies, the Indonesian government limited entry into the area by

tourists and art collectors (Zubrinich 1997, 71). Except for the publications by the

Konrads, very little new field research has been done on the Asmat since the 1970s (71).

By the late 1990s, Thomas O'Neil visited the Asmat area while on assignment for the

National Geographic Society. He reported that the Sunday church service he attended in









the village of Komor in the Northwest region of Asmat took place in the men's long

house (O'Neill 1996, 26). He also said that the people wore body paint, headbands and

feathers (26). The services included drumming, dancing and sharing roasted sago (26).

This example demonstrates the combination of old and new practices that characterize the

contemporary Asmat situation.

By 2002, the political policy of Indonesia had changed to allow some autonomy in

the province of Irian Jaya and the name was changed to West Papua to reflect the

indigenous people's preference (news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asisa-pacific/1739233.stm

Last accessed December 31 2004).

Asmat or Bismam?

The Asmat people use the term Asmat to describe themselves (Konrad and

Konrad 1996, 303). The dramatic bis poles collected by Michael Rockefeller have

become synonymous with all Asmat people even though only a distinct group of Asmat

people, known as Bismam, carve these sculpture (303). The information contained in

Zegwaard's "The Headhunting Practices of the Asmat Netherlands New Guinea" (1959)

has become the standard by which all Asmat people are described (303). Yet, Zegwaard

clearly stated that the information he gathered reflected only one village, Sjuru

(Zegwaard 1959, 1020). He used the term Bismam to describe the people of Sjuru and the

surrounding villages (1034).

Zegwaard mentioned two manifestations of the trophy skull: adorned in initiation

rituals and hung in a kusfe. He briefly noted the use of ancestor skulls. He described art

forms such as the men's house, personal adornment, bis poles and thejipae masquerade.

In another essay, "De Sociale Structuur van de Asmatbevolking," co-written by

Zegwaard and J. Boelaars, they discuss the bis ceremony, the initiation ritual, a leader's









funeral, and the ancestor skull. This article was also focused on the village of Sjuru. All

of the topics discussed in these two publications will be pertinent to the analysis of

ancestor and trophy skulls in this paper.

The problem of which term best reflects the people to be discussed, the more

general "Asmat" or the very specific "Bismam" is important. This section of the paper

will provide an examination of three factors: art areas, bis pole production, and language,

to determine the more applicable term.

Asmat Art Areas

In 1976, A.J.J.M. Boeren studied a group of Asmat shields housed in the

Rijksmuseum Voor Volkenkunde in Leiden and was able to distinguish two artistic style

regions, the Northwest and Central (Smidt 1993, 53). Other scholars such as Gerbrands,

the Konrads, Schneebaum, and Smidt enhanced and extended these styles. The accepted

stylistic divisions of the Asmat region and their letters are as follows: A. Central Asmat,

B. Northwest Asmat, C. Eastern Asmat or the Citak, D. Northeast Asmat or the Brazza

River (Figure 1) (Schneebaum 1985, 47).

In Central area, shields are rectangular with large low-relief designs often with a

figural element at the top (Figure 6), while in the Northwest region, shields are oval with

smaller and more plentiful low-relief designs (Figure 7) (Smidt 1993, 56-57). Shields

from the Citak region and the Brazza River area have oval shapes with a flat bottom.

Citak shields also have large low-relief designs (Figure 8) (56-57). Brazza River shields

have a distinctive division of the surface area of the shield into head, body and feet

(Figure 9) (56-57).

The Konrads, through extensive collecting in the area, have determined twelve

groups of Asmat people based on the type of art objects they make and their cultural









practices (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 316-317). While this designation will certainly

prove valuable to better understand Asmat art and culture, the focus of this paper is

ancestor skulls and trophy skulls, which were not used as a classification criteria in

creating these categories.

Some objects such as shields are found throughout the entire Asmat region but, as

described above, had regional variations (Schneebaum 1985, 47). As a necessary mode

of transportation, canoes are found throughout the region (Figure 10) (47). Also

weapons such as spears and bows and arrows exist in all four areas. Drums are another

type of carving found throughout the region (Figure 11) (47).

Because the literature on the Asmat only contains a few references to ancestor

skulls and trophy skulls, this paper depends on descriptions of other objects to draw

comparisons and make conclusions about the skulls. Shields will be used to discuss the

protective function of skulls, and shields occur in all Asmat regions. However, some

objects are only found in certain areas. Bis poles, elaborate canoe prows, bamboo horns

with intricate low-relief carvings, carved bowls and carved paddles are only produced in

the Central region and the Northwest region (Schneebaum 1985, 47). The bis pole,

because it becomes part of a trophy skull assemblage, will be use to examine the

symbolism of trophy skulls (Figure 5). The way carved paddles are carried will be used

for comparison to ancestor skulls (Figure 12). Thejipae mask will be used to discuss

ancestor skulls, and it occurs in the Central area and the Northwest area (Figure 13).

Most importantly for this paper, Schneebaum reports that Central Asmat had

ancestor skulls and trophy skulls (146-147). The Citak area did not have ancestor or

trophy skulls while the Brazza River area had only trophy skulls (146-147). Schneebaum









does not report on whether the Northwest area had ancestor skulls or trophy skulls.

However, Rockefeller collected trophy skulls from the villages of Momogo and Jipajer in

the Northwestern area (Rockefeller 1967, 332).

The Central region contains ancestor skulls, trophy skulls, shields, jipae masks,

carved paddles, and bis poles; therefore, the focus of this paper will be on the region

designated as Asmat style area A.

Bis Pole Production

To further refine the focus of this paper, this section will review the villages that

produce bis poles. The word bis means spirit and the carving that contained the spirit

(Kuruwaip 1978, 14). The word mam means to carve or create; therefore, Bismam are

people who carve bis (14).

Father Zegwaard noted the people of Sjuru village carved ancestor poles

(Zegwaard 1959, 1028). In the 1960s Gerbrands, Eyde, Rockefeller and Wassing were in

the village of Amanamkai, where they found bis carvers as well. Schneebaum and the

Konrads were in the area in the 1970s. They state,

... from the village of Ewer in Flamingo Bay in Central Asmat to Ajam, [Ayam]
Warse, Amborep, Atsj and Amanamkai, down through Otsjanep, was the scene of
the great ancestor poles, the mbis [bis], for which Asmat has become famous.
Recent outside influence has given villages like Buepis far to the south and
Japtambor the impetus to celebrate this feast for the first time and the village of
Bajun has even gone so far as to import carvers from Pirien to help. (Konrad,
Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 40)

Abraham Kuruwaip was also in the area in the 1970s and identified Bismam

villages as Ewer, Sjuru, Yepem, Per, Owus, Biwar-Laut, Atsj, Amanamkai, Jow, Ambisu,

Omandesep and Otsjanep (Kuruwaip 1978, 14). Kuruwaip noticed the spread of bis pole

production and theorized that successful headhunting raids allowed the Bismam people to

increase their territorial range (14). He also pointed out that because of the natural









resources available in the Central area, other groups from the interior may have passed

through the Bismam region, thus exposing them to the bis ritual and bis carving (14).

Thus, the ritual had spread to the villages of Jaosakar, Kaimo, Awok, Fos and Warkai

(14). However, Kuruwaip has stated, "... this diffusion process still requires further

research" (14). All of the preceding villages, who are bis carvers, mentioned in this

section fall into the Central Asmat art style region (area A) (Figure 1).

Asmat Language

The term Bismam is also defined as a sub-dialect of the Kawenak dialect of the

Asmat language. To understand this usage of the term Bismam, it is necessary to review

the classification of the Asmat language.

To begin, the most basic language classifications of New Guinea are the

Austronesian languages and the Papuan languages (Bodley 1994, 134). Papuan speakers

are descendants of the first peoples to settle Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and the

rest of Melanesia after 60,000 BC (135). The Austronesian language family developed

from the peoples who settled in the northwestern region and along the entire north coast

of New Guinea after 5000 BC (135). Ancestral speakers of this language family were

expert maritime navigators from Southeast Asia whose descendants went on to settle

throughout Micronesia, Melanesia and the western edge of Polynesia and became known

as the Proto-Polynesians (135).

Of the one thousand languages of New Guinea, seven hundred are Papuan

(Arsdale, P. 1978, 16). Asmat-Sempan-Kamoro is one language family of the Papuan

languages (16). This language family is made up of the Sempan-Kamoro, which is

spoken by the Mimika, and the Asmat language (16). Father P. Drabbe studied the Asmat









language and divided it into five major dialects: Kawenak, Keenok, Keenakap,

Kaweinag, and Kaunak (Figure 14) (Eyde 1967, 3).

In addition to these major dialects, sub-dialects abound. The Kawenak dialect has

four sub-dialects (4). One sub-dialect of Kawenak is Bismam (4). Father Drabbe noted

that it was spoken in the villages of Ewer, Sjuru, Yepem, Per and Owus (4). In his usage,

Bismam corresponded to the speakers of the same sub-dialect and not to the other

definition of Bismam as carvers of bis poles. Scholars such as Zegwaard and the Van

Arsdales worked with people who spoke the Bismam dialect. Peter Van Arsdale used the

terminology Flamingo Bay dialect instead of Bismam dialect "...for the ease of

geographic identification" (Arsdale, P. 1978, 18).

Another sub-dialect of Kawenak is Metsj-Mbip (Eyde 1967, 4). This is spoken in

several villages including, Atsj, Atjametsj, Amanamkai, Ar-Danim, Bipim, Ambisu,

Kawet, Tsjowew-Jamen, Omandesep, Otsjanep (4). Scholars such as Eyde, Gerbrands,

and Rockefeller worked with people who spoke the Metsj-Mbip dialect. Two other sub-

dialects, Simai and Kainak are found in the major Kawenak dialect (4).

Van Amelsvoort notes, "Beyond their own dialect boundaries people can

understand the other dialects with some difficulty" (Amlesvoort 1964, 39). Thus,

Kawenak, Keenok, Keenakap, Kaweinag, and Kaunak speakers can all understand each

other with some difficulty. Speakers of the Kawenak sub-dialects, Bismam, Metsj-Mbip,

Simai and Kainak, easily understand one another (Eyde 1967, 4).

Since different sub-dialect speakers easily understand one another and different

dialect speakers understand each other with some difficulty, for the purposes of this

paper, the overall language designation of Asmat will be sufficient.









Bismam

There are several choices for a term to designate the people discussed in this text.

Asmat is the term used by the people themselves and is a common designation for most

art objects from this region. Central Asmat is a regional name that reflects the

classification of art style areas. "Asmat proper" was a general name used by Eyde

following Van Amelswoort's example and refers to the Kawenak, Keenakap and Keenok

dialect speakers (5). Bismam Asmat was a term used by Peter Van Arsdale to designate

the villages of Agats, Beriten, Per, Ewer, Sjuru, Owus and Yepem as "culturally and

ecologically homogeneous" (Aresdale, P. 1978, 6). Bismam was a term first used by

Father Zegwaard to describe the people of Sjuru village (Zegwaard 1959, 1035).

The ancestor skulls to be examined are from Central Asmat art style area. The

trophy skulls and contextual material used for this analysis are also from the Central

Asmat region, area A. All of the objects used for comparison to the skulls are from the

Central Asmat region as well. Bis carvers and bis poles are found in the Central Asmat art

region. Bismam refers to bis carvers and to speakers of a distinctive sub-dialect of the

Kawenak dialect of the Asmat language. Bis carvers are found throughout the Central

Asmat region. Bismam speakers are only found in five villages. For the purposes of this

paper, the name Bismam will be used to refer to carvers of bis who live in the Central

Asmat region and speak the Asmat language.

Background

The background information to be provided by this section, while seemingly

disparate, provides a broad picture of the Bismam way of life and cosmology. This

information will prepare the reader for the next two chapters. The first section reviews

the geography, climate, flora and fauna of the region allowing the reader to understand









the environment of the Bismam, their lifestyle, and the resources available to them. The

next section looks at two aspects of Bismam life, social organization and political

organization. In the social arena, the men's house is a focal point. In the political arena,

the bigman is the most powerful leader. The last section of this chapter briefly surveys a

few ideas central to Bismam cosmology. Although the wide acceptance of Christianity

has altered some aspects of these concepts, they are still a part of Bismam life. The first

idea to be explored is the Bismam myth of creation, which is the basis for the next idea,

the Bismam metaphorical identification with trees. Finally, the last concept examined is

the Bismam understanding of the cyclic migration of a spirit.

Natural Environment

Lying above Australia at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, New Guinea is the second

largest island in the world. Being located just below the equator, it is part of the

equatorial and subequatorial zones, yet it has glaciers among its mountain ranges (Ford

1973, 1). The mountain ranges, interspersed with volcanoes, extend east to west creating

an undulating central ridge (3). Its highest peak Puncak Jaya, formerly known as

Carstenz Toppen, named after explorer Jan Carstenz, is over 16,000 ft high (3). A

multitude of rivers run off these mountains to the Arafura Sea below (Figure 15) (11).

The Asmat region is part of a larger area of swampland that stretches across a good

portion of the south coast of the island, from the Papuan Gulf to the northern reaches of

Mimikan territory (11). This swampland is not a flooded region of land but rather a

creation of the slow build up of alluvial deposits brought by the many rivers (Arsdale, P.

1978, 71). As a result, rock does not naturally occur (71). In fact, the Bismam have long

traded for stone from groups in the foothills (71). This trade did not stop until the

Bismam began trading with Europeans for metal tools (71).









In this tropical zone, temperatures range from seventy degrees at night to eighty-

five degrees during the day (74). The extremely high humidity is around seventy percent

annually (78). Incredibly, the average annual rainfall is over sixteen feet (Smidt 1993,

15). Although the temperature does not reflect seasonal change, two monsoon seasons

occur in the region: the east monsoon, in July and August and the longer northwest

monsoon from December to March (Arsdale, P. 1978, 75). In addition to precipitation, the

region is sandwiched between the aforementioned mountains, with annual flooding from

snow melt, and the Arafura Sea, with daily inundation from the tide (Gerbrands 1967,

20). Because the whole region is at sea level, rivers rise and fall up to sixteen feet

between high and low tides (Sowada 1961, 4). Tides affect the rivers as far as eighty

miles inland (4). On the larger rivers a shift in the direction of the water occurs (Eyde

1967, 13).

An estuary habitat is created by the mixing of freshwater from the many rivers and

saltwater from the influx of tides; thus, species common to either type of water are in

close proximity to one another (Eyde 1967, 9). Mangroves dominate this habitat with

trees ranging from fifty to one hundred feet high (Ford 1973, 27). The buttress root of

the mangrove tree is used to make shields, and the whole tree is used to carve bis poles

(Figure 16) (Eyde 1967, 12). Palm tree varieties such as the nibung, nipah, and pandanus

are exploited as building material and as food (Eyde 1967, 26). Pandanus is used to make

sleeping mats, rain capes, and carrying bags (27). Very thin strips of pandanus fronds are

fashioned into string and then woven into string bags (27). The coconut palm is also used

for food (Figure 17). The betel nut palm provides the mildly intoxicating nut that is

chewed while the men converse and lounge in the men's house (Sowada 1961, 61). Fruit









trees include wild varieties of banana, nutmeg, lemon, lime, orange, jack fruit, brush

cherries, and sea almond (Figure 18 and Figure 19) (Eyde 1967, 12; Ford 1973, 27;

Sowada 1961, 2; Ryan 1972, 228). Liana, lawyer vines and rattan wind through the

various levels of vegetation creating a tangled mat (Sowada 1961, 2). Swamp grass,

mosses and ferns precariously hang onto the mud (2). Orchids of many varieties abound

in the forest (2).

The most important plant of the forest for the Asmat and many other swamp

dwellers is the sago palm (Figure 20) (Ryan 1972, 232). There are two varieties, the

thorny metroxylon rumphii, which is the most common in the Asmat region, and the

smooth metroxylon sagu (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 11). The latter is a large palm, over

twenty-five feet high (Ryan 1972, 232). Although growing from seed is possible, the

palms are plentiful in the wild, propagating from underground roots. Several immature

plants create dense growing clumps (232). It takes about fifteen years for the sago to

mature fully (232).

The starch contained in the pith of the sago is stored to provide food for the tree's

fruit, so the tree is harvested before it flowers (232). Although, it is not necessary to

cultivate sago, the area around the palm is weeded, both helping the tree to survive and

grow and signifying its ownership by those who weed (Eyde 1967, 29). Each family had

its own territory in the forest for the production of sago (29). Ownership of the territory is

passed down through the family (29). Men select the tree, chop it down and in the days of

headhunting served as lookouts. Women do most of the pounding and processing of the

pith into flour, which is rich in carbohydrates (28-31). Sago comprises perhaps ninety









percent of the diet (Schneebaum 1989, 51). Amos is the term for sago and is also the term

for food in general (Eyde 1967, 28).

For the Bismam, ritual cycles begin with cutting ten to a hundred sago palms; holes

are drilled into the bark to encourage the Capricorn beetle to lay its eggs (39). The beetle

eggs mature into larvae in 30 to 40 days, which are collected and presented at many

ceremonies where they were divided as gifts that help to solidify relationships (Figure 21)

(Konrad and Konrad 1996, 94).

Sago flour is also an important ceremonial food (94). Giving sago flour, sharing a

sago meal and rubbing sago on someone are all gestures of goodwill and friendship

(Sowada 1961, 38). Furthermore, sago is identified with the ancestors; Sowada recorded

a myth that "... relates how two ancestors, who were unable to obtain sago while living

on this earth, changed themselves into sago trees so that future generations might not

starve" (35). Although most of their food is gathered from the surrounding forest, the

Bismam do cultivate crops such as yams, cassava, papaya, sugar cane, and taro (Figure

22) (Eyde 1967, 64).

New Guinea and Australia, in the ancient past were part of the same continent;

therefore, they share a wide variety of marsupials with slight variations for each land

mass (Ford 1973, 36). Four varieties of opossums are found in New Guinea including the

glider, ringtail, pygmy and striped (36). Related to the opossum is the phalanger

commonly know as the cuscus (Figure 23) (36). Tree kangaroos and bush kangaroos are

other types of marsupial shared between the two land masses as well as the little known

quoll, very similar to the Australian variety (Figure 24) (36). In addition, a rat sized

marsupial of the phascogale family has several varieties in New Guinea (36). All of these









animals are hunted for their fur, teeth and meat (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981,

18).

The flightless cassowary, a bird similar to the emu of Australia, is the largest bird

on the island (Figure 25) (Ford 1973, 37). It is hunted for its meat, feathers and bone

(Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 19). Bower birds are also native to both New

Guinea and Australia (Ford 1973, 37). Other birds of the swamp include varieties of

pigeons, the white cockatoo, the black palm cockatoo, many varieties of parrots, the

wood chicken or jungle fowl, owls, egrets, several kinds of birds of paradise, and many

varieties of hornbills (Figure 26, Figure 27, Figure 28) (Eyde 1967, 11). They are mainly

used for their feathers although eggs are gathered for extra protein (64).

Bats are common in New Guinea and are related to many Australian bats (Ford

1973, 35). Flying foxes are commonplace to both areas and are plentiful in the swamp

(Figure 29) (35). These bats are known for eating fruit and can have up to a five foot

wing span (35).

The Asmat region has reptiles such as lizards, snakes, turtles and freshwater

crocodiles (Eyde 1967, 11). Lizard skin is used for drum heads as can be seen in figure

11 (54). Saltwater crocodiles were extensively hunted by foreigners, almost to the point

of nonexistence in the area; however, they were not totally wiped out and still presented a

danger in 1970 (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 19). Crocodiles are eaten and

the jaw bone is used to create a dagger (Schneebaum 1990, 14, 95).

The Bismam eat many varieties of fish including saltwater species such as sawfish,

thornback, shark, and ray fish (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 19). Where the

water becomes fresh, the large catfish is the best catch (Eyde 1967, 11). Crustaceans,









such as shrimp, crabs, and crawfish, are easily found along the stream and river beds (9-

10). Mussel is eaten and its shell is utilized as a knife or scraper (24). This shell is one of

many kinds of shells burned to produce lime (24). Men fish with bows and arrows,

spears, harpoons, and traps (18). Women usually fish with nets, which are ideal for

catching shrimp and small fish (19). The nuclear family unit works together to utilize fish

traps (19). The abundance of marine life guarantees a stable easily exploited food source

that assures the Bismam a nutritional adequate diet (23).

The Papuan dog is a working animal that has to prove its worth at hunting (59).

Once done, the dog is spoiled with leftover sago and fish (59). A well-respected dog is

given the name of an ancestor and becomes so beloved that upon its passing, it would be

mourned with the type of wailing used for human deaths (59). Dogs are used to hunt wild

pig (61).

Boar meat is highly prized (Figure 30). Their tusks are used for necklaces, and their

bone is carved to create nose ornaments (Zuberinich 1997, 113). Hunting wild boar has

become a substitute for hunting humans, and the successful boar hunter gains prestige

(113).

Also gathered from the bush, are a variety of edible food stuffs including snails,

termites, insects and honey (Eyde 1967, 64). Even though colonization has had dramatic

effects on the people, they still maintain a hunting-gathering lifestyle dependant primarily

on the sago palm (Zubrinich 1997, 106).

Social and Political Organization

Father Zegwaard, in 1959, estimated the population of the Asmat at 25,000

(Zegwaard 1959, 1020). In 1990, Tobias Schneebaum estimated the population at 65,000

by including people of the outlying areas of whom Zegwaard was not aware









(Schneebaum 1990, 12). In 1993, Dirk Smidt had a similar population estimate between

50,000 to 70,000 (Smidt 1993, 17). Villages are settled along rivers to facilitate travel,

and in the past this location allowed the men to lookout constantly for headhunting

parties (Figure 31) (Gerbrands 1967, 24). A large powerful village is seated on the main

artery of a river at a bend or at the connection of a branch (Smidt 1993, 17). Smaller

villages are located further back on tributaries to the main river and consist of about one

hundred members, while the larger villages have as many as two thousand people (Smidt

1996, 49). In the past, villages would relocate to find better food sources when over-

harvesting occurred (Sowada 1961, 35).

Every village has at least one men's house oryeu, but more often a village has two

or more men's houses, and a large village has as many as six (Sowada, 1961, 19). In the

volatile days of headhunting, the competition among yeus was fierce and pervaded all

aspects of life (Eyde 1967, 89). Each yeu had enough members and autonomy to form its

own village if community tensions ever warranted such a move (Smidt 1993, 18).

The men's house is the building closest to the river (Figure 32) (Eyde 1967, 100). It

is rectangular and built on pilings six to twelve feet high (90). It is from one hundred to

two hundred feet long and twenty to thirty feet wide (90). Nipah and sago palm leaves are

used as thatch on the peaked roof (90). Between the river and the men's house is a large

clearing, like a courtyard, and a village path (Figure 31) (Sowada 1961, 18). Notched logs

or simple ladders serve as stairs to allow access to a three foot wide porch (18). Several

open doorways run along the long side of the building that faced the river (Zegwaard and

Boelaars 1982, 17). Each doorway represents a kin group (Eyde 1967, 97).









Across from the door are two fireplaces that are the property of the related families

that make up the extended family (90). A fireplace is merely a mud slab placed directly

on the floor (90). The fireplace is surrounded by four poles that, if the yeu has "certain

rights," are bis poles, elaborately carved poles that represent the ancestors (Figure 33)

(96). Behind the fireplace, a rack provides storage for firewood, sago, and personal items.

(95) Fish and meat can smoke-dried on this rack as well (95). The rafters provide a place

for extra storage for possessions such as spears and paddles (95). Ceremonial objects

such as ancestor figures, masks and drums are stored in the back of the yeu in a special

room partitioned from view by palm fronds (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981,

31). Women and children are not allowed to see certain objects until they appear as part

of a ceremony that involved the entire community (31). In the hot and humid climate of

this region, the vegetation used to build rots easily; therefore, men's houses are

reconstructed at least every five years (Gerbrands 1967, 25). The opening of a new men's

house is celebrated with a ritual feast (25).

Politically, each yeu is arranged by the upstream half and the downstream half; in

the center, a common area used by both groups is complete with a central fireplace (28).

Leaders from each half meet at the central hearth, to discuss important matters that are

common to the entire group (Smidt 1993, 18). The central hearth also serves as a

reception area for formal guests (18).

The yeu is a living quarter for unmarried men and boys, and it serves as a school

for the boys to learn myths, songs, morals and anything relevant to the life (Gerbrands

1967, 25). Married men spend the day at the men's house and sleep there when their

wives are menstruating (Eyde 1967, 89). A clearing in front of the yeu serves as an area









to carve, to dance, to hold mock battles and, in the past, to bury the dead (Gerbrands

1967, 28). The dead are now buried across the river from the village (Kirk 1972, 399).

Before the conversion to Christianity, all religious activities were conducted at the yeu.

Rituals took many months to plan, prepare and execute and were cyclic; therefore once a

ritual was completed, the planning for a new one began (Eyde 1967, 337-338). In the

past, rituals were used to enhance life, by insuring fertility in youngsters, communicating

with the ancestors, and solidifying relationships within the community or between

villages.

Most families have a home either next to or behind the men's house with which

the head of the household is aligned (Eyde 1967, 100). Before the influence of

missionaries, a prestigious man may have more than one wife, and all the wives occupied

the house with her children (101). In this case, each wife was given a separate fireplace

for cooking for her children and to establish her section of the home (101). Boys over the

age often live at the men's house and girls live with their parents until they are married

(179). In the past, a young married couple often sought an alliance with a powerful

headhunting male relative, brother, brother-in-law, father, or father-in-law (238). In the

case of co-residence, the young married couple added an addition to the home of a

prestigious male relative giving them their own doorway opening and fireplace (238).

The Bismam live in an egalitarian society where social status is earned (Zegwaard

1959, 1040). In the past the Asmat led a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the swamp habitat

(Sowada 1961, 35). Sago territories could become depleted from over-harvesting, and

marine life also went through periods of scarcity (Eyde 1967, 237). This combination of

territorial pressures led to acquisitions of new territory through headhunting (237).









Wealth and prestige were acquired through the gathering of more food, through the labor

and territory of multiple wives, and territory gained through headhunting (235). Food and

territory were then distributed to members of one's family, yeu (237). Receivers were

obligated to the giver to reciprocate either in the form of food, favors or both (234). Thus,

headhunters were esteemed for their ability to hunt as well as to gain territory and were

positioned to become the most powerful members of the community (307).

Alliances with a powerful man were created through marriage, and, before

conversion to Christianity, alliances were also created among married men through the

exchange of their wives (Sowada 1961, 81). This was known as apapisj relationship.

(Zegwaard & Boelaars 1982, 21). Married men sought to create bond friends with

members of other yeus within a village (22). This relationship provided additional

resources through reciprocal exchanges of food and established alliances that could be

counted on in headhunting raids (22). In village disputes, a bond friend was expected to

fight with his friend even if it was against his own yeu (22). The husband had to ask his

wife to participate in the exchange (22). Zegwaard and Boelaars described the men's

attitude as they discussed the exchange with their wives, "They must talk them into the

exchange. It seems to be a delicate matter and the men must be on their best behavior to

convince both women" (22). If she denied her husband's request, she would suffer

physical and emotional abuse, but she had the right to refuse (22). Since women

vicariously shared in the prestige of their husbands, and this exchange increased the

wealth and prestige of their husbands, one can theorize that a woman would willingly

participate.









Prior to the banning of headhunting, headhunters were socially the most admired

because of their ability to increase wealth and create alliances through marriages and

papisj relationships (Eyde 1967, 349). Furthermore, headhunters were able to manipulate

these alliances to become prestigious leaders, bigman (tesumajipic) within the

community (236).

Tesumajipic was the highest position, and many men of the village achieved this

status (236). A tesumajipic was a leader in his family, his extended family and his yeu,

and sometimes his influence extended across the entire village (349). Warsekomen,

Father Zegwaard's chief informant, was one such tesumajipic (Sowada 1961, 81). He was

known to have taken nine heads (Sowada 1968, 193). He was related to half of the yeu

leaders throughout the village (Sowada 1961, 81). He had seven wives who were related

to men's house leaders he was not related to (81). He had fourteen children and was

related to 41% of the population of Sjuru (81). He also had six papisj alliances (81).

Bismam Cosmology

This section reviews a few points about Bismam cosmology. The first is the myth

of creation, the second a relationship between humans and trees and the third is the belief

that a spirit migrated cyclically through three planes of existence.

Before the acceptance of Christianity, the Bismam understanding of creation

figured prominently in the everyday life and ritual activities. Today, this idea still

resonates meaning. The myth of Fumeripitsj explains the origin of the Bismam people. It

also provides a framework for many of the metaphors and for the symbolism in the

Bismam cosmology. Tobias Schneebaum explains the story of creation:

One day, while out fishing, Fumeripitsj, the Creator, fell into the river and
drowned. His body washed up on a small island. Some birds flying over the island
saw the body and, not knowing whether it was alive or dead, tried to revive it with









medicine, but the body lay still. They decided to see War, the great sea eagle, to ask
his advice. War agreed to help if the birds would bring the medicine he needed.
War flew to the island, put some of the medicine on a stick, and anointed the joints
of Fumeripitsj as well as his chest and forehead. Fumeripitsj still did not move.
War called for a different medicine and anointed the same parts as before. This
time Fumeripitsj began to move. Suddenly he began to scream, and all the birds but
War flew away in fear. Fumeripitsj sat up and said, "I am Fumeripitsj." The sea
eagle said, 'I am War."

Fumeripitsj went into the jungle and built a feast house but he was lonely. He cut
down trees and carved figures, each with a head and a body with arms and legs.
Some were male: some were female. He placed them inside the feast house, but he
was still lonely. So he cut down a tree, hollowed out a section of log, and carved a
drum. He covered one end with a lizard skin, gluing it there with lime and some of
his own blood, and tied it with rattan. When Fumeripitsj beat on the drum, the
figures began to dance and sing in the normal way. Thus the Asmat came into
being.

Later, Fumeripitsj was attacked by a crocodile. He fought the huge reptile, killed it,
cut up the body, and threw the many pieces up into the sky. The pieces fell to earth
and turned into other people, other tribes, and other races. (Schneebaum 1990, 26)

Significant ideas expressed within this myth include the following: the belief that

someone who was dead can come back to life with the correct magical formula, the

power of a woodcarver to create, the power of drums to animate, and the idea that others

were equivalent to crocodiles. However, the most important idea of this myth is the idea

that the Bismam people were originally trees. This idea permeates Bismam life, and trees

play a significant role in the culture. The sago palm provides most of the diet. It provides

shelter and even decorations. As resources for the commodities of everyday life, the sago

palm and other trees are essential to the quality of life. Like the story of the origin of the

Bismam, the story of the origin of the sago palm is also explained in a myth. The

ancestor, Biwiripitsj, accidentally sank in the mud of a swamp (Zegwaard 1959, 1038).

Where he sank, a sago palm grew and his head sprouted in the fruit of the palm (1038).

This is very similar to the myth, mentioned earlier by Sowada, where two ancestors

became sago trees so that others would have food (Sowada 1961, 35).









All of these myths linking humans and ancestors to trees contribute to a

prominent Bismam metaphor. Zegwaard explains, "...the human body is associated with

a tree: the legs compare to the plank roots, the trunk to the human body, the arms to the

boughs, the head to the top (often with the fruit that sits in the top)" (Zegwaard 1959,

1039). Furthermore, a male who is adorned with a headdress, necklaces and body paint is

considered to be in "full blossom" like a sago palm is when it reaches maturity (1033).

Continuing the tree metaphor, headhunters consider themselves "younger-

brothers" to birds and other animals that eat fruit, such as cockatoos, hornbills, flying-

foxs, cuscus, and tree kangaroos (1039). The birds and animals hunt for fruit from trees in

the same manner that the warrior hunts for skulls, the fruit equivalent in humans (1039).

This metaphor is enhanced when the animal is the same color as the Bismam person, as

seen in the black king cockatoo, hornbill, cassowary, wild boar and flying fox (Gerbrands

1967, 30). The cassowary eats fruit from the forest floor instead of from trees (Beechler,

Pratt, and Zimmerman 1986, 45). It is considered a worthy adversary and is hunted in the

same way as the wild boar (Eyde 1967, 63). The wild boar also eats fruit from the forest

floor and is a blackish animal (Parker 1990, 22). It too is considered a worthy adversary

and is hunted in the same manner as a human victim (Zubrinich 1997, 113). The

metaphor of fruit eater to the headhunter will be seen in many different manifestations

when looking at ancestor skulls and trophy skulls in the following chapters.

One final spiritual belief to understand is the migration of the spirit through the

living realm and the spiritual realm. Although the Bismam have accepted Christianity,

they still understand their world as one filled with spirits (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 103).

Several types of lifeforces and spirits combine to create a living person. The ndat,









ancestral spirit is one such spirit that has a unique journey migrating through three planes

of existence (Kuruwaip 1982, 21). The first is the living world, the second is an

intermediate plane known as ndamir, and the last is safan, the realm of the ancestors

(Sowada 1990, 70). This ancestral spirit passes through each of these levels in a cyclic

movement (Kuruwaip 1982, 21). The spirit is dependent on family members, both living

and dead, to help it navigate through these levels, each of which ideally maintains an

equal number of members to preserve the balance and order of the universe (Kuruwaip

1982,21).

The Bismam believe that a spirit begins life by choosing a woman who has

demonstrated excellence in her role as mother (Sowada 1990, 67). The spirit enters the

body of a tree frog and jumps on the shoulder of its chosen mother, which causes

spontaneous conception (67). However, the spirit is not complete (67). Only a part of the

spirit force enters the women's body at conception (67). When the child reaches a certain

maturity, he is given its spirit name, the ndat, thus infusing the person with another

animating force (67). Once the individual is properly named, the spirit is fully contained

in the person (67).

When a person dies, his or her spirit enters the middle plane, ndamir, the realm of

the dead (Kuruwaip 1982, 22). Ndamir is meant to be only a temporary dwelling place

for the spirit (21). In order for a spirit to move from ndamir to safan, living family

members perform a number of rituals (21). However, if the spirit is not properly

remembered through ceremonies and feasts, it becomes malevolent and can cause tragedy

(Schneebaum 1990, 52).









The last level, safan, is located in the setting sun at the point where the sea meets

the sky (Kuruwaip 1982, 22). When the spirit is in safan, it is benevolent, and can be

asked to bestow favors on its living relatives (22). Safan is equated with extraordinary

prosperity, and ancestral spirits have to reach safan in order to be reborn (Sowada 1990,

70). The Bismam concept of the spiritual world is a world of mutual exchange or

reciprocity. The living need the benevolence of an ancestor to help with daily existence,

and the dead need the living to perform rituals to insure their successful migration

through the spirit world.

I will now explore ancestor skulls and trophy skulls using the concepts and

information presented in this chapter.














CHAPTER 3
ANCESTOR SKULLS

A typical ancestor skull collected from the village of Pirimapun in 1956 was

created from the remains of someone who died of natural causes and whose corpse was

treated in a traditional manner (Figure 34). Ancestor skulls were kept by family members

and adorned with a variety of materials such as seeds, wood, fiber netting, and feathers

creating an assemblage. Missionaries have convinced the Bismam people to change their

traditional burial practices; thus, ancestor skulls are no longer created (Kirk 1972, 399).

This chapter begins with a review of the dress and adornment of a living Bismam

person. The reader will be introduced to the types of ornaments, the materials used to

create the ornaments, and the prestige associated with the ornaments. This evaluation of

ornaments will allow the reader better insight into the prestige associated with the

adornment of the ancestor skull. Then, I will compare the ancestor skull to a carrying bag

and a ceremonial paddle both of which are objects that connote the status of the owner.

The next section describes Bismam funeral practices. Although mourning rituals

are the same today, burial customs have changed. Traditional burial practices are

described so that the reader understands how the ancestor skull was obtained. This

section ends with a visual analysis of the adornment often ancestor skulls.

The next section describes the protective function of the ancestor skull. First, the

reader is introduced to the types of spirits and lifeforces that may cause the living harm.

In the days of headhunting, the shield physically protected the owner in battle, but it also

provided spiritual protection and empowered the owner. It will be suggested that the









ancestor skull is also believed to protect and empower its owner spiritually. Next, this

section will compare the symbolic designs carved on the shields and the symbolic objects

used to create the ancestor skull assemblage and suggest that these forms had a similar

function.

The last section of this chapter argues that the ancestor skull functions as a mode of

communication between the living owner and the dead relative. For the reader to

understand this possibility, the paper examines the function of thejipae masquerade to

allow the living to communicate with the dead. The paper compares the belief that the

ndat spirit inhabits both thejipae mask and the ancestor skull. Finally, the paper

compares the adornment of thejipae mask with the adornment of the ancestor skull and

concludes that the similarity of adornment suggests a pattern of representing an ancestor

spirit.

Dress and Adornment

This section will briefly review the objects and materials that a Bismam individual

wears, allowing the reader to compare the objects and materials worn by the living with

those used to adorn an ancestor skull. This section will also introduce the carrying bag

and the ceremonial paddle as objects that convey status and compare them to the ancestor

skull, which also conveys status.

Fiber Ornaments

Sago palm fronds and rattan palm fronds are plaited to construct some items of

adornment. A woman's skirt, known as an awer, is a belt with thin strips of sago leaves

woven to the front that are long enough to stretch from the front, between the legs, and

secured to the back of the belt (Figure 35) (Eyde 1967, 41). The belt itself is made of

plaited sago palm leaf fiber that can be woven into a pattern as seen in figure 35.









According to Van Amlesvoort, a woman's marital state is revealed by her awer

because only a married woman would wear it, yet Eyde states that this skirt is worn by all

women who had been through puberty (Amlesvoort 1964, 34-35; Eyde 1967, 41).

A more recent photograph, taken in 1993, shows a woman wearing an awer

combined with western clothing at a ceremonial event (Figure 36). This woman has used

traditional fiber material and techniques to construct a new clothing form to cover her

breasts. She also wears rattan arm bands around her bicep and forearm, while the man

next to her wears an arm band around his bicep. The Bismam also wear leg bands

typically worn on the calf (Eyde 1967, 56). Various materials such as leaves, sago strips

and feathers can be added for additional decoration (56). Arm bands also serve as pockets

and can be used to hold items such as a bone dagger (Figure 36) (Sowada 1961, 43). A

forearm band is not only adornment but helps protect a hunter's arm from the force of a

bowstring (Rockefeller 1967, 152).

Men wear a plaited waist belt created from sago fiber. In the past, a waist belt was a

common adornment but also worn at ritual events (Figure 37) (Eyde 1967, 41). Another

ornament worn around the waist was the triton shell. In the past, it was an adornment

reserved for distinguished headhunters: today, men of high status still wear the shell (25).

New sago fronds are collected and cut into thin strips and are frequently added to

the person's of individuals as well as to objects as decorative elements (Eyde 1967, 42).

In Figure 38, strips of sago leaves are braided and intertwined with Ndanim's hair,

effectively lengthening his hair. Note that he also wears a rattan armband and sago waist

band. Sago leaves are symbolic of the ancestors since the ancestors were the original









owners of the sago fields and their presence on an object or person signifies the presence

of the ancestor (40-41).

Necklaces

Necklaces both for everyday wear and for ceremonial wear are constructed from a

wide variety of materials including seeds, shells, and bone. The man shown in Figure 39

wears a necklace of seeds, one of teeth and one with a large piece of shell. The Bismam

incorporate many kinds of shells such as mother-of-pearl and the chambered nautilus into

their personal adornment (24). The man in Figure 40 wears a piece of shell for a necklace

pendant and he also has a shell pendant for his headdress. For everyday wear, a simple

piece of shell is fashioned into a pendant tied to a string and worn around the neck (24).

A necklace can be made of seeds from the abrusprecatorius, more commonly

known as the rosary pea, a striking red berry. Complementing the red of the abrus, is a

seed from the coix lacryma-jobi, a wild grass also known as Job's tears that range in

color from white to grey to silver (Figure 41) (Ryan 1972, 231). These two "beads" are

commonly used together to decorate many objects such as headdresses, ancestor skulls,

carrying bags, nose ornaments, and sculptures.

A dog's tooth necklace is prized even though they are a typical item most people

would own (Eyde 1967, 60). Both women and married men wear dog's tooth necklaces

on ceremonial occasions (60). In a photograph of a bis ritual Figure 36, a woman is

shown wearing two dogs tooth necklaces. Father Zegwaard noted that in the days of

headhunting, a dogs' tooth necklace was used as a substitute for a bamboo necklace in a

part of the initiation ritual, (a ritual that required a head of an enemy) and that young

unmarried men could thus have a dogs' tooth necklace (Zegwaard 1959, 1023). Papuan

dogs are kept as hunting dogs and not pets. Therefore, one could assume that the necklace









reflected hunting prowess. Many other kinds of animal's teeth were fashioned into

necklaces such as: pig, human, marsupial, and rat (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum

1981, 183).

Traditionally, the boar's tusk was associated with headhunting, and wearing it

meant that the wearer had successfully captured a head (Schneebaum 1990, 59). The

Bismam also believe that wearing a boar's tusk weakened a human enemy, making him

easier to overpower (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). Boar's tusk is still worn today but reflects

the prowess of hunting just the wild boar. The woman in Figure 42 wears a boar's tusk

necklace that may reflect her husband's power as a hunter.

Bamboo was employed to fabricate ritual decapitation knives and headhunting

horns. Special necklaces with bamboo pendants were given to an initiate during the

course of the initiation ritual (Eyde 1967, 57). The pendant was designed to resemble the

decapitation knife, forming a link between the two objects (57). The woman in Figure 42

also wears a bamboo ornament necklace, barely visible in the lower left corner of the

photo.

Earrings

The woman in Figure 42 wears earrings made from loops of metal and of braided

fiber with a string of materials including cassowary quills, abrus seeds, coix seeds, and a

piece nautilus shell attached (59). The man in Figure 43 wears braided rattan earrings.

Nose Ornaments

Nose ornaments are worn through the septum sometimes as everyday wear but

more frequently for ceremonial occasions (Eyde 1967, 60). Shell, pig bone, cassowary

bone, and wood are used to make this jewelry with a wide variety of ornate and simple

forms (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 183).









After being eaten, a wild boar's thigh bone is elaborately carved to create a

distinctive nose ornament (Eyde 1967, 61). While the ornament is worn by both men and

women, it is more often used by men on ceremonial occasions because men are

responsible for hunting. In the past, boars were regarded as similar to human victims

(Gerbrands 1967, 43). Figure 44 shows Jaobenum wearing an elaborate pig bone carved

to resemble a praying mantis, a figure associated with headhunting (Smidt 1993, 30).

The men in Figure 45 wear the very important bipane nose ornaments. To make

the bipane ornament two spirals are cut from mother-of-pearl and glued together with

resin creating a bisymmetrical piece (Gerbrands 1967, 42). The completed ornament,

delicately threaded through the septum is symbolic of boldness and power (Zegwaard

1959, 1033). The bipane has two animal associations. First, the halves look like the tusks

of a boar (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 183). Second, the one side resembles

the cuscus tail, again a reference to a fruit eater as brother to the headhunter (Gerbrands

1967, 42). Men usually wear this ornament but for special occasions a woman would

sometimes wear it (Figure 46) (Eyde 1967, 24). The man in Figure 37 also wears a

bipane nose ornament.

Headdress

Cassowary, cockatoo, crown pigeon, hornbill and bird of paradise were just a few

of the types of birds whose feathers are collected and stuck into the hair as adornment.

The woman on the left in Figure 46 wears bird of paradise feathers and white cockatoo

feathers. Cassowary feathers and white cockatoo feathers are symbolic of toughness and

bravery (Zegwaard 1961, 1033). The cassowary also symbolizes speed. In the days of

headhunting, a warrior who wanted to increase his speed for battle drew a cassowary foot









on the bottom of his foot (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The man in Figure 41 wears cassowary

feathers and white cockatoo feathers.

As a fruit eater, the hombill was considered a brother of the headhunter also (1039).

The hornbill also figured in Asmat mythology and was considered a link between the

world of the living and the spirit realm, and it was believed that a spirit of the recently

dead might inhabit the hornbill (Sowada 1961, 45; Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum

1981, 29). The male hombill has honey-colored feather on its head and white feathers on

its tail, both of which are worn as personal decoration (Gerbrands 1967, 30).

Feathers may also enliven objects such as spears, paddles, bags and sculptures

(Eyde, 1967, 63). Several feathers are glued to a stick and placed into the hair to create a

bold statement as seen in figures 37, 39, 40, 45, and 46.

Feathers attached to a stick are often combined with a cuscus pelt to make a

headdress. The cuscus pelts have a range of colors-white, spotted, tawny, black or brown

(Eyde 1967, 62). In the past, the cuscus was identified as a headhunter's brother because

it is also a fruit eater (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). The Bismam believed that the spirit of a

recently deceased individual might reside temporarily in the cuscus, thus directly

identifying the animal with the ancestors (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 29).

The men in figures 36, 39, 40 and 45 wear cuscus pelt headbands with edgings of seeds.

Body Paint

The Bismam wear a variety of painted designs on their bodies and faces. Body

paints derive from a number of sources. Since clay does not occur naturally in the swamp

environment, it is obtained through trade from further inland, and yellow clay is burned

to produce red paint (Schneebaum 1990, 33). White pigment is derived from three

sources: clay, sago flour or pulverized shells. Black is made from charcoal ash (33). Red,









white, and black symbolize qualities of bravery and power (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The

individuals in Figure 21 are gathered to celebrate a contemporary bis ceremony, and wear

a wide variety of body paint styles. For example, the woman in the center of the

photograph on the right hand side has white chevrons on her arm, dots and dashes on her

chest, and her face has white areas pained her cheeks and forehead punctuated with

dashes of white paint close to her eye. The woman standing next to her has red and white

stripes on her arms, large red and white stripes across her chest, stripes of white on her

cheek, forehead and nose, and two red stripes under her eye across her cheek. In Figure

10, a number of men in their canoes illustrate variations of body paint. For example, the

man at the front of the canoe on the left hand side wears white paint on his legs, arms,

and chest. He painted bold stripes of white down the middle of his forehead across his

nose, and he painted another large stripe from his ear to the tip of his chin. In the next

canoe, the man at the front wears large stripes of white across his abdomen and arms. He

wears a white stripe across the right side of his face and a black stripe across the left side

of his face. In the next canoe, the man at the prow wears white stripes across his legs and

a large patch of white on his chest. In the last canoe, the man at the prow wears white

paint from his knee to ankle, and he painted the front of his chest white. He painted the

front of his arms white, and he outlined his brow ridge in white with a white dab on his

nose.

Ornaments as Armament

Rituals are a chance for married men and women to dress more ornately, especially

if they are participants in the event (Eyde 1967, 60). In the past, for a man, dressing for a

ceremony or a headhunting raid was the same. Even though headhunting is no longer

practiced, men will still wear ornaments that are symbolically associated with









headhunting and serve to signify the status of the wearer. Gerbrands described the goal of

a headhunter when dressing himself for a raid:

... the Asmat transforms himself into one of the black, fruit-eating birds or flying
animals. He sticks white feathers in his hair to imitate the hornbill, which had white
tail feathers. He paints red around his eyes, for a black king cockatoo suddenly
shows a red color on a bare spot around its eyes when angry, upset or afraid. On his
forehead he wears a fur band made for the skin of the cuscus, incidentally, it is also
used as a symbol of the headhunter, as it is a fruiteater, though not a flying one.
(Rockefeller 1967, 15)

This is the same goal that a man with status has when dressing for a ceremonial

event as seen in Figure 37, Figure 39, Figure 40 and Figure 45. These men have stuck

white feathers in their hair and are wearing cuscus fur headdress. Furthermore, feathers

and marsupial pelts associate the wearer with fruit eating birds and animals and

encourage the wearer to identify with headhunters. The attire of white feathers, cuscus

headdress and a bipane nose ornament as seen in Figure 45 has multiple symbolic

associations. The white feathers allude to the cockatoo and hombill, which is also fruit

eater and in addition is a link to the ancestor realm because hornbills can embody the

spirit of the recently dead. The cuscus, like the hombill, is also a fruit eater and capable

of containing the spirit of the recently dead. The bipane nose ornament resembles the

boar's tusks making it a tool to spiritually disarm the enemy and it resembles the cuscus

tail allowing the wearer to identify himself as a fruit eater and the headhunter.

For the Bismam in the days of headhunting, many of these adornments not only

symbolized certain qualities, such as prowess in hunting, but actually instilled them in the

wearer (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The Bismam had a concept of adornment acting as a

shield or "armament" (1033). Therefore, they would not have entered a battle without

proper adornment.









In the past, when wearing adornments on ordinary days, the wearer would proceed

cautiously because many ornaments were considered powerful and wearing them

sometimes was construed as an act of aggressive (1033). However, Gerbrands remarked

that Matjemos, a sculptor from Amanamkai in 1961, donned a cuscus headband while he

carved a commissioned work in the men's house (Gerbrands 1967, 53). Gerbrands

theorized that Matjemos must have felt that the project was significant enough to dress

for the occasion (53). Thus, one can suggest that some ornaments, such as Matjemos'

headdress, were worn to address the significance of the task of the day and not

necessarily meant to suggest aggressive activities such as headhunting.

On ceremonial occasions, women often donned ornaments typically reserved for

men thus allowing her to display her prestige achieved by her association with a man

(Figure 42 and Figure 46). For ceremonial events or as everyday wear men demonstrate

their personal power by donning these potent ornaments.

Objects That Convey Status

Certain objects are worn or carried to state clearly that the owner is a person of the

highest status, bigman or tesumajipic. In the past, a tesumajipic was a person who was a

renowned headhunter and had enough political stature to be consulted on community

affairs. Although headhunting is on longer practiced, tesumajipic are still found in the

Bismam political structure and are still signified by carrying or wearing these objects.

Both males and females wear carrying bags, know as eram ese (Eyde 1967, 42). In

mythology, ancestors from long ago left special objects in their carrying bags to pass

down to future generations (Zegwaard 1959, 1033).

Women construct the bags from sago palm fronds. They measure about a foot wide

and a foot high (Figure 47) (Eyde 1967, 42). Carrying bags are decorated with white









feathers, cassowary quills, red seeds, and white seeds. A woman wears the carrying bags

suspended from her neck hanging on her back. The woman in the center of the

photograph in Figure 48 is wearing her bag on her back.

Men of lower status also wear carrying bags on their back. A man of high status

such as a leader in the men's house or a master carver wears his bags hanging on his

chest (42). The man on the left in the photograph in Figure 48 wears his bag on his chest,

thus proclaiming his higher status.

Although paddles are not dress, they serve as a type of personal adornment that

indicates status. (50) Paddles can be of the everyday variety (Figure 49) or of the

ceremonial variety (Figure 12). While a typical paddle is about six to eight feet, a

ceremonial paddle is longer, about seven to nine feet (49). A ceremonial paddle could

have a figure carved into the handle and usually has low relief designs on the shaft and

fin (49). One type of ceremonial paddle is completed with white cockatoo feathers

attached to the handle (Figure 10), and another type has black cassowary feathers (Figure

50) (49). These special paddles are only carried by a tesumajipics who are allowed to

carry their paddles on their shoulders while the typical paddle is carried by in the hand

(50). Several examples of paddles with white feathers can be seen in the photograph of

men in their canoes in Figure 10.

The ownership of an ancestor skull is a statement of prestige. Schneebaum

reports that the first born male received the ancestor skull of his parent (Schneebaum

1990, 56). However, Zegwaard and Boelaars state that the brother-in-law of the deceased

with the most influence received the skull and effectively took the place of the deceased

in the family and community (Zegwaard and Boelaars 1982, 25-26). The eldest male in









the family line is a higher status person that his siblings, male or female. In Bismam

society, brothers-in-law are equivalents to actual brothers. Although a discrepancy of

who actually inherited the skull exists, it is clear that the inheritor had to be at the top of a

line of succession either through age or influence.

Like the carrying bag and the ceremonial paddle, the way in which the ancestor

skull is worn testifies to the status of the wearer. Women could inherit an ancestor skull

but they could not wear it. Males of lower status wore the skull to the back as seen in

Figure 50. Only a male of high standing in the community, a tesumajipic, wore their

ancestor skull to the front. Wearing the ancestor skull was thus a visual statement of the

prestige of the wearer (Figure 37 and Figure 43).

Funeral

Death

When someone dies due to illness or old age, the family surrounds them as they die

(Arsdale 1982, 50). Close female relatives announce the family's loss with wailing, a

loud, moaning cry (50). This signal informs the village that someone has died (50). This

sound is also believed to reach beyond the world of the living and into the ancestor realm

to inform the spirit community of the loss (50). This oral expression of grief is combined

with a wrenching physical act of grief in which both male and female relatives go to the

riverbank and vigorously fling themselves, repeatedly, into the thick mud (Figure 52)

(50).

Robert Mitton, a camp manager for a mining company and admitted "New

Guineaphile", visited the village of Sawa, in the Northwest Asmat region. After he

witnessed this grieving practice, he wrote a colorful description in his journal. The

funeral process began when a villager, Arim, became extremely ill. Mitton writes,









Shortly after lunch the wailing for Arim intensifies. ...the wailing goes on all day
and through the night, and so many people crowd into the house beating on the
walls that it threatens to collapse. During this pre-death wailing period, friends of
the mourners take up strategic positions in the house, for at the moment of death all
hell breaks loose, and the mourners are in danger of doing themselves grievous
bodily harm. People hurl themselves out of doorways and, as another sign of grief,
wallow and almost drown themselves in mud. ... There is a false alarm when they
think Arim has died, and a horn is sounded; everyone throws himself out of the
house into the mud. Then another man dies in a neighboring house--new grief.
When Arim eventually dies, there is phenomenal out pouring of grief. Emotionally
exhausting. (7 March) The mourning for both characters continues all night, and in
the early dawn preparations are made to bury chap number one. At this point, the
mourning becomes very intense; men and women are throwing themselves from the
house into mud, rolling in it in grief. ... The women roll themselves in mud,
entirely naked, then from the mud back to the house they perform a slow stooped
walk with their arms clasped around their thighs. At the house, a jumping dance is
performed, what Father Van De Wouw calls a 'frog dance'. When the corpse is
carried from the house, everyone starts throwing himself upon it, to be dragged off
by his less grieved neighbours. The funeral ends when the corpse is placed in a
canoe and taken to the other side of the river to be buried. (Mitton 1983, 190)

From Mitton's description, the reader can get a sense of the dramatic display of

grief that death elicits from any Asmat person. The act of flinging oneself into the mud

has a specific purpose. It is believed that the scent of the living relative needs to be

hidden from the spirit of the deceased and the mud serves to cover the scent of the living

(Zegwaard 1959, 1039-1040). The Bismam believe that the recently deceased spirit is

able to recognize and follow its family's smell (1039-1040). Furthermore, the spirit has

the ability to entice a living person's lifeforce out of their body. If this is accomplished,

the Bismam believe that a person would fall into a catatonic state and die. The mud

disguise ensures that the spirit would not find its living family and would then begin its

migration into the spirit realm.

In addition to the wailing and rolling in the mud of his relatives, a tesumajipic

received a chanted eulogy consisting of a description of the individual's qualities and his

lifetime achievements (Arsdale 1982, 50). This memorializing could be impromptu and









conducted by the female mourners or by a specialist who is hired to recite before the

family and friends gathered at the deceased's yeu (50). The recitation for a distinguished

male continues a few hours a day for a significant period (50).

Burial

Burial practices have changed due the influence of the Dutch administration and

missionary activities. Today people are buried across the river from the village. In the

past, the treatment of the body varied with the status of the individual or the

circumstances of death. Most men and women were buried in the courtyard of the yeu,

unless the woman had perished in childbirth (Smidt 1993, 19). Her body was considered

dangerous and had to be removed far from the community (19). Children's bodies were

placed in tree limbs (19). The bodies of renowned headhunters and community leaders

were laid on a platform in the courtyard of the yeu and covered with woven mats (19).

Sometimes their bodies were place in special trees that were "spiritually charged" (19).

A corpse that had been left on a platform was guarded from animals by the lower status

members of the men's house and young boys (Schneebaum 1990, 56).

Van Amelsvoort noted that, "The family may place objects which serve ritual

functions such as nose bones and bracelets on the corpse" (Amelsvoort 1964, 53). Eyde

wrote that family members placed objects such as ".. .axes, knives, flying fox caps..." on

the grave site as payment to the men who dug the grave. The photograph in Figure 53

was taken in 1957 of a female corpse displayed on a platform along with her awer, a skirt

she would have worn everyday, and a bow with arrows, contributed by her husband (53).

Although no specific information about the nature of the objects was noted at the time, it

might be suggested that bows and arrows were tools used by men in Bismam society and

as such could be interpreted to be an item for payment to a male grave digger. However,









the deliberate placement of the deceased's awer, an everyday item of personal adornment

only worn by adult females, seems to be a way to identify the person rather than a

payment for services. Thus, the placement of items of personal adornment on the corpse

may be a preliminary step in the decoration of the ancestor skull which would correspond

to Van Amelsvoort's description of the objects being of a "ritual function" (53). If these

men were responsible for the entire burial process, perhaps some objects placed on the

corpse were for payment and some were to be used to decorate the skull.

Once the body had deteriorated to a state where the skull had dislodged naturally,

then the rest of the corpse could be buried or placed in a tree (Schneebaum 1990, 56).

Husbands of the sisters and daughters of the deceased were responsible for the burial

(Eyde 1967, 202).

Once exposure to the weather removed the flesh from the skull, it was taken to the

yeu to be decorated (Zegwaard and Boelaars 1982, 25-26). Zegwaard and Boelaars

reported that the skull of a prestigious headhunter, or tesumajipic, was dealt with in the

nambir kus ritual, but neither elaborates on the details of this ritual (Zegwaard and

Boelaars 1982, 25-26). One can assume that because the skull was taken to the men's

house, a place where women were rarely allowed, and because the husbands of the sisters

and daughters of the deceased were responsible for burial, men were in charge of creating

the ancestor's portrait on the skull.

Ancestor Skull Assemblages

The ancestor skulls described in the following pages were collected in the 1970s

except for Figure 34, which was collected in 1956. These skulls most likely represent the

last generation whose remains were treated in the traditional manner.









The ancestor skulls in Figure 2, Figure 34, Figure 37, Figure 43, Figure 51, Figure

54, Figure 55, Figure 56, Figure 57, Figure 58, Figure 59, Figure 60 are created in a

consistent manner. First, the mandible is secured to the skull with a piece of thickly

plaited rattan that creates a cord. This rattan cord is looped through the base of the skull

and out the nasal cavity around the lower jaw and back to the base of the skull. The

inclusion of the mandible is a clear indication that the skull is an ancestor skull, not a

trophy skull. The skulls in Figure 51 and Figure 59 are the only ones that have lost their

mandibles, but they can still be identified as ancestor skulls by the remaining adornments.

Ancestor skulls' eye sockets and nasal cavities are filled with a mixture of

beeswax and resin into which coix and abrus seeds are set. The resin in the nasal cavity

helps to hold the rattan cord in place, and it also serves to secure any nose ornament to

the skull. A headdress of plaited fiber on to which coix seeds have been sewn is attached.

Strings of shells and coix seeds with white cockatoo feathers are attached to the main

band. In some cases, braided rattan loops attached to the zygomatic arch form a

configuration suggesting earrings. One can see the similarity to earrings by comparing

the woman's earrings in Figure 42 with the similar form on the skull in Figure 2. Often a

string of plaited rattan is attached to the zygomatic arch. This string allows the skull to be

suspended from the rafters of a house or to hang the skull from the living relative's neck

as a pendant (Figure 37, Figure 43 and Figure 51). Together this group of skulls suggests

that a pattern of adornment is followed to create the ancestor skulls (Figure 2, Figure 34,

Figure 37, Figure 43, Figure 51, Figure 54, Figure 55, Figure 56, Figure 57, Figure 58,

Figure 59, Figure 60).









While each skull displays a basic pattern, individuality seems to be a strong factor

as well. Compare the bipane nose ornament on the skull in Figure 2 to the ornately

carved pig bone on the skulls in Figure 55and Figure 56. One easily sees the impact that

one ornament has enlivening each skull and setting it apart from others. This may seem a

minor change, but, as described by Gerbrands, one item of adornment can make an

impression even to an outsider. As a newly arrived observer among the Bismam of

Amanamkai, Gerbrands described how such a seemingly insignificant feature as a nose

ornament allowed him to distinguish one individual from others.

I had only been in the village for a week, and except for some of the leading men I
had become familiar with only a few faces and the names belonging to them.
Among the shouting crowd on the dancing-ground of Awok I had nevertheless
noticed a rather retiring man of middle age because of the huge shell ornament he
wore in his nose. (Gerbrands, 1967, 42)

Gerbrands stated that most Bismam wore a bone or shell ornament when they

appeared in traditional costume, but as an outside observer, even he was able to make the

distinctions based on the configuration of such ornaments. Comparing the bipane nose

ornaments in Figure 2, Figure 37, Figure 45 and Figure 46, one can distinguish among

them. Assuming that a member of the community could distinguish even more subtle

differences, than a particular ornament could signify the individual that wore it.

Displaying even more variety is the skull in Figure 34 that uses a piece of sago

palm wrapped with coix and abrus seeds as a nose ornament, and the skull in Figure 59

that has a stick with the ends decorated with coix and abrus seeds for a nose ornament.

The individualism of the skull is enhanced even when a nose ornament is not used. The

skulls in Figure 59, Figure 57, Figure 58, and Figure 60 do not have nose ornaments. The

skull in Figure 54 has just the bright red abrus seeds filling the nose cavity, while the

skull in Figure 57 uses just the coix seeds to adorn the nose cavity. The skulls in Figure









58 and Figure 60 have a combination of coix and abrus seeds filling the nose cavities.

Each configuration of seeds adds to a sense of individualism.

The coix are white to grey to almost sliver in color while the abrus is a bright red.

The Bismam use the colors black, red and white to paint their bodies for ritual occasions.

The color combination employed on the skulls suggests a similarity to body paint. A

quick visual scan of the individuals in Figure 10 and Figure 21 should allow the viewer to

observe several instances of white and red paint on the face. Also note that the paint is

applied in stripes, patches, and dots. Several individuals in Figure 21 wear necklaces

made from the white coix seed, red abrus seeds or a combination of both seeds. Figure

41 provides a closer view of facial paint and an example of the striking red and white

seed necklace. When considering the use of the red and white seeds in the adornment of

the ancestor skull it is possible that these colors remind the viewer or face paint worn by

the living and remind the viewer of the brightly colored seed necklaces worn by the

living.

Also note how some of the skulls are distinguished by the structured placement of

seeds. For example in Figure 34 the eye cavities of the skull have been given a circle of

white coix seeds that surrounds a center of red abrus seeds. This effectively draws the

viewer's attention to the eye sockets of the skull. This same type of treatment can be seen

in Figure 54 where prominent red abrus seeds have been purposely placed in the center of

the eye sockets, also drawing the viewer's focus to the eye sockets of the skull. The skull

in Figure 34 also has a structured placement of seeds on the nasal cavity, which creates a

stripe of red and white that is carried through to the nose ornament. The skull in Figure 2









has a pair of red abrus seeds deliberately set into the nasal cavity just above the bipane

nose ornament that seems to point the viewer's attention to the dramatic nose ornament.

Typically, a headdress is composed of the white cockatoo feathers, but, as one can

see from Figure 55, cassowary feathers can be used. Hornbill feathers can also be used.

The pattern of beading on the headdress varies as well. For example, compare the

headdress of the ancestor skull in Figure 34, which has an x-pattern arrangement of coix

seeds, with the liner pattern created by the arrangement of coix seeds on the border of the

headdress shown in Figure 2. Furthermore, note how the x-pattern is increased to a

horizontal row of four x-shapes in the border of the headdress illustrated in Figure 56.

The border of the headdress in Figure 60 maintains the simple line of beads seen in

Figure 2 but increases the row by two beads, adding to the variety of styles in a basic

pattern.

In Figure 45, the men wear short white feathers attached to sticks and stuck in their

hair and cuscus fur headbands with beading on the edge. In Figure 51, the living wears a

cuscus headband with beading on the edge, along with an ancestor skull that wears a

headdress of woven fiber beaded with coix seeds. One can see in Figure 51 that the

beading serves to attach the feathers to the skull in the absence of hair.

Rattan loops attached to the side of the skull replicating earrings provide another

opportunity for the individualism of the ancestor skull to be accentuated. Note the

earrings on the ancestor skull shown in Figure 2. They are constructed with strings of

seeds and shells, quills, and a tuft of cuscus fur. The ancestor skull in Figure 55 has an

even larger tuft of fur. The ancestor skull in Figure 56 has one earring with a rhinoceros









beetle at the end, and the ancestor skull in Figure 57 has earrings with cassowary feathers

at the tip.

Each of the skulls in Figure 2, Figure 34, Figure 37, Figure 43, Figure 51, Figure

54, Figure 55, Figure 56, Figure 57, Figure 58, Figure 59, and Figure 60 adheres to a

pattern of adornment. However, the variety of materials used and the different

configurations of that material strongly suggest a sense of individualism in each ancestor

skull.

In traditional burial practices, personal objects such as nose ornaments and

earrings were placed on the corpse. If one assumes that these personal objects such as a

nose ornament were used to adorn the ancestor skull rather than payment for assistance in

the burial ritual, and one assumes that a nose ornament signified a particular individual

who was easily recognized by the members his community; then, it is highly probable

that these skulls were visually constructed to recreate a portrait of a specific individual.

Protection

In addition to serving as portrait of a specific person, the ancestor skull also has a

function that can best be understood when comparing that function to the way a shield is

used. In order to understand this comparison, the reader must first understand the

Bismam beliefs about spirits and lifeforces and how these energies may cause harm to a

living human. This section will then examine the belief that a shield serves to protect its

owners spiritually and to compare that to the belief that an ancestor skull also protects its

owner. Finally, the author will compare a design carved on the shield to the bipane nose

ornament used to adorn the ancestor skull, suggesting that the design and object have a

similar function.









Spirits and Lifeforces

The Bismam seek spiritual protection for a variety of reasons. First, spirits from the

forest, river and sea can be annoying and dangerous (Schneebaum 1990, 52). Second, the

recently dead cause sickness and food shortages because their deaths have not been

avenged (52). The recently dead may also lure away its relative's lifeforce while they are

mourning over the corpse. Third, spirits from women who died in child birth are known

to kidnap and kill men (Sowada 1990, 70).

Finally, the Bismam believe that several spiritual energies combined in a human to

form a living creature. A person is born with two of these life forces: yuwus and ndamup

(Sowada 1991, 66). Another element, in this case an ancestral spirit, ndat, joins the

others in the early years of life, effectively completing the person (66).

The Bismam believe that for humans, the yuwus force is necessary for life (66).

This force is clearly seen in strong human emotions such as fear, anger, hate, love (66).

Theyuwus is believed to be located in a person's abdomen tied to his navel and its loss is

considered fatal (66).

Ndamup, on the other hand, is an animating element found in all living things (66).

In a human, this spirit takes on its host's appearance, and is able to leave the body at will

to roam or wander (66). The ndamup is located in the head, and when a person sleeps

with his head in an uncomfortable position, his nadmup is especially prone to wandering

(Zegwaard 1959, 1030). If this roaming spirit meets a living person, the observer would

not be able to distinguish the spirit from its host because the ndamup, not only looks like

the host, it can also speak and act like the host (1030). However, if the observer is able to

recognize that they are interacting with the ndamup, he can warn the host of the

impending danger thus saving the host's life (1030).









The ndamup can also leave the host and move into other life forms, such as

animals, and while possessing them it can become harmful (Sowada 1990, 66). Sowada

reports that when a crocodile had killed several people in the village of Sawa, the

villagers believed they were being victimized by the ndamup of a man from Erama in

retaliation for an old headhunting raid (66).

During the period in which headhunting was still a vital part of existence, it was

believed that the ndamup could be called away by enemies (Zegwaard 1959, 1030). As

part of the events leading up to a headhunting raid, a specialist was called upon to

summon the ndamup of individuals from the village intended for attack (1030). If the

ndamup "[ate] the smell" of a burning mixture prepared by a specialist or if it "[ate] the

smell" of a cooked pig in an enemy village then the spirit was bewitched and could not

return to its body (1030). If the ndamup was not able to return to its body, the person

died within a few days or was so weakened that when the conjuring village attacked, the

people who lost their ndamup were the ones easily killed (1030). The danger of such

black magic was even stated in a myth in which two heroes died because their ndamup

had visited an enemy village and feasted on roast wild pig (1030).

The third animating force of the individual is ndat (Sowada 1990, 66). Ndat is an

ancestral spirit caught in the continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth (66). The ndat of

the ancestor has a protective power (67). An individual was not considered whole until

the ndat joined the other animating forces (66). The ancestral spirit shares with the host

individual its personality and skills (66). Without the inclusion of ndat in a person's

makeup, the individual did not live (70). Often when a child died, the Bismam believed

that the ndat spirit had not joined the other animating forces, and the child was thus









incomplete and could not survive (70). An individual could increase his or her ancestral

power by taking the name of another ancestor and over the course of a lifetime, several

ancestors might be invoked to help (67).

Protective Function of Shields and Ancestor Skulls

In the days of headhunting, shields protected the owner from physical violence

(Figure 6). The power of the shield was so respected that the Bismam believed it was

preferable to have a shield than weapon (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 46).

Even though, headhunting raids have stopped, shields are still considered powerful

protective objects (Schneebaum 1990, 37).

Just as child is named after an ancestor to infuse him with the ndat spirit, the

naming of inanimate objects such as shields, figures, and canoe prows after an ancestor

also infuses the object with the ancestor's ndat making the object function better (Sowada

1990, 67). A shield is named after an ancestor to instill the strength and courage of its

namesake into the shield (Schneebaum 1990, 37). A shield inhabited by the ndat of the

ancestor, made the ancestor seem alive to its owner (37). The owner of shield is thus

stronger and more confident knowing that his ancestor's power protects him (Sowada

1990, 67).

A large number of shields increases the power of the entire community and serves

as a protective force (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 46). In addition, to

protecting against physical enemies, shields have the power to ward off spiritual enemies

and negative forces. Shields are brandished and carried to the river's edge to frighten

away the malevolent spirit that caused the death when someone dies unexpectantly

(Smidt 1993, 71). Shields are placed in or near a doorway to protect a family home









against evil spirits entering the home when the family is not present (Schneebaum 1990,

37).

As the shield is inhabited by the ndat of an individual, the bodily remains of the

deceased are also still inhabited by the ndat (Schneebaum 1990, 56). Thus, wearing the

skull is believed to protect the living relative through the presence of the ndat (Figure 37,

Figure 43 and Figure 51). The protective force of the skull, like the protective force of the

shield, provides confidence and security to the person wearing the skull, especially

knowing that the powerful ndat of the ancestor is definitely with him.

Ancestor skulls are also used as headrests specifically to keep the ndamup from

wandering because of its own nature or in the days of headhunting, because the ndamup

was lured away by enemies (Figure 61). When a woman inherited an ancestor skull, she

was supposed to keep it covered in the rafters of her house (Schneebaum 1985, 146-47).

In Figure 61, an ancestor skull is seen hanging behind the woman, and another ancestor

skull is seen on the floor on the left side of the picture. Considering that shields were able

to protect the family when positioned in the doorway, it can be surmised that physical

contact was not always necessary to evoke the protective force of the ndat and that

hanging the skull in the home protected the home as well.

Protective Designs and Objects

Shields are carved from the buttress root of the mangrove tree. Among the Bismam

a three dimensional projection is carved at the top of the shield, a small figure, a head or

an abstraction of either one (Figure 6) (Smidt 1993, 56). Shields are painted with red,

white and black, the same colors used in body adornment. The front is carved with low

relief designs (56). Both the figure on top of the shield and the designs on its front

represent the ancestor that the shield is named after and refers to other ancestors as well









(Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 43). In this way, the owner enlists the

protection of many ancestors (Smidt 1993, 71).

Gerbrands documented the shield represented in figure 6 when he collected it from

the village of Atjametsj in the early 1960s. The figure on top represents the owner's dead

sister. The low relief figures on the front depict two of the owner's dead brothers and

another dead sister (125).

On a shield with a similar motif collected in the village of Otsjanep at the same

time (Figure 62) the figure on top is smaller and less defined, but the ancestors in relief

on the front of the shield have more robust body forms. In these two examples, it can be

suggested that the figure on top and the designs on the front visually reinforce for the

owner that his "spirit family" was protecting him.

While the ancestor skull itself is the physical remains of an ancestor, it is also an

assemblage created to be a portrait of that ancestor. If the multiple ancestor figures

represented on the shield serve to remind the owner visually of the power of the ancestor

contained within the shield, then the portrait created on the remains of the deceased must

visually intensify the memory of that particular ndat, serving to remind the owner of the

presence and protection of the ancestor within the skull.

Many shields have representations of bipane nose ornaments typically worn by

powerful males for ceremonial events or, in the past during headhunting raids. The

bipane adornment has metaphorical associations such as a boar's tusk that weakens the

enemy and as a cuscus tail that empowers the headhunter to become like his fruit eating

brother. On the shield, this ornament was reduced to a simplified motif consisting of a

basic c-shape (Figure 63).









The bipane nose ornament is a powerful and prestigious ornament both for the

living and for the ancestor skull. The inclusion of the bipane ornament on an ancestor

skull must create a visual statement that expresses not only the individuality of the

deceased but also makes a statement about the powerfulness of ornament itself, especially

as it relates to headhunting (Figure 2).

The Bismam believe that the ndat that the shield is named after, the ndats of the

ancestors represented by the ancestor designs on the front of the shield, and the power

that radiates from the symbols such as the bipane on the front of the shield work together

to paralyze living enemies as well as spirit enemies (Schneebaum 1990, 37). Just as the

shield could paralyze the enemy, the ancestor skull that possess the ndat of the ancestor,

is visually constructed to remind the viewer of a portrait of the deceased and is adorned

with powerful ornaments such as the bipane must also function to paralyze spiritual

enemies.

Communication

Another function of the ancestor skull is as a tool for communication. A brief

review of a two Bismam myths that involve a decapitated head allows the reader to

realize that communication between the living and dead has precedence in Bismam

cosmology. This section will explore how thejipae masquerade serves as a tool for the

living and the dead to communicate. Finally, this section will compare the adornment of

thejipae mask and the ancestor skull and will suggest that a pattern of adornment on both

represents the ndat ancestral spirit.

Myth of Talking Head

Father Zegwaard provides insight into the practice of keeping the skull of a

relative through his recording of two myths. Each myth features a disembodied head that









is able to talk. Warsekomen, a bigman in the village of Sjuru, told Father Zegwaard an

important myth that explained the reasons behind headhunting.

There were two brothers. The senior was called Desoipitsj (deso-wound; ipitsj-
man: man with wound) and the junior Biwiripitsj (biwir or bewor many colored
parrot: parrot man). Because of his physical condition the elder brother had always
to stay indoors and the younger had to go out to support him. One day, returning
from a hunting trip, Biwiripitsj brought home a pig. He cut off the head and thrust a
dagger into the throat so that the point came out through the neck. The dagger was
a sharpened cassowary thighbone. With the point of the dagger Biwiripitsj pinned
the head of the pig to the floor of the hut, which was covered with bark. The elder
brother had been watching and after some time remarked: "Bah, a pig's head is but
a pig's head. Why not replace it with a human head? That would be something, I
think." But the younger brother didn't like the idea at all. "What are you talking
about? Besides, where could I get a human head?" (The story presupposes that just
the two brothers are around.) The older brother insisted, and proposed: "Well, you
can have my head." But the younger wouldn't hear of this and refused
emphatically. However, Desoipitsj continued to argue and in the end succeeded in
persuading his younger brother. Biwiripitsj thereupon killed Desoipitsj with a
spear, cut into the throat with a bamboo knife as far as he could, and pressed the
head forward until the vertebrae of the neck cracked. He then removed the head
from the body. The loose head, however, was able to speak and it gave instruction
to Biwiripitsj, who obediently executed the orders given by it. (Zegwaard 1959,
1021)

The myth continues with the head of Desoipitsj explaining to Biwiripitsj many

ritual tasks such as the proper way to cut his own body and distribute the pieces. The

head also instructs the correct way to greet a war party returning from a headhunting raid

and the appropriate manner to carry out complex initiation rituals.

The significance of the story is Desoipitsj's ability to continue to speak after his

death. There can be no mistake that the character is truly dead. The description of his

decapitation is quite vivid, including the crack of the vertebrae. Such attention to detail is

obviously intended to relate the body of Desoipitsj that of an actual human. One could

suggest that these are supernatural beings; however, no mention is made of any special

powers except that Desoipitsj and Biwiripitsj are the only people. The myth suggests that









the Bismam are familiar with the concept that disembodied heads communicate with the

living.

While examining this myth, a few other points to note are listed as follows:

Biwiripitsj is known as parrot man, a human head replaces a pig's head, and a bamboo

knife is used to decapitate the victim. The headhunter is metaphorically compared to

animals that eat fruit including, parrots, cockatoos and wild boar. Men and women adorn

themselves with cockatoo feathers in their hair. The wild boar's tusks are used as a

pendant or worn around the arm. Men wear the bipane shell nose ornament which can be

read as pig tusks. The bamboo knife used to decapitate a victim is linked to the bamboo

pendant worn by headhunters.

The second myth, collected by Father Zegwaard, told the story of a head that

provides instruction for headhunting activities. The myth is contained in a song sung at a

festival for a new men's house.

Biwiripitsj (this name appears in many mythological stories) went with his wife
and children to the river Fait to pound sago. Near the mouth of the river he felled a
palm that was in full flower... Biwiripitsj then called his son and ordered him to lie
prostrate on the bare trunk of the tree. The boy did so. The father [according to
some versions the mother] took a sago pounder and struck the boy's neck with
force. The head, decorated with hair lengthenings, was separated from the body and
with a few jumps landed in ajimemmut tree, where it became entangled by the hair.
Blood from the head trickled down the trunk. The chin pointed upward and the hair
lengthenings hung down. The father [or mother] struck again and again with the
pounder and smashed the body. Blood and flesh were entirely mixed with the pith
of the sago palm, and the entrails splashed high into the surrounding trees. When
the mother began to work the pith, it proved to be very easy to knead. She rejoiced
and said: "Before it was very hard to knead sago and wring it out, now it's
extremely easy." The son, however, was not completely dead, for the head began to
talk. He taught his father the songs that have to be sung at the decapitation
festivities: the songs on the way home from a raid, at the arrival in the village,
when shaking out the brains, and so on. (Zegwaard 1959, 1027 -1028)

In both stories, the person's decapitated head continues to converse with the living,

giving instruction about traditions and rituals that need to be performed. Like the









previous myth, this one illustrates the belief that a decapitated head is an important tool

for communicating with the dead and explaining ritual practices.

Communicative Function of Jipae Masks and Ancestor Skulls

Every two to three years, thejipae masquerade invites the recently deceased to

return to the village before they complete the final leg of the migration to safan

(Zegwaard 1993, 33). Thejipae masquerade consists of two types of mask, the clown

mask and the spirit mask (Eyde 1967, 338). In Figure 13, the clown mask is on the left

and the two spirit masks are on the right. Thejipae masks represent the spirits of those

who have died since the last masquerade.

Deciding who would be represented by the mask is discussed at length in the men's

house (Zegwaard 1993, 33). Great quantities of food are provided for those who create

the mask, those who wear the mask, the alternate wearers, and the guests of the ceremony

(Konrad and Konrad 1996, 220-221). Zegwaard reports that "...politics and rivalry

between family groups plays an important role in these decisions" (Zegwaard 1993, 33).

One can surmise that the tesumajipic of the yeu are the only ones who would have

enough resources to provide the amounts of food necessary for the ceremony. Who would

fund the ceremony may thus be a matter of prestige. Recently deceased bigmen and

bigwomen are represented by the masks, but other recently deceased villagers who are

not represented by a mask would be moved to migrate by the power of the ceremony

(Konrad and Konrad 1996, 220-221).

The first character to appear in the masquerade is referred to as the orphan boy

mask. He is teased and harassed for a couple days within the village by all, especially

young boys. The orphan boy mask appears for about two days during which the

atmosphere of the masquerade is jovial and light (Zegwaard 1993, 39). As sunset









approaches on the second day, the other characters called jipae appear at the edge of the

forest (37). Even though these masks represent spirits of the dead, the mood of the ritual

remains cheerful (40). The masks walk through the village with the villagers following.

The group stops at each former home of the deceased persons who are represented by the

masks. The mask is greeted by living family members (38). The relatives briefly reenter a

state of mourning, and the family members asked the spirit many questions about its

welfare. They assure the deceased that although they are missed, they are no longer

needed in the village because other people in the community have taken their places (36-

37). Finally, the family member gives the spirit food, typically the sago larvae delicacy

(38). After visiting the homes of the deceased, the group then moves to the yeu, for

dancing, mock battles and food exchanges (38). When the sun comes up, the masks walk

back to the forest (38).

Thejipae masquerade allows the living to communicate with its deceased relatives

while in the ndamir realm just before the spirit crosses to safan. The ndat spirit crosses

over into safan and can then be called upon to add strength to a shield. The ndat spirit is

also the protective force in the ancestor skull.

Father Sowada states that thejipae visit, "...brings about the concomitant proof

that ancestral assistance and powers will be continuously forthcoming" (Sowada 1990,

69). He does not state directly the role of the ancestor skull has in this "ancestral

assistance and power." One can logically assume that the ancestor skull, which is

decorated to represent the ancestor and used as a protective device, also functions like the

jipae mask to reinforce to the living relative that a particular dead relative who is in safan

is ready to help. The closeness with which the skull is handled by the living and the









portrait that reminds the viewer of the individual suggests that the living could easily

communicate with the dead through the adorned ancestor skull.

Adornment of Jipae Mask and Ancestor Skull

The jipae costume is made of twined rope created by the men in the yeu from a

sacred bark used only for this purpose (Zegwaard, 1993, 34). The face and upper torso of

the wearer are covered by the knitted fiber and a thick fringe of sago strips hang from the

arms and the waist of the costume, giving it a flowing movement (34). Wooden pieces

carved to resemble bird bills or shells are attached to create the eyes of the mask (34-35).

The decoration of the skull and mask share a few visual similarities. Like the

ancestor skull, the mask was given a nose ornament. Compare the ancestor skull in Figure

2 and the jipae mask in Figure 64 and Figure 65. Compare also, the nose ornament of the

jipae mask in Figure 68 with nose ornament of the ancestor skull in Figure 55. The jipae

mask is adorned with white cockatoo feathers, and beaded netting connects the feathers to

the stick. A similar combination of the seeds, netting and white cockatoo feathers are

used for the ancestor skull's headdress as seen in Figure 67 when comparing the ancestor

skull worn by the person on the left with the jipae mask standing next to him. The jipae

mask is painted with alternating red and white colors that follow ridges created by the

knotted fibers. The same colors are found on the ancestor skull in the red and white seeds

that fill the eye and nose cavities (Figure 67).

The jipae mask and the ancestor skull are both inhabited by the ndat ancestral

spirit. The repeated use of materials, such as the nose ornament, white cockatoo feathers,

red and white colors in the jipae and in the decorated skull suggests a similar manner for

depicting the specific ndat ancestral spirit.









Conclusion

For the Bismam, adornment is a means through which the individual proclaimed

his skills and status. Among the living, dressing for a ceremonial occasion allowed one to

wear a number of elements including many of the following: fiber ornaments, necklaces,

nose ornaments, earrings, headdresses, and body paint.

An ancestor's skull was acquired when an individual from the community died of

disease or old age. The skull assemblage is created by some of the same elements worn

by the living Bismam such as a nose ornaments, earrings, and headdresses. The ancestor

skull is a remnant of a particular individual and the individuality of the deceased is made

evident in the skull construction through the personal and distinctive ornaments used to

define the skull.

When dressing for ceremonial occasions, individuals wanted to dress in the mode

of a headhunter, the most respected member of the community. Material that suggested

headhunting included: cuscus fur, white cockatoo feathers, white hornbill feathers, black

cassowary feathers, spiral cut shell, boar bone, boar tusks, red color, black color, white

color, bamboo plates, and human bone.

The adorned ancestor skull is given to a family member and became his personal

property. Social status is indicated by possessing the skull because the "most important"

relative keeps the skull. A male family member of the deceased is allowed to wear the

decorated skull; female family members are not. The way in which the ancestor skull is

worn is an indicator of the prestige of the individual who owned it. Males of high status,

or bigmen, are allowed to wear the skulls on their chests, while men of lower status are

required to wear the skulls on their backs.









In the past, shields physically protected the warrior who carried it from arrows,

spears and daggers. However, the real power of the shield is revealed by its decoration

which depicted relatives who have reached the ancestral realm. These ancestors increase

the effectiveness of the shield against both physical and spiritual enemies. The same is

true for the power of the ancestor skull. It is able to protect the wearer from spiritual

enemies and represents a relative who has reached the ancestral realm. When used as a

headrest, it is able to protect the sleeper from the negative of effect of the ndamup spirit

roaming around. An ancestor skull is hung in the family home or stored in the rafters and

is able to protect the home from malicious spiritual enemies who might enter the family

abode. The bipane designs carved on the shield and the bipane nose ornament on the

ancestor skull symbolically represent the headhunter and imbue the object with even

greater power.

Ancestor skulls were purposely decorated to resemble headhunters. The ancestor

skull incorporated a headdress of beads and shells with typically white feathers, a nose

ornament of shell or bone, and from the color palette of body paint, red and white beads.

While headhunters were considered the most highly regarded living members of the

community, dead headhunters were considered the most powerful and influential

ancestors in the spirit world. Personal ornaments used to define the ancestor skull

assemblage served to create a portrait of an individual, the patterns of the decorations as

well as the power associated with those objects created a symbolic portrait of

'headhunter' as well.

Finally, the skull is a means to communicate with the ancestor realm. The skull is a

physical embodiment of the ndat ancestral spirit as is the jipae mask during the









ceremonial masquerade. Like the appearance ofjipae masks, the sight of the ancestor

skull assemblage reassures the owner that a relative is in the ancestral realm and could be

counted on for protection and assistance at any time. Furthermore, the way thejipae mask

is decorated is similar to the way the ancestor skull is decorated with a nose ornament,

white cockatoo feathers, red colors and white colors. This similarity of adornment

indicates a pattern for depicting the ndat ancestral spirit. Furthermore, the ancestor skull

as a representative of one ancestral spirit may have also served to remind the viewer of

the entire realm of the ancestors.

Therefore, an adorned ancestor skull symbolically and simultaneously represented a

particular individual, a headhunter, and an ancestor.














CHAPTER 4
TROPHY SKULLS

This chapter examines the adorned and displayed trophy skull. Trophy skulls were

the remains of enemies that had been killed in headhunting raids, butchered, and cleaned.

As seen in Figure 68, these skulls are identified by the hole in the side of the skull where

the brains were removed. Headhunting is no longer practiced by the Bismam; therefore,

this analysis examines the role these objects had in the past. The rituals described in this

section are practiced today but in an altered state conforming to the demands of the

Indonesian government and the conversion to Christianity.

This chapter begins with an explanation of revenge, one type of reciprocity. To

understand how the trophy skull is obtained, the actual headhunting raid is briefly

reviewed along with the processing of the corpse to produce the trophy skull and other

trophies. Once the trophy skull was acquired, it became part of one or more visual

configurations.

The first assemblage of trophy skulls discussed is directly linked to revenge and the

headhunting raid. The bis ritual, a ceremony to honor the recently deceased, displayed

trophy skulls attached to a bis pole. This display was a visual statement that revenge had

been achieved.

The second section looks briefly at Bismam ideas of growth and health. The section

reviews the initiation ritual that is believed to stimulate growth in young boys changing

them into adults. The decoration of the initiate is examined especially as it relates to the

adornment of men, women, and headhunters. Next a brief note about the adornment of









the trophy skull is analyzed comparing it with the adornment of an ancestor skull. Finally,

I review the display of the adorned trophy skull in the initiation ritual. In this ritual, the

adornment of the trophy skull makes a visual statement of individuality that enhances the

ritual function of the skull. The display of the adorned skull reminds the viewer of the

adult role the initiate will be assuming.

The last section looks at the assemblage of trophy skulls known as a kusfe. This

section will first examine the most prestigious member of the Bismam community, the

tesumajipic. This individual has a great deal of power and prestige within the

community's social structure. The kusfe is displayed in two buildings-- the men's house

and the family home-- and, it can be displayed in different locations in each these

buildings. Each place that it is displayed allows the assemblage to be viewed by different

members of the community. The kusfe is a visual statement of its owner's skills as a

warrior and his social status.

Reciprocity and Revenge

In anthropological terms, reciprocity is the mutual exchange of goods between

parties who are related by family or who live in the same community (Bohannan 1992,

125). This definition is applicable to many social activities in the Bismam community.

Mutual exchanges of food, sago and fish, are a common forms of reciprocity. Giving

food, especially sago, is a way to express friendship, and the mutual giving of food

establishes and reinforces bonds of friendship and family. For the Bismam, gift-giving

obligates the receiver to the giver until a gift or service of equal value is given back

(Sowada 1961, 50). The Bismam believe that equivalence creates compatibility (Sowada

1990, 69).









Marriage is also a form of reciprocity between families, especially if each family

has a daughter to "give away" (Fleischhacker 1991, 6). An assortment of pre-negotiated

goods, or bride-wealth, is exchanged if an equivalent daughter is not available. Papisj or

wife exchange is also a form of reciprocity between two men. This exchange cements the

men's relationship and encourages partnership in endeavors such as warfare. Even

pregnancy is seen as an exchange of spirit forces between the realm of the living and that

of the ancestors (Fleischhacker 1991, 6).

In the past, reciprocity was also evident in "blood-wealth exchange." This

exchange occurred between members of the same yeu, between yeus in the same village

and sometimes between closely related villages (Sowada 1961, 54-55). Eyde told the

story of a non-lethal dispute and subsequent exchange that occurred in the village of

Amanamkai where there were three men's houses (Eyde 1967, 325). Tiwankasci

trespassed onto territory that belonged to Macamos' extended family and was fishing

there when Macamos discovered him (325). Macamos was so enraged by this violation

that he took his digging stick and hit Tiwankasci on the forehead, causing excessive

bleeding (325). When the two men returned to the village, the men of Tiwankasci's yeu

gathered up arms and proceeded to the yeu of Macamos' group. A brawl broke out

between the two groups, and eventually leaders from both men's houses met in a third

men's house that was neutral in the altercation (325). After deliberations, a payment of a

"... stone axe, a bone dagger, a bundle of cassowary feathers, a bundle of arrows, and a

lance" was agreed upon to compensate Tiwankasci for his loss of blood (328). The initial

offense of trespassing was considered in this payment, but shedding blood was the more

grievous offense; therefore, Macamos had to pay (332).









Altercations such as that described above were commonplace among the Bismam

(332). Family members and yeu members resorted to means ranging from wrestling to

battle to settle such disputes, and people not as well connected often threatened each

other with weapons and exchanged blows with digging sticks or palm fronds (332). Once

calm was established, food exchanges often resolved the dispute and returned the

relationships to more cordial terms (332).

If the fight became so intense that someone was killed, then the person responsible

for the death and his family had to compensate the victim's family (Sowada 1961, 53-54).

The killer could not approach the grieving family for fear of revenge, so members of his

yeu arranged the terms of the gift exchange and arranged a gift-giving ceremony (54). In

this exchange, the killer remained concealed within the men's house. He handed goods

over to members of his own family who were inside the yeu, and they in turn passed the

gifts of "... sago, spears, shells, dogs teeth, paddles, etc..." to the victim's family, who

waited outside the yeu (54-55). As a final gesture of good will, the grieving family

adopted a member of the offender's yeu and addressed him by the name of the deceased

(55).

In this larger system of reciprocity, headhunting was an exchange that usually took

place between villages that were not closely related. Ideally, headhunters would only

seek the number of victims equal to those they themselves had lost when they had been

victimized; headhunting was deemed necessary to maintain ideal balance within the

cosmos (Fleischhacker 1991, 6). In spite of the ideal of balance, Eyde reported on one

occasion that the village of Amanamkai collected twenty heads in revenge for the death

of one of its members (Eyde 1967, 77). Furthermore, Eyde noted that, the village of









Amanamkai had been able to weaken its opponents by repeatedly attacking small groups

as they gathered sago or fished (82). A few large headhunting raids against the weakened

villages insured that they would dismantle and move, thus allowing Amanamkai to claim

their sago and fishing territories (82).

Feelings of revenge motivate the spirit community as well as the living community.

Bismam cosmology maintains that when someone dies, their ndat spirit remains in the

intermediate plane known as ndamir, a limbo realm, until their death are properly

remembered through ritual or, in the past, revenge (Fleishchaker 1991, 12). Furthermore,

the Bismam consider any death except that of the very young or the very old to be caused

by malevolent actions of an enemy, either through physical aggression, such as warfare,

or through the supernatural manipulation of a person's lifeforce (Smidt 1993, 19).

Common illnesses such as malaria, pneumonia, infections and parasites cause many

deaths, and even these are suspected of being the result of black magic (Fleischhacker

1991, 12).

The spirits of individuals who died from decapitation were believed to be

especially dangerous (Zegwaard 1959, 1029). In ndamir, these spirits could be harmful to

the living, but once established in safan, they, like other recently deceased spirits, were

considered helpful to the living community. Every effort was thus made to seek revenge

so that the spirit of the decapitated could migrate into safan. The Bismam believed that

all spirits desire to move to safan because from there they can be reborn. The living also

want the ancestral sprit to move to safan because from that vantage they can be

persuaded to inhabit many items, thus causing the item to improve its function or become

protective.









Headhunting Raid

Headhunting raids were orchestrated events that accompanied larger ceremonies,

including the completion of a men's house, the bis ritual and the initiation ritual

(Zegwaard 1959, 1028). Because of the time, resources and people necessary for a large

raid, they seldom occurred (1032). Planned raids involved at least one yeu but more

frequently all the yeus of the village would be involved (Eyde 1967, 276). Some villages

were able to form a pact with a neighboring village to conduct a raid together (280). The

pact also kept the two villages from preying upon one another (280). However, the

Bismam often took advantage of unexpected opportunities such as a lost stranger or even

a welcomed guest (Zegwaard 1959, 1032). Lying in wait for a victim who was gathering

sago or fishing was a favored means to acquire a head (Eyde 1967, 71).

Before a headhunting raid, the enemies' lifeforces were attacked with black magic

during the eram asan ceremony, which was designed to assault the ndamup lifeforce of

the enemy (Zegwaard 1959, 1030). A "magical" pole was smeared with a secret

substance known only to the specialist performing the ceremony (1030). A leader of the

men's house dipped the pole into a fire causing the substance to smoke and to emit an

intense smell (1030). The smell was designed to lure the enemy's ndamup from his

sleeping body. If the spirit "ate the smell" the living person would die or be easier to kill

in battle (1030).

Another pre-headhunting raid ceremony was thefo mbufum, in which men who

have vowed revenge rowed a canoe near a village upon whom a revenge raid had been

planned (1031). They fed the ndat of the ancestor who demanded revenge by dropping

food in the river (1031). Then, they unveiled the canoe's new prow which









commemorated the dead relative (1031). This ritual was a warning to the enemy village

that a revenge raid would soon happen (1031).

A planned raid was begun before dawn with several canoes quietly gliding toward

the pre-selected village. Each family group that had a fireplace within the yeu rode in the

same canoe together (Eyde 1967, 276). As the canoes maneuvered up the river they

maintained the same organizational groupings that they had in the yeu; therefore,

upstream and downstream halves of the yeu rode next to each other in the canoes (277).

Once the warriors were as close as possible without being seen, they left their canoes and

continued on foot surrounding the village (Zegwaard 1959, 1035). The battle position of

an individual warrior was based on his age and experience (1035). Older men were the

advisors, middle-aged men served as the bow men, and young men became the infantry

(1035). The attack began with a bamboo horn blast and a shouting exchange designed to

panic the sleeping village (1035). Startled by the commotion, the frightened villagers ran

out of their houses (1035). Archers fired upon the fleeing people driving them toward the

foot soldiers, who stood ready to kill or overpower their victims (1035). Women and

children attempted to escape via the jungle or river with limited success (1036).

Sometimes the attackers captured women and children to add to their own families, but

they were also hunted (1036). The element of surprise was fleeting so that, while men of

the village could run away, many stood their ground (1036). The raiders had a limited

advantage because most of the fighting was hand to hand combat with shields, spears,

and daggers (1036). For the young men, a kill was a means to establish themselves as

headhunters and to claim the rewards of that title (1036). They competed with the more

experienced warriors who wanted a kill to increase their prestige (1036). If the battle was









heated the victim was killed immediately and the head was removed (1036). The end of

the battle was signaled with another blow from the bamboo horn (1036).

If time and circumstances allowed, the victim was beaten, with the head receiving

the most abuse (1036). The victim was not considered a person but a head. Zegwaard

reported that the victor proclaimed, "My head, my head won in a raid" (1036). If the

victim's name was unknown to the raiders, intimidation and beating were used to learn

the name, which was vital for future initiation ceremonies (1036). However, because of

the close proximity of villages, trading, visiting and even marriages took place across

village boundaries. Thus, the name of the victim may well have been known to the

raiders (Eyde 1967, 75). The captive's arms were bound to a long pole placed across his

chest, and he was placed in a canoe (Zegwaard 1959, 1036). At sacred points in the river,

such as at bends or at the junction of two streams, the victims were killed and beheaded

(1036). Zegwaard reported that "The beheading is done by persons with special skill for

it..." (1037). Eyde noted that "The beheaders of the victims are sometimes the wives of

the headhunters. This is one way in which a great warrior, tesumajipic, enables his wife

also to become tesumaj, great" (Edye 1967, 74). If the body was to be used in the

initiation ceremony, then some of the victim's blood was gathered in a shell (Zegwaard

1959, 1023). The hunters left a personal item of the victim's such as a necklace, skirt,

hair or body part, so that the victim's family would discover the fate of their loved one

(1036-1037). Father Zegwaard witnessed one of these personal items: "On one occasion I

saw a sign composed of an arrowpoint, a red fruit, and some hair of the victim" (1037).

He also noted one example where the victim's intestine was hung across the river (1037).









On the journey back to their own village, the headhunters sang a ritual song (1022).

As they neared the village, the raiders blew the bamboo horn to announce their victory. In

a prescribed dialogue, the villagers asked the raiders if they had succeeded. After a

positive response, which included the victim's name, the women, who were dressed in

ceremonial attire, began dancing and singing (1022).

Cannibalism

Once at the village, the victim's body was ritually butchered as prescribed by

mythology. Father Zegwaard collected a very detailed description of the butchering of a

human within the context of a myth.

To begin with, the head of Desoipitsj taught Biwiripitsj the technique of butchering
(nao). He was told to make a deep cut with a bamboo knife from the anus to the
neck in such manner that the cut went through one side of the trunk to the armpit
and from there went by the collar bone to the throat. He was instructed to make a
similar cut on the other side, but now from top to bottom. Through these openings
he had to break the ribs with a sharpened palmwood stick (om) or with a stone ax
(si). Then he put his hand underneath the chest, which could now be lifted easily
and put aside. Arms and legs were first loosened, then cut off. Now Biwiripitsj took
the entrails as in a bundle and removed them from the backbone with a vigorous
jerk. Only the backside remained. The various parts, including the entrails, were
placed in the fire and roasted. The upper part of the body and the arms were at once
ready for consumption, but the lower part and the thighs had to be mixed with sago
(a starch prepared from the pith of the sago palm) which had to be made in the form
of long sticks, whereupon these too could be eaten. (1021)

Father Zegwaard noted that his informant, Warsekomen, mixed the mythological

elements with the realistic elements. This detailed description of the butchering seems to

reinforce the realism of cannibalism. It was evident from this description that almost

every part of the victim was used. Eyeballs and genitals, considered inedible, were

ritually disposed of (1024). However, most of the body was edible and the flesh was

distributed to the community (1027). The family and friends of the warrior who had









defeated the victim received the best portions; yet, taboos prevented the warrior himself

from eating the victim's flesh (Schneebaum 1990, 53).

Kathleen Van Arsdale noted that the victim's personality was believed to be

contained in his flesh and these characteristics were considered transferred through

consumption (Arsdale, K. 1978, 46). Smidt stated that the victim's power was contained

in the brains (Smidt 1993, 20). Zegwaard noted that the head contained germinativee

power" that was transferable to humans and sago palms (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). The

lifeforces, yuwus, ndamup, and ndat, although not explicitly stated by these scholars as

being consumed, are the forces that animate the human, giving them personality, power

and fertility. Zegwaard stated that cannibalism was not the goal of the headhunting raid

but merely one part of the event (1020). However, the protein value of human meat

could be a factor, as Peter Van Arsdale pointed out, ".. .that despite non-nutritional

intents it constituted a significant dietary contribution" (Arsdale, P. 1978, 50). He goes

on to say that human meat was nutritionally similar to pig meat (50). He also theorized

that when headhunting was at it peak during and after World War II; it was possible for a

group of one hundred to consume five to ten victims per year, providing most of their

protein needs (50). The victim's flesh was thus both nutritionally and spiritually rich.

The Use of Skeletal Remains

The femur, mandible, vertebrae and skull of the victim were saved as well and

became trophies. Dogs were given the other bones (Zegwaard 1959, 1027). Cassowary

femur bones, crocodile jaw bones and human thigh bones were used to make daggers.

Cassowary daggers were the most common, but crocodile bone daggers and the human

femur were the most valued of these bone tools, and only headhunters had the privilege to

own these daggers (Eyde 1967, 70). The head and upper portion of the femur was









reduced to a sharpened point with barbs and liner designs while the condyles of the femur

were covered with a fiber net (Figure 69). Strings of coix and abrus seeds with

attachments of cassowary feathers were anchored to the net creating an ornate object.

Daggers were worn in a braided rattan arm band as part of the attire of a headhunter

(Figure 36 and Figure 43) (Zegwaard 1959, 1023). Display of the weapon made a public

statement of the hunter's status.

In the process of preparing the trophy skull, the mandible was "thrown outside"

(1024). Boys or women, who had participated in the initiation ritual, often salvaged the

mandible to use as the pendant of a necklace (1024). In Figure 70, the mandibles are

attached to cassowary quills with fiber. For the wearer, this display may be a statement to

the community of vicariously achieved status. For the headhunter, who made the kill, it

may be a statement of his ability to attract followers, emphasizing his own prestige.

The atlas vertebra was also used as a pendant, typically worn by the headhunter

himself. The necklace in Figure 71 was made from the atlas vertebra of the victim and

decorated with coix seeds, abrus seeds, small shells and quills. In this case, the wearing

of this trophy was a public statement of the headhunter's prowess.

The Use of the Parts of the Head

As the most highly prized trophy, the head of the victim was removed from the

body and taken to the men's house for processing. In a continuation of the headhunting

myth of Biwiripitsj and Desoipitsj, the treatment of the skull for use in the initiation ritual

was explained.

In the evening the head should be roasted; during the night it should be kept on
some sort of loft; and in the morning it should be scalped... The treating of the head
of the victim was again to be the function of the mother's oldest brother. The next
morning the head was to be taken down from the loft and the nose-skin was to be
taken off first. The jaws had to be removed. The brothers of the initiate's mother









worked in turns according to their age. While cutting and carving they would
comment on the victim's past action; for example, while taking the skin off the
mouth one would say: "Yesterday this mouth ate fish on the bank of the river;
today it is dead." (Zegwaard 1959, 1023-1024)

The nose skin and part of the upper lip of the victim was stretched over a bamboo

plate. The ornament was used in the initiation ceremony (1023). The skull was roasted

again and then it was struck on the parietal plate with a star-shaped stone axe; Figure 68

clearly shows the hole left from the axe (1024). The brains were removed and placed in a

sacred container made of sago palm leaves (1024). The brains were mixed with sago and

eaten by older men of the village at a special midnight ritual (1024). After the brains were

removed, the trophy skull was prepared in two ways, either becoming part of an

assemblage, or if the headhunting raid was part of the initiation ritual, being decorated.

Bis Ritual

In spite of the fact that the Bismam no longer conduct revenge headhunts for the

ancestors, they still perform the bis ritual to honor the ancestors. After a death, the

deceased's family begins the process of accumulating resources and bigmen begin the

intensive planning of a bis festival cycle, a process that takes years. More than one person

is remembered in the bis ritual and families combine their resources to host the event.

There are two types of poles: one used for the bis ritual and one used as support for the

men's house (Figure 72 and Figure 73) (Kuruwaip 1982, 13). For the ritual, several poles

are made (Schneebaum 1990, 42). For the construction of a new yeu a minimum of four

poles are made for the central fireplace but as many as twenty are possible for all the

fireplaces (Rockefeller 1967, 37). Bis poles used for the ritual are twenty-five to thirty-

five feet high (Sowada 1961, 47).









When the bis ceremony draws near, a hunting party goes into the forest and selects

the best mangrove trees (Schneebaum 1990, 42). The mangrove tree is characterized by

the plank roots that flare out at the base of the tree. The foray into the forest is conducted

in a similar manner to a headhunting raid with the warriors in ceremonial dress stalking

and attacking the trees (Smidt 1993, 23). The mangrove tree has red sap so that as the tree

is cut it seems to bleed, heightening the metaphor between man and tree (Rockefeller

1967, 34). As the tree is chopped down, one of the planks is retained. When the warriors

return to the community, they are greeted with the same ritual greeting and bamboo horn

blowing used for a successful headhunting raid (Smidt 1993, 23).

Next, the logs are taken to the clearing in front of the yeu where carvers

commissioned by the organizers of the bis ritual begin roughing out images and designs

(Smidt 1993, 23). The pole is carved upside down with the plank projection at the top of

the pole. Once the major forms are carved, the poles are moved to a special room in the

yeu where the carving is refined (Rockefeller 1967, 34). During this time, the carvers are

fed by the family who sponsored the pole (Sowada 1961, 48). Relatives of the decease

designate a brother-in-law to assist the carver (Eyde 1967, 201). He is responsible for

removing woodchips, coating the pole with lime to keep it from drying too quickly,

covering the pole at night with palm fronds and guarding the pole at all times (201). Poles

take several weeks to carve (Rockefeller 1967, 34).

The pole has three main parts the top is the projection, the middle has large stacked

figures, and the bottom usually has a canoe form. The plank root of the mangrove

becomes a projection, known as the penis or tjemen of the pole (Figure 72). It is carved in

an openwork style. Designs carved into the poles especially in the projection are related









to headhunting symbols such as the hornbill, cuscus, praying mantis, bipane nose shell,

and head of cockatoo (Schneebaum 1990, 42). The large stacked figures in the middle of

the pole represent the recently deceased relatives who are to be commemorated in the

ritual (Schneebaum 1990, 42). According to Eyde, these figures represent a couple who

are the parents or grandparents of the person sponsoring the pole (Eyde 1967, 201). At

the bottom of the pole a miniature canoe is often carved, known as thejifoj. It symbolized

the soul's journey across the sea toward safan (347).

The pole shown in Figure 72 was collected in 1961 from the village of Otsjanep on

the Casuarina Coast. At the tip of the projection of the pole, an ancestor figure is depicted

in a seated position. In the openwork of the projection another figure sits below the figure

at the top of the projection in a seated position facing the opposite direction. The s-shape

representing the cuscus tail can be seen in the tjemen of the pole in Figure 72 and is

repeated several times. This bis pole has two stacked male figures, but the relationship of

the figures to the sponsor of the pole was not documented. Both figures have marks on

the arms and legs that may represent scarification or body paint. The middle figure holds

a triton shell, an ornament reserved for bigmen. A canoe with two small figures occupies

the bottom portion of the pole. At the base of the canoe, arms and legs of a figure are

depicted in low relief on the side. The head of the canoe figure sticks out three

dimensionally serving as the stern of the canoe.

The bis pole in the row of bis poles shown Figure 73 was photographed in the

interior of a men's house in Amanamkai in 1961. In the tjeman of the pole repeated

hornbill beaks are easily identified by the beak ridges along the base of the projection.

Several cuscus s-shapes are also found in the openwork of this projection. The figures on









this pole represent an ancestral couple as Eyde suggested. The top figure is Bwarim and

below him is his wife Seji. The pole was carved by Matjemos and used for the central

fireplace of the yeu Amman.

The bis pole in Figure 5 was collected in 1922, and no documentation was recorded

about who the figures represented, who carved the pole or where the pole was displayed.

In the openwork projection of the pole, one can see a two dimensional figure at the base

of the projection. The tjeman of this pole is broken at the top. The main body of the pole

features one large figure with three subsidiary figures. One subsidiary figure in at the

main figure's feet, one is at its' abdomen in and upside down position and one is on the

main figure's head. Typically the head of a stacked figure is carved on the top of the main

part of the pole, but in this case a bird's head is carved at the top of the pole. The base of

this pole has been altered from its original form.

For the bis ritual, when the carving is completed, the poles are erected in the

clearing in front of the yeu and the actual ceremony began with drumming, mock battles,

dancing, singing and feasting (Smidt 1993, 25). In the central Asmat region, poles are

displayed vertically on scaffolding, but along the coast, poles are placed at an angle on

scaffolding. This difference can be seen when comparing the poles displayed in Figure 74

with those displayed in Figure 75. In either case, the projection of the pole is supposed to

point toward, safan (Gerbrands 1967, 25).

If the poles are carved for the interior of the men's house, they are placed vertically

with the tjemen supporting a horizontal post (146). Sometimes interior bis poles are used

in a more symbolic function and placed next to supporting post (146).




Full Text

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CONNECTED AND DISCONNECTED: THE SKULL ART OF THE BISMAM OF WEST PAPUA By KATHERINE “ALEX” FLANAGAN A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2005

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Copyright 2005 by Katherine “Alex” Flanagan

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This thesis is dedicated to my mother for her love, advice and financial support.

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and foremost, I must thank my thesis chair, Dr. Robin Poynor, for maintaining a high level of encouragement through the many years of working on th is project. He has provided a multitude of edits at my request a nd has always given valuable advice. I feel very fortunate to have worked with such an excellent academic who is both friendly and has a charming sense of humor. I must also acknowledge my cochair on this project, Dr. John Scott, who has been very patient as I prepared this document. He provided insightful comments that are very much appreciated. The late Dr. Roy Sieber, formerly of Indiana University, was a Harn Museum eminent scholar, who supervised my indepe ndent survey of Oceanic literature in preparation for thesis writing. I am grateful for his support and topic recommendation. Several scholars from museums have take n the time away from their busy schedule to assist me. From the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia, Michael Quinnell allowed me to view several examples of ador ned skulls not typically on display as did Dr. Roger Neich from the Auckland Museum in Auckland, New Zealand. Finally, Nicole Peduzzi, Assistant to the Oceania Department from the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Switzerland, offered astute observations about my research project and responded to me in a timely manner. I appreciate each of thes e scholarsÂ’ time and energy extended on my behalf.

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v Several faculty members from the Depart ment of Art and Art History at the University of Florida including Dr. John War d, Dr. Barbara Barletta Dr. David Stanley and Dr. Robert Westin have worked with me throughout my years at the university, and they have always taken time to encourage a nd advise me with rega rd to this project. I appreciate all of their advi ce. Newer faculty members, Dr Alex Alberro, Dr. Melissa Hyde and Dr. Eric Segal, provided fresh inspiration to my project. Over the course of my time at UF many st udents both art historia ns and artists, both graduate and undergraduate, have listened to my repeated expl anations of this project and sympathize with my struggle to complete it. I wish to thank them for their patience, encouragement and support. Most notable ar e Susan Cooksey, Barbara Palmer and Sarah Smith, who have certainly liste ned the most sympathetically for the longest period of time.

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vi TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................viii ABSTRACT......................................................................................................................x ii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 2 CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION..............................................................................7 History of Contact.........................................................................................................8 Early Exploration...................................................................................................8 Contact and the Dutch Administration................................................................11 Later Contact and the Indonesian Administration...............................................14 Asmat or Bismam?.....................................................................................................17 Asmat Art Areas..................................................................................................18 Bis Pole Production.............................................................................................20 Asmat Language..................................................................................................21 Bismam................................................................................................................23 Background.................................................................................................................23 Natural Environment...........................................................................................24 Social and Political Organization........................................................................29 Bismam Cosmology............................................................................................34 3 ANCESTOR SKULLS...............................................................................................39 Dress and Adornment.................................................................................................40 Fiber Ornaments..................................................................................................40 Necklaces.............................................................................................................42 Earrings................................................................................................................43 Nose Ornaments..................................................................................................43 Headdress............................................................................................................44 Body Paint...........................................................................................................45 Ornaments as Armament.....................................................................................46 Objects That Convey Status................................................................................48 Funeral........................................................................................................................ 50

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vii Death....................................................................................................................50 Burial...................................................................................................................52 Ancestor Skull Assemblages...............................................................................53 Protection....................................................................................................................5 8 Spirits and Lifeforces..........................................................................................59 Protective Function of Shields and Ancestor Skulls...........................................61 Protective Designs and Objects...........................................................................62 Communication...........................................................................................................64 Myth of Talking Head.........................................................................................64 Communicative Function of Jipae Masks and Ancestor Skulls..........................67 Adornment of Jipae Mask and Ancestor Skull...................................................69 Conclusion..................................................................................................................70 4 TROPHY SKULLS....................................................................................................73 Reciprocity and Revenge............................................................................................74 Headhunting Raid................................................................................................78 Cannibalism.........................................................................................................81 The Use of Skeletal Remains..............................................................................82 The Use of the Parts of the Head.........................................................................83 Bis Ritual.............................................................................................................84 Bis Display...........................................................................................................88 Growth........................................................................................................................9 0 Initiation Ritual....................................................................................................91 Adornment of the Initiate....................................................................................95 Adornment of the Trophy Skull..........................................................................96 Display of the Trophy Skull in the Initiation Ritual............................................98 Prestige....................................................................................................................... 99 Kus Fe Assemblage...........................................................................................103 Kus Fe Display..................................................................................................105 Conclusion................................................................................................................107 5 CONCLUSION.........................................................................................................109 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................180 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................185

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viii LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1. Map of Asmat region with art styl e regions and inset of New Guinea........................114 2. Ancestor skull.............................................................................................................. 115 3. Kus fe inside family home............................................................................................116 4. Bamboo horns. Carved by Shuw.................................................................................117 5. Bis pole with trophy skulls...........................................................................................118 6. Central style shield.......................................................................................................1 19 7. Northwest style shield..................................................................................................120 8. Citak style shield.......................................................................................................... 121 9. Brazza River style shield.............................................................................................122 10. Men in canoes............................................................................................................12 3 11. Drum....................................................................................................................... ...124 12. Carved paddle............................................................................................................12 5 13. Jipae masquerade.......................................................................................................126 14. Five major dialect groups of the Asmat language.....................................................127 15. The Siretsj River........................................................................................................12 8 16. Chopping the buttress of a mangrove tree. ...............................................................129 17. Coconut palm. ...........................................................................................................12 9 18. Banana tree................................................................................................................ .130 19. Jack fruit................................................................................................................. ....130 20. Sago palm.................................................................................................................. .131

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ix 21. Capricorn larvae at bis ceremony..............................................................................132 22. Papya fruit................................................................................................................ ..132 23. Cuscus..................................................................................................................... ...133 24. Tree kangaroo............................................................................................................13 4 25. Cassowary.................................................................................................................. 135 26. Illustration of white cockatoo....................................................................................135 27. Illustration of black palm cockatoo............................................................................136 28. Female hornbill..........................................................................................................13 6 29. Flying Fox................................................................................................................. .137 30. Hunters with wild boar...............................................................................................137 31. Map of Amanamkai village.......................................................................................138 32. Exterior Awok yeu along river. .................................................................................139 33. Interior of Awok yeu ..................................................................................................140 34. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 41 35. Jewejmenmaq wearing a traditional awer ................................................................142 36. Woman with awer ......................................................................................................143 37. Man with ancestor skull.............................................................................................144 38. Ndanim with sago strips in hair.................................................................................145 39. Man with three necklaces...........................................................................................146 40. Man with shell necklace ............................................................................................147 41. Man with abrus and coix seed necklace.....................................................................148 42. Woman with earrings.................................................................................................149 43. Man with ancestor skull on chest...............................................................................150 44. Jaobenem with wild boar bone nose ornament. ........................................................151 45. Bishop Sowada and man with bipane nose ornament...............................................152

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x 46. Magasew with bipane nose ornament........................................................................153 47. Selection of carrying bags..........................................................................................153 48. Man on left wearing a carrying bag...........................................................................154 49. Man with plain paddle...............................................................................................155 50. Man with cassowary feather paddle...........................................................................156 51. Man with ancestor skull on back...............................................................................157 52. Women rolling in the mud.........................................................................................158 53. Corpse on platform....................................................................................................159 54. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 60 55. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 61 56. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 62 57. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 62 58. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 63 59. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 64 60. Ancestor skull............................................................................................................1 64 61. Inside family home with ancestor skull ....................................................................165 62. Shield with ancestor. figures Carved by Jan...........................................................166 63. Shield with bipane designs. Carved by Junum..........................................................167 64. Jipae mask.................................................................................................................168 65. Jipae mask.................................................................................................................169 66. Jipae mask.................................................................................................................170 67. Jipae masquerade.......................................................................................................171 68. Trophy skull............................................................................................................... 172 69. Human bone daggers..................................................................................................173 70. Mandible pendant.......................................................................................................174

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xi 71. Atlas vertebra necklace..............................................................................................174 72. Bis pole. Carved by Chief Bifarq...............................................................................175 73. Interior of Amman yeu with bis poles........................................................................176 74. Bis poles displayed vertically.....................................................................................177 75. Bis poles displayed horizontally................................................................................178 76. Kus fe .........................................................................................................................178 77. Exterior of family homes...........................................................................................179

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xii Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts CONNECTED AND DISCONNECTED: THE SKULL ART OF THE BISMAM OF WEST PAPUA By Katherine Alex Flanagan August 2005 Chair: Robin Poynor Cochair: John Scott Major Department: Art and Art History The Bismam people of West Papua, befo re conversion to Christianity and colonization, practiced rituals that invol ved headhunting and cannibalism motivated by the belief that powerful lifeforces were contai ned in the human skull. This belief was also the impetus behind the retention of a deceased family members skull. The Bismam used cranial remains of enemies and relatives to create visual assemblage s that suggested to the viewer several symbolic connections to Bismam cosmology. In this thesis, I examine secondary source material from missionaries, colonizers and scholars to explore the history, envi ronment, terminology, lifestyle, social organization, political structure, and relig ious beliefs of the Bismam. I analyze the adornment of the living and compare it to th e adornment of the skulls. I examined the methods for acquiring skulls and th e rituals that require skulls.

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xiii The Bismam created the ancestor skull from the remains of a deceased relative who died of natural causes. The skull was a dorned with materials that created an individualized portrait of the deceased, an image of the ideal headhunter, and also represented an ancestral spirit. This assembla ge was then worn by a living relative of the deceased. This visual display also protected the living relative from spiritual enemies and allowed the living to communicate easily with the dead. The Bismam created the trophy skull from the remains of an enemy who was ritually killed; then arranged them to cr eate three complex visual statements. Trophy skulls were suspended from the bis pole visually suggesting a fruit form while asserting the power of the headhunter. This arrangement was also a statement to the ancestors that their deaths were avenged, and it was a public declaration that balanc e had been restored. A young man displayed the adorned trophy skull during several stages of the initiation ritual visually connecting himself to the fo rmer living victim serving to transfer the lifeforces of the victim within the skull to the initiate. Th e last configuration of trophy skulls was purposely arranged in a vertical cluster resembling fruit. This visual statement was publicly displayed to emphasize the power and prestige of a high status headhunter, his family, his me nÂ’s house and his community. Skull assemblages were complex art forms used in a variety of contexts that served to visually connect the Bismam viewer to symbolically rich id eas of their cosmology.

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION This paper will examine the decoration and display of ancestor skulls and trophy skulls created by the Bismam people, a subgroup of the Asmat people, who live in the swampy delta of the south coast of West Papua, a province of Indonesia located on the island of New Guinea ( Figure 1 ). An ancestor skull is the preserved cranial remains of a family member, and a trophy skull is the pres erved cranial remains of an enemy. Both types of skulls are adorned with a variety of materials creating an assemblage that suggests a portrait of the deceased, as seen in the ancestor skull illustrated in Figure 2 To suggest the likeness of the family member, th e mandible is securely attached, maintaining the original structure of the face. The eye sock ets and nose cavity are filled with resin and colorful seeds. A headdress is loosely fitted on the skull, which is a similar in form to the headdress worn by the living. It is construc ted from fiber netting allowing seeds and the feathers to be attached. Ornaments such as a nose piece and earring forms may be added to the skull to increase the viewerÂ’s identification of a portrait as one can see in Figure 2 The two types of skulls are displayed in di fferent configurations An assemblage of trophy skulls without decorations, known as a kus fe ( Figure 3 ), is purposely arranged to create a form that has symbolic associations of fruit, power, and prestige for the Bismam viewer. This assemblage was intentionally displa yed in a private hom e for viewing by the family, the community, and the spirits. It wa s also intentionally displayed in a more public structure with a wider audience.

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2 This paper will suggest that the many skull assemblages created by the Bismam were complex visual forms that embodied several aspects of their cosmology and as visual forms communicated these ideas to those who saw them. Manipulated and displayed skull art has onl y been mentioned but not discussed in the scholarship on the Bismam. Two authors wh o noted the use of skulls by the Bismam were both missionaries, Father Gerard A. Zegwaard and Bishop Alphonse A. Sowada. Father Zegwaard gave the first detailed account of the Bismam when he settled among them in 1952 (Zegwaard 1959, 1020). By the time he had arrived, the Bismam had been exposed to traders from Malaysia and Austra lia. The Dutch admini stration had attempted to explore the region and pacify the peopl e, and missionaries had begun to introduce Christianity. Japanese and Aust ralian forces had been engage d in the battles of WWII in the region. As a missionary a nd anthropologist, Zegwaard documented cultural practices such as headhunting, cannibalism, initiation rite s, and ancestor beliefs that were on the verge of change or had recently changed in his watershed essay titled “Headhunting Practices of the Asmat of Netherlands New Guinea.” In this description, he mentioned the use of trophy skulls in the initiati on ritual of young men, as part of the kus fe assemblage, and placed in the forest to stim ulate the growth of plants. Zegwaard also included a brief note concerning remains of a family member when he stated, “…keeping the bones and skulls of the deceased is anothe r effective way of k eeping the spirits at bay…” but he did not elaborate (1040). In 1961, Father (later Bishop) Sowada fo llowed Zegwaard’s example and traveled to the Bismam region to begin his service w ith the Crosier Mission. In an article for the National Geographic he recorded his thoughts u pon docking in this region:

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3 Inland, not far beyond those trees, I knew men lived who had taken the heads of their enemies in battle or in ambush, eaten their flesh, and then use their skulls as pillows. These same people had a deep and obsessive fear of their ancestors’ spirits and wore some part of a forebear’s skel eton to ward off his ghost-a skull as a huge pendant, a vertebra on a necklace, or some other bone as a nose ornament. (Sowada 1968, 186) Like Zegwaard, Sowada noted the presence of skulls among the Bismam. However, he recorded that trophy skulls we re used “as pillows” and stated that an ancestor skull was worn “as a huge pendant.” Both missionaries suggested that ancestor skulls had a protective function, “keeping the spirits at bay,” or “to ward off his ghost.” These two brief descriptions illustrate the scanty type of documentation on which this paper is based; therefore, additional re lated facets of material culture such as body decoration, sculpture, and masquerade, will be examined to gain an understanding of the adornment, function, and meaning of these objects. Aspects of mythology, religion, and cultural practices will also be reviewed when re levant. The focus of this paper is skull art created at the same time period before the 1950s that headhunting and cannibalism were practiced. The scholarship on the Bismam begins after these practices have ceased; however, many scholars have noted the continuity in culture, beliefs and art forms. I rely upon this continuity to sugge st relationships to the skull art of the past. The second chapter will provi de preliminary material that allows the reader to form a context in which these objects can be discussed. To begin, this section will briefly review the history of contact with special attention to the missionaries, collectors and anthropologists who provide re levant material from whic h this paper is drawn. The methodology employed for this paper is an an alysis of secondary source material gathered by missionaries such as Zegwaard and Sowada, explorers, collectors and

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4 anthropologists. I have not attempted to co rroborate these assumptions with the members of the Bismam culture. The second chapter will also determine the appropriate term to describe the people discussed in this paper. After reviewing th e art styles used to distinguish regional variations among the Asmat people, I have chos en to limit the focus of this paper to one regional area, the Central Asmat. Then, I will discuss one definition of the word Bismam as carver of bis a memorial sculpture. I will also ex amine the other definition of the word Bismam as speakers of the Bismam sub-di alect of the Asmat la nguage. These factors contribute to the proposal and use of the name Bismam to describe the people at the focus of this paper. The second chapter will also provid e background information on seemingly unrelated topics that have an influence on Bi smam life and thus the construction of skull art. To begin, a brief survey of the natural environment of the Bismam will be made. Next, I will examine the menÂ’s house as a social organization as a fact or in the lives of the Bismam. In Melanesian societies, the bi gman is a man of political power that is earned rather than inherited. I c onsider the role of the bigman as political leader in the Bismam community. Finally, the second chapter concludes with a review of a few ideas central to Bismam beliefs that have an impact on the construction of skull art. The reader will be introduced to two myths, one that expl ains the origin of the Bismam and one that explains the origin of the sago palm. In addition, a metaphorical relationship between humans and trees will be discu ssed. Finally, the journey an ances tral spirit is believed to make will be explored.

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5 This third chapter examines the pr oduction, adornment and function of the ancestor skull in Bismam society. The an alysis begins by examining the personal adornment of the living, including fiber orna ments, necklaces, nose ornaments, earrings, headdresses, and body paint. The assessment of the livingÂ’s adornment will conclude with a discussion of functional objects such as a carrying bag, ceremonial paddle, and ancestor skull that signify the status of an individual. The next se ction will review the funeral rites that occurred wh en someone died of natural causes and the treatment of the corpse as these practices relate to the prep aration of the ancestor skull. Then, a formal analysis will be made of adorned ancestor sk ulls, and this adornment will be compared to the adornment of the living. The third chapter continues with a discussi on of the function of the ancestor skull as protective device. The read er will be introduced to the spirits and lifeforces that are believed to affect the Bismam sometimes ma liciously. The protective function of wooden decorated shields, object s traditionally used in warfare, wi ll be examined to suggest that the ancestor skull has a similar protective f unction. Certain designs such as ancestor figures and bipane nose ornaments carved into the sh ield enhance its power. This decoration will be compared to the use of a bipane nose ornament for adorning the ancestor skull suggesting that a similar power is expressed in this visual element. Finally, the third chapter will suggest that th e ancestor skull also functions as a tool to maintain contact with the ancestor realm. To understand this function, the reader will be introduced to a few Bismam myths about communicating with the dead. The jipae mask is a physical embodiment of the ancestor sp irit and will be compared to the ancestor skull to suggest that these objects ha ve a similar communicative function. The jipae mask

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6 and the ancestor skull share a few elements of adornment that suggest a pattern is used to depict an ancestral spirit. The fourth chapter will look at the met hod of acquiring the trophy skull, displaying the trophy skull, and interpreting the symbolis m connected with each display. The first configuration of trophy sku lls that this chapter wi ll discuss involves the bis pole, a wooden sculpture carved to memoria lize deceased relatives. During the bis ritual enemiesÂ’ skulls were hung from the projecting element of the pole. This display of skull on the poles stated that revenge had been exacted. This section will also address how revenge was achieved and describe the bis pole, its preparation and the bis ritual. Then, I will study the initiati on ritual and the use of the adorned trophy skull to facilitate growth in a male child by associ ating the adornment of the skull with the adornment of the young boy. The adorned trophy skull and the adorned child were also displayed throughout the initiati on ritual, suggesting to the gr oup gathered to witness the ritual a connection between the boy and the deceased individual. Finally, I will study the assemb lage of trophy skulls in a kus fe configuration. This configuration makes several visual statements. It expresses the relationship of humans to trees, the power of the headhunter and the prestige of the bigman. The assemblage is also displayed in the menÂ’s house and the family home so that the visual statements that are embody by the kus fe are seen by a public audience and a private audience. The fifth chapter will provide a comparis on of the ancestor skullÂ’s adornment, display, and function to the trophy skullÂ’s ador nment, display, and function exploring the complex visual statements that these object s convey about relationships between the living who use the skull and the dead represente d by the skull.

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7 CHAPTER 2 CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION This chapter reviews different aspects of contextual information concerning the Bismam. The first section highlights a few hist orical contacts in which explorers, Dutch colonizers, missionaries, Indonesian colonizers and scholars come into the region. These various outsiders have either had an impact on traditional Bismam culture or have documented the impact of others on traditional culture. The Dutch administration and missionaries were able to curtail hea dhunting and cannibalism while the military presence of the Indonesian rule stopped any lingering headhunting and cannibalism (Schneebaum 1990, 60). By the end of the tw entieth century, Christianity had been accepted by the Asmat (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 80). The rituals that demanded decorated and displayed skulls have ceased or have been dramatically altered. The scholars who first entered the Asmat region appr oached these practices as events in the recent past that nonetheless still affected da ily life. The period of colonization that connects the end of headhunting to contemporar y life can still be considered a time of transition. A review of the time periods when scholars were researching allows the reader to gauge at what point in this transition specific scholars were working. The second section examines the use of the terms Asmat and Bismam to describe the people who are the focus of this paper. In order to assess which name is more applicable, I will determine the region of skull art, the region in which bis poles, and the region of speakers of the Bismam sub-dial ect of the Asmat language. Finally, I will propose the term Bismam to define th e people discussed in this paper.

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8 The final section of this ch apter reviews several different aspects of Bismam life. The elements of the natural environment are listed. A brief review is made of the men’s house as a social institution and the bigman as a political leader. Finally, a few aspects of Bismam religious ideas will be noted. All of these aspects of Bismam culture bear on the function of skull construction. History of Contact This section briefly review s a history of contact betw een the Bismam people and outsiders. This section provides a few notes on history, colonization and researchers while giving a review of the scholarship on the Bismam, espe cially the sources used for the construction of this text. To act as a histor ical outline, this section is divided into early exploration, contact a nd later contact. Early Exploration The first Europeans to document seeing New Guinea were the Portuguese in 1512 (D’Alleva 1998, 32). The Portuguese Governor of the Moluccas, Jorge de Meneses, was the first to land on the island, which he name d “island of the Papuans” (32). Yet, the Spanish were the first Europeans to clai m New Guinea as their property in the 1545 (Wassing 1993, 27). Captain Yigo Ortiz de Retes named the island, New Guinea, suggesting the familiar African Guinea Coast (Trenkenschuh 1982, 2: 25). The Spanish were not very interested in colonizing the island; however, the Dutch were (Wassing 1993, 27). The Dutch captain, Jan Carstensz gave one of the first accounts of the Asmat, in 1623, when he briefly noted, “… a people with pierced nostrils and a curling gourd or a snail-shell on their penis” (Schneebaum 1990, 17). He observed the Casuarina trees from which this coastline would later take its name (Amelsvoort 1964, 57). He also described

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9 the snow on large mountain peaks as he sailed past the coast on his journey to search for exploitable resources (Beaglehole 1966, 117). The mountains became known as the Snow Mountains. Now, they are known as the Jaya kesuma Mountains (Schneebaum 1990, 17). In 1770, the English captain James Cook stoppe d at what is now Cook’s Bay in the Asmat region (17). He was on a journey to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, search for the theoretical s outhern continent, and look for any undiscovered land that would be of interest to empire-build ing England (Beaglehole 1966, 231-237). As he passed New Guinea, the crew was in need of fresh water and Cook recorded this encounter: I went a shore in the Pinnace accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander… but had not gone above 200 Yards before we were attacked by 3 or 4 Men who came out of the woods a little before us, but upon immidiatly fireing upon them they retired; finding that we could not search th e Country with any degree of safety we returned to the boat and was follow’d by 60 or as some thought about 100 of the natives who had advance’d in small pa rties out of the woods. (Schneebaum 1990, 17) He also reported that the locals pursu ed the crew throwing lime dust (Amelsvoort 1964, 57). Lime dust was made from burnt a nd pulverized shells (Schneebaum 1990, 33). According to Eyde, “Lime is associated w ith a female element in the universe which makes men “hot”, that is, brav e and aggressive, so that throwing lime is really another way of calling the enemy female” (Eyde 1967, 71). This was the first time Europeans had landed in Asmat territory. The next attempte d landing over fifty years later, in 1826, was very similar, including the in sult of lime dust, when the Dutch Captain Kolff sailed into Cook’s Bay (Schneebaum 1990, 17). The Dutch East India Company, attempting to safeguard their trade routes to the Spice Islands, was the motivating force behi nd the Dutch government’s interest in New Guinea (Wassing 1993, 27). In 1828, the Nether lands solidified their claim to this

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10 western half of the island with a new treat y and a proclamation of sovereignty over New Guinea west of the 141st degree east longitude line (Knauft 1993, 33). Toward the end of the 19th century, missi onaries began to move to New Guinea (Trenkenschuh 1982, 2: 25). The Dutch government was not interested in contact with the indigenous people, but, with the urging of missionaries, the first administrative post was established in 1898 in the northwest region (Knauft 1993, 33). The urging of the British government led to the establishment of the second Dutch administrative post, on the south coast of New Guinea, to pacify the Marind-anim people who were headhunting in British territory (Wassing 1993, 27). Between 1903 and 1917 this post in Merauke also became a launching point for interior exploration (28). Expl orers ventured into Asmat territory in an attempt to reach the snowcapped peaks of the Jayakesuma Mount ains, which Cartensz had first described (28). The explorations were conducted as military, geographic and scientific studies and signaled the beginning of many collections of Asmat objects, including those of Von Siebold, Lorentz, and G ooszen (Lamme 1993, 137). The Dutch were seeking exploitable resources such as minerals from the mountains (Zubricich 1997, 288). From this period, J. H.Hondius van Herwerden recorded an interesting description of the Asmat. Up till now they lived in the stone, bone and shell age. That it is possible to achieve fine results [in woodcarving] without ir on utensils is demonstrated by the open work lances present in the Van Herwer den collection. Most curious of all are perhaps the ornamented bamboo tubes used as shell-trumpets for blowing far reaching audible signalsÂ…. More unmanageable material than the smooth bamboo surface to be worked up with flint stone, shell or boarÂ’s tusk does not exist. (Wassing 1993, 28) This is an early example of the intere st many have taken in Asmat woodcarving. The intricately carved bamboo horn was used in battle to disorien t and scare the enemy

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11 and for signaling after success in battle ( Figure 4 ) (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 177). During this period of early exploration Major A.J. Gooszen, who served in the Dutch Indies army, gathered over nine hundr ed Asmat objects, which he gave to the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden (Lamme 1993, 144). In total, he collected over six thousand objects from Southwest New Guin ea (144). Objects collected at this time had little or no documentation, and the Asmat were not yet distinguished as a group in collection records (Gerbrands 1967, 20). Nota bly, in 1922, Paul Wirz, who was gathering objects from many areas of we st New Guinea, acquired a bis pole with skulls attached ( Figure 5 ) (Schneebaum 1990, 17). Northwest of the Asmat, the Dutch government set up a post in 1925 among the Mimika (Wassing 1993, 28). The Mimika, also known as the Kamoro, have a few similarities with the Asmat such as la nguage, diet, and large memorial sculpture (Trenkenschuh 1982, 1:77). The Mimikas knew the Asmat as we mana we or “men who eat men” (Wassing 1993, 28). Contact and the Dutch Administration In 1939, along the Asewets River close to Flamingo bay, the Dutch government established the first government post in the As mat region at the village of Agats, but it was abandoned with the outbreak of World War II (28). During the war, the Japanese controlle d the Asmat region. As the war ended, headhunting seemed to increase and scholars ha ve speculated this was due to the drastic changes brought on by the war (29). Over 6,000 Central Asmat fled to Mimika territory to escape the intensified headhunting be tween 1946 and 1948 (29). At this point,

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12 missionaries, especially Father Zegwaard, began to learn the Asmat language and customs (29). By 1949, the Asmat were persuaded to return to their old vill ages (29). Father Zegwaard oversaw all mission activities am ong the Asmat and in 1952 moved to Agats (29). Serious scholarship on the Asmat bega n with Zegwaard’s article “The Headhunting Practices of the Asmat Nether lands New Guinea” published in 1959. The Dutch government, along with missiona ries, introduced aspects of Western culture to the Asmat and attempted to stop headhunting (30). Institutions such as churches, clinics and schools were opened (30). Farming, animal husbandry and logging stimulated the economy (30). Logging, in partic ular, drastically affected hereditary land ownership in Asmat because the government has a policy of taking the land it deemed necessary for commerce (Zubrinich 1997, 298). For example, Agats was developed to house the Dutch administration (Trenkenschuh 1982, 2:28). The period from 1954 to 1963 saw a numb er of missionaries collectors and anthropologists come to work in the region and document many aspects of Asmat culture (Wassing 1993, 30). Vincent Van Amelsvoort wa s the Dutch medical officer from 1961 to 1964 and wrote Culture, Stone Age and Modern Medicine (Gerbrands 1967, 8). In 1961, Father Alphonse A. Sowada, who trained as an anthropologist writing his thesis titled, “Socio-Economic Survey of the Asma t Peoples of Southwestern New Guinea,” came to the region with the Crosier Mission (Sowada 1968, 192). He and Father Frank A. Trenkenschuh, began a collection of information on the Asmat known as The Asmat Sketch Book based on their notes, articles by other visitors, and notes gathered by Father Zegwaard (Trenkenschuh 1982, 1:3). Originally, the material was to provide a resource

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13 for incoming missionaries to learn about the Asmat, their customs, and the mission, but it became a tool for incoming scholars as well, who later published in the Sketch Book (3). This collection was first published in 1970 as two volumes; however, by the last year it was published, in 1982, it had grown to eight volumes. While continuously contributing to the Sketch Book Sowada has also written many ar ticles on the Asmat people published in other venues. From 1959 to 1960, Carlet on Gajdusek was in the region to conduct genetic research (Gajdusek 1990, 76). He coll ected over one thousand objects that are now housed in the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts (76). 1960 through 1962 was a very interesting ti me for research in Asmat because several scholars came to the region. The Dutch anthropologist Adrian A. Gerbrands arrived in Amanamkai at the end of 1960 to study ethno-aesthetics a nd to collect for the Rijkmuseum in Leiden (Gerbrands 1967, 7-9) He studied Asmat woodcarvers and their uniqueness of style within the framework of traditional forms. He collected almost six hundred objects for the museum (Lamme 1993, 147). Gerbrands wrote Wow-Ipits: Eight Asmat woodcarvers of New Guinea filmed a documentary on woodcarving, and edited Michael RockefellerÂ’s j ournal for publication. At the same time as Gerbrands, David Eyde, an anthropologist from Yale University, settled in Amanamkai (Wassi ng 1993, 30). He studied the relationship between economy welfare and warfar e patterns for his dissertation, Cultural Correlates of Warfare among the Asmat of South-West New Guinea Also at this fruitful time, C.L. Voorhoeve studied linguistics for two years in the same village (Gerbrands 1967, 9). His work, The Flamingo Bay Dialect of the Asmat Language added to the work of Father P.

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14 Drabbe who had first documented many of the different dialects of the area (Zubrinich 1997, 67). Michael Rockefeller, a phot ographer for the Harvard-Peabody expedition studying the highlands of New Guinea, came to the Asmat region in 1961, surveying the possibilities of collecting in the area (Rockefeller 1967, 5). He returned later in the year to collect for the Museum of Primitive Art in New York, where he was a trustee (5). After his death, his journal and photogra phs were edited for publication in The Asmat of New Guinea: The Journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller (5). Rene Wassing, an anthropologist working for the Dutch’s Bureau of Native Affairs, helped Rockefeller to collect (Zubrinich 1997, 70). Wassing was the cu rator of the Department of Oceania at the Rotterdam Museum. Later Contact and the Indonesian Administration In 1962, the Dutch government ended its co lonial rule of western New Guinea, and in 1963, the Indonesian government bega n its colonial rule (Wassing 1993, 31). As Kerry Zubrinich, points out “The succession of names given to the western half of the island of New Guinea reflects its continuing political engagement with colonization” (Zubrinich 1997, 30). When the Dutch were cl aiming the area, names such as Dutch New Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea were appl icable (30). The Indonesians renamed the area Irian Barat, then Irian Jaya (30). The Indonesian government banned all feas ts and ceremonies as well as anything that could be construed as part of the headhunting cycle, including dancing, drumming and carving (Wassing 1993, 31). They also de stroyed the communal men’s houses (31). They, like the Dutch government before them, extracted resources from the land such as oil, minerals and timber, and when possible, used Asmat labor mostly for the logging

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15 industry (Zubrinich 1997, 311). This introdu ced the Asmat to the concept of a cash economy (105). The Crosier mission was ab le to negotiate with the Indonesia government to retract the ban, and some trad itional activities began again, attracting art collectors back to the area (O’Neill 1996, 24). The Crosier mission also helped to preserve some aspects of traditional culture by adopting them and including them in their church ceremonies (24). With the help of the United Nations, J. Hoogerbrugge began the Asmat Art project to encourage woodcarve rs who had stopped sculpting to make their traditional carvings again (Schneebaum 1990, 15). By 1970, Asmat woodcarving reemerged, and the momentum generated by this resurgence led the newly installed Bishop Sowada and the Crosier mission to the establishment of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress in Agats (Wassing 1993, 31). The major goal of the museum was to preserve the art for the Asmat people (Schneebaum 1990, 19). Tobias Sc hneebaum, an anthropologist and artist, began the process of researching, exhibi ting, and cataloging the growing collection (Smidt 1993, xii). His work for the museum was titled Asmat Images: From the collection of the Asmat Muse um of Culture and Progress Later, he assembled an exhibition with Gajdusek’s collection from the Peabody Museum titled Embodied Spirits: Ritual Carvings of the Asmat for which Gajdusek, Sowada and Zegwaard contributed articles (Schneebaum 1990, viii). Another contributor to the Asmat Sketch Book was Peter Van Arsdale who did anthropological research, in 1973 and 1974, i nvestigating the economic changes among the central Asmat titled Perspectives on Development in Asmat (Zubrinich 1997, 70). His wife, Kathleen Van Arsdale, also an anthr opologist, wrote “Music and Culture of the

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16 Bismam Asmat of New Guinea: A Preliminary Investigation.” She was in the Asmat area in 1979 (Arsdale, K. 1982, 17). Abraham Kuruwa ip, who later became director of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress, studied the bis pole, in 1973, and wrote an article titled “The Asmat Bis Pole: Its Background and Meanin g, ” also published in the Asmat Sketch Book (Kuruwaip 1978, 11). Robert Mitton made several journeys into New Guinea while working for mining companies between 1971 and 1973 (Mitton 1983, 160). He was an amateur anthropologist, a nd his journal notes are published in The Lost World of Irian Jaya (160). Also in the 1970s, Gunter and Ursula K onrad began an eleven month zoological research project in the Asmat area (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 13). They gathered cultural material from all over the Asmat region, es pecially the undocumented Brazza River area (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 10). Th ey have continued to return to the region over twenty-five years adding to their substantial collection of objects, which has been documented in several books and catalogs including: Asmat Life with the Ancestors: Stone Age Woodcarvers in our Time, Asmat Myth and Ritual: The Inspiration of Art and Asmat: Mythos und Kunst im Leben mit den Ahnen (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 15-17). In addition to writing for their ow n publications, the Konrads c ontributed articles to the Asmat Sketch Book After the seventies, the Indonesian gove rnment limited entry into the area by tourists and art co llectors (Zubrinich 1997, 71). Ex cept for the publications by the Konrads, very little new field research ha s been done on the Asmat since the 1970s (71). By the late 1990s, Thomas O’Neil visited the Asmat area while on assignment for the National Geographic Society. He reported that the Sunday chur ch service he attended in

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17 the village of Komor in the Northwest re gion of Asmat took place in the men’s long house (O’Neill 1996, 26). He also said that the people wore body paint, headbands and feathers (26). The services included drummi ng, dancing and sharing roasted sago (26). This example demonstrates the combination of old and new practices that characterize the contemporary Asmat situation. By 2002, the political policy of Indonesia had changed to allow some autonomy in the province of Irian Jaya and the name was changed to West Papua to reflect the indigenous people’s preference (news.bbc .co.uk/1/hi/world/asisa-pacific/1739233.stm Last accessed December 31 2004). Asmat or Bismam? The Asmat people use the term Asmat to describe themselves (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 303). The dramatic bis poles collected by Michael Rockefeller have become synonymous with all Asmat people even though only a distinct group of Asmat people, known as Bismam, carve these sculpt ure (303). The information contained in Zegwaard’s “The Headhunting Practices of th e Asmat Netherlands New Guinea” (1959) has become the standard by which all Asmat people are described (303). Yet, Zegwaard clearly stated that the information he ga thered reflected only one village, Sjuru (Zegwaard 1959, 1020). He used the term Bismam to describe the people of Sjuru and the surrounding villages (1034). Zegwaard mentioned two manifestations of the trophy skull: adorned in initiation rituals and hung in a kus fe He briefly noted the use of an cestor skulls. He described art forms such as the men’s house, personal adornment, bis poles and the jipae masquerade. In another essay, “De Sociale Structuur van de Asmatbevolking,” co-written by Zegwaard and J. Boelaars, they discuss the bis ceremony, the initiation ritual, a leader’s

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18 funeral, and the ancestor skull. This articl e was also focused on the village of Sjuru. All of the topics discussed in these two publica tions will be pertinent to the analysis of ancestor and trophy skulls in this paper. The problem of which term best reflects the people to be discussed, the more general “Asmat” or the very specific “Bisma m” is important. This section of the paper will provide an examination of three factors: art areas, bis pole production, and language, to determine the more applicable term. Asmat Art Areas In 1976, A.J.J.M. Boeren studied a group of Asmat shields housed in the Rijksmuseum Voor Volkenkunde in Leiden and was able to distingu ish two artistic style regions, the Northwest and Central (Smidt 1993, 53). Other scholars such as Gerbrands, the Konrads, Schneebaum, and Smidt enhan ced and extended these styles. The accepted stylistic divisions of the Asmat region and th eir letters are as follows: A. Central Asmat, B. Northwest Asmat, C. Eastern Asmat or the Citak, D. Northeast Asmat or the Brazza River ( Figure 1 ) (Schneebaum 1985, 47). In Central area, shields are rectangular w ith large low-relief designs often with a figural element at the top ( Figure 6 ), while in the Northwest region, shields are oval with smaller and more plentiful low-relief designs ( Figure 7 ) (Smidt 1993, 56-57). Shields from the Citak region and the Brazza River ar ea have oval shapes with a flat bottom. Citak shields also have large low-relief designs ( Figure 8 ) (56-57). Brazza River shields have a distinctive division of the surface area of the shield into head, body and feet ( Figure 9 ) (56-57). The Konrads, through extensive collecting in the area, have determined twelve groups of Asmat people based on the type of art objects they make and their cultural

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19 practices (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 316-317). While this designation will certainly prove valuable to better unders tand Asmat art and culture, th e focus of this paper is ancestor skulls and troph y skulls, which were not used as a classification criteria in creating these categories. Some objects such as shields are found thr oughout the entire Asmat region but, as described above, had regional variations (S chneebaum 1985, 47). As a necessary mode of transportation, canoes ar e found throughout the region ( Figure 10 ) (47). Also weapons such as spears and bows and arrows exist in all four areas. Drums are another type of carving found throughout the region ( Figure 11 ) (47). Because the literature on the Asmat only c ontains a few references to ancestor skulls and trophy skulls, this paper depends on descriptions of ot her objects to draw comparisons and make conclusions about the sk ulls. Shields will be used to discuss the protective function of skulls, and shields occur in all Asmat regions. However, some objects are only found in certain areas. Bis poles, elaborate canoe prows, bamboo horns with intricate low-relief car vings, carved bowls and carved paddles are only produced in the Central region and the Northwes t region (Schneebaum 1985, 47). The bis pole, because it becomes part of a trophy skull assemblage, will be use to examine the symbolism of trophy skulls ( Figure 5 ). The way carved paddles are carried will be used for comparison to ancestor skulls ( Figure 12 ). The jipae mask will be used to discuss ancestor skulls, and it occurs in the Central area and the Northwest area ( Figure 13 ). Most importantly for this paper, Schn eebaum reports that Central Asmat had ancestor skulls and tr ophy skulls (146-147). The Citak area did not have ancestor or trophy skulls while the Brazza River area ha d only trophy skulls (146-147). Schneebaum

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20 does not report on whether the Northwest ar ea had ancestor skulls or trophy skulls. However, Rockefeller collected trophy skulls from the villages of Momogo and Jipajer in the Northwestern area (Rockefeller 1967, 332). The Central region contains ancesto r skulls, trophy skulls, shields, jipae masks, carved paddles, and bis poles; therefore, the focus of th is paper will be on the region designated as Asmat style area A. Bis Pole Production To further refine the focus of this paper, this section will review the villages that produce bis poles. The word bis means spirit and the carving that contained the spirit (Kuruwaip 1978, 14). The word mam means to carve or create ; therefore, Bismam are people who carve bis (14). Father Zegwaard noted the people of Sjuru village carved ancestor poles (Zegwaard 1959, 1028). In the 1960s Gerbrands, Eyde, Rockefeller and Wassing were in the village of Amanam kai, where they found bis carvers as well. Schneebaum and the Konrads were in the area in the 1970s. They state, Â…from the village of Ewer in Flamingo Bay in Central Asmat to Ajam, [Ayam] Warse, Amborep, Atsj and Amanamkai, down through Otsjanep, was the scene of the great ancestor poles, the mbis [bis ], for which Asmat has become famous. Recent outside influence has given villages like Buepis far to the south and Japtambor the impetus to celebrate this f east for the first time and the village of Bajun has even gone so far as to import carvers from Pirien to help. (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 40) Abraham Kuruwaip was also in the area in the 1970s and identified Bismam villages as Ewer, Sjuru, Yepem, Per, Owus, Biwar-Laut, Atsj, Amanamkai, Jow, Ambisu, Omandesep and Otsjanep (Kuruwaip 1978, 14) Kuruwaip noticed the spread of bis pole production and theorized that successful headhunting raids allowed the Bismam people to increase their territorial range (14). He al so pointed out that be cause of the natural

PAGE 34

21 resources available in the Cent ral area, other groups from the interior may have passed through the Bismam region, thus exposing them to the bis ritual and bis carving (14). Thus, the ritual had spread to the village s of Jaosakar, Kaimo, Awok, Fos and Warkai (14). However, Kuruwaip has stated, “… th is diffusion process still requires further research” (14). All of the preceding villages, who are bis carvers, mentioned in this section fall into the Central Asmat art style region (area A) ( Figure 1 ). Asmat Language The term Bismam is also defined as a s ub-dialect of the Kawe nak dialect of the Asmat language. To understand this usage of th e term Bismam, it is necessary to review the classification of the Asmat language. To begin, the most basic language cla ssifications of New Guinea are the Austronesian languages and the Papuan languages (Bodley 1994, 134). Papuan speakers are descendants of the first pe oples to settle Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and the rest of Melanesia after 60,000 BC (135). Th e Austronesian language family developed from the peoples who settled in the northwes tern region and along th e entire north coast of New Guinea after 5000 BC (135). Ancestral speakers of this language family were expert maritime navigators from Southeast Asia whose descendants went on to settle throughout Micronesia, Melanesia and the west ern edge of Polynesia and became known as the Proto-Polynesians (135). Of the one thousand languages of New Guinea, seven hundred are Papuan (Arsdale, P. 1978, 16). Asmat-Sempan-Kamoro is one language family of the Papuan languages (16). This language family is made up of the Sempan-Kamoro, which is spoken by the Mimika, and the Asmat language ( 16). Father P. Drabbe studied the Asmat

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22 language and divided it into five majo r dialects: Kawenak, Keenok, Keenakap, Kaweinag, and Kaunak ( Figure 14 ) (Eyde 1967, 3). In addition to these major dialects, su b-dialects abound. The Kawenak dialect has four sub-dialects (4). One sub-dialect of Ka wenak is Bismam (4). Father Drabbe noted that it was spoken in the villages of Ewer, Sjur u, Yepem, Per and Owus (4). In his usage, Bismam corresponded to the speakers of the same sub-dialect and not to the other definition of Bismam as carvers of bis poles. Scholars such as Zegwaard and the Van Arsdales worked with people who spoke the Bismam dialect. Peter Van Arsdale used the terminology Flamingo Bay dialect instead of Bismam dialect “…for the ease of geographic identification” (Arsdale, P. 1978, 18). Another sub-dialect of Kawenak is MetsjMbip (Eyde 1967, 4). This is spoken in several villages including, At sj, Atjametsj, Amanamkai, Ar-Danim, Bipim, Ambisu, Kawet, Tsjowew-Jamen, Omandesep, Otsjanep (4). Scholars such as Eyde, Gerbrands, and Rockefeller worked with people who spoke the Metsj-Mbip dialect. Two other subdialects, Simai and Kainak are found in the major Kawenak dialect (4). Van Amelsvoort notes, “Beyond their own dialect boundaries people can understand the other dialects with some difficulty” (Amlesvoort 1964, 39). Thus, Kawenak, Keenok, Keenakap, Kaweinag, and Kaunak speakers can all understand each other with some difficulty. Speakers of th e Kawenak sub-dialects, Bismam, Metsj-Mbip, Simai and Kainak, easily unders tand one another (Eyde 1967, 4). Since different sub-dialect speakers easily understand one another and different dialect speakers understand each other with so me difficulty, for the purposes of this paper, the overall language designation of Asmat will be sufficient.

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23 Bismam There are several choices for a term to de signate the people discussed in this text. Asmat is the term used by the people themselves and is a common designation for most art objects from this region. Central Asma t is a regional name that reflects the classification of art style areas. “Asmat proper” was a general name used by Eyde following Van Amelswoort’s example and refe rs to the Kawenak, Keenakap and Keenok dialect speakers (5). Bismam Asmat was a te rm used by Peter Van Arsdale to designate the villages of Agats, Beriten, Per, Ewer Sjuru, Owus and Yepem as “culturally and ecologically homogeneous” (Aresdale, P. 1978, 6). Bismam was a term first used by Father Zegwaard to describe the people of Sjuru village (Zegwaard 1959, 1035). The ancestor skulls to be examined are from Central Asmat art style area. The trophy skulls and contextual material used fo r this analysis are also from the Central Asmat region, area A. All of the objects used for comparison to the skulls are from the Central Asmat region as well. Bis carvers and bis poles are found in the Central Asmat art region. Bismam refers to bis carvers and to speakers of a distinctive sub-dialect of the Kawenak dialect of the Asmat language. Bis carvers are found throughout the Central Asmat region. Bismam speakers are only found in five villages. For the purposes of this paper, the name Bismam will be used to refer to carvers of bis who live in the Central Asmat region and speak the Asmat language. Background The background information to be provi ded by this section, while seemingly disparate, provides a broad picture of th e Bismam way of life and cosmology. This information will prepare the reader for the ne xt two chapters. The first section reviews the geography, climate, flora and fauna of th e region allowing the reader to understand

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24 the environment of the Bismam, their lifestyl e, and the resources available to them. The next section looks at two as pects of Bismam life, social organization and political organization. In the social arena, the menÂ’s hous e is a focal point. In the political arena, the bigman is the most powerful leader. The la st section of this ch apter briefly surveys a few ideas central to Bismam cosmology. Alt hough the wide acceptance of Christianity has altered some aspects of these concepts, they are still a part of Bismam life. The first idea to be explored is the Bismam myth of creation, which is the ba sis for the next idea, the Bismam metaphorical identific ation with trees. Finally, the last concept examined is the Bismam understanding of the cyc lic migration of a spirit. Natural Environment Lying above Australia at the edge of th e Pacific Ocean, New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. Being located just below the equator, it is part of the equatorial and subequatorial zones, yet it has glaciers among its mountain ranges (Ford 1973, 1). The mountain ranges, interspersed wi th volcanoes, extend east to west creating an undulating central ridge (3). Its highe st peak Puncak Jaya, formerly known as Carstenz Toppen, named after explorer Ja n Carstenz, is over 16,000 ft high (3). A multitude of rivers run off these mountains to the Arafura Sea below ( Figure 15 ) (11). The Asmat region is part of a larger ar ea of swampland that stretches across a good portion of the south coast of th e island, from the Papuan Gulf to the northern reaches of Mimikan territory (11). This swampland is not a flooded region of land but rather a creation of the slow build up of alluvial de posits brought by the many rivers (Arsdale, P. 1978, 71). As a result, rock does not naturally occur (71). In fact, the Bismam have long traded for stone from groups in the foothi lls (71). This trade did not stop until the Bismam began trading with Eu ropeans for metal tools (71).

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25 In this tropical zone, temp eratures range from seventy degrees at night to eightyfive degrees during the day (74). The extr emely high humidity is around seventy percent annually (78). Incredibly, the average annua l rainfall is over sixteen feet (Smidt 1993, 15). Although the temperature does not re flect seasonal change, two monsoon seasons occur in the region: the east monsoon, in July and August and the longer northwest monsoon from December to March (Arsdale, P.1978, 75). In addition to precipitation, the region is sandwiched between the aforemen tioned mountains, with annual flooding from snow melt, and the Arafura Sea, with daily inundation fr om the tide (Gerbrands 1967, 20). Because the whole region is at sea leve l, rivers rise and fall up to sixteen feet between high and low tides (Sowada 1961, 4). Ti des affect the rivers as far as eighty miles inland (4). On the larger rivers a shif t in the direction of the water occurs (Eyde 1967, 13). An estuary habitat is created by the mixing of freshwater from the many rivers and saltwater from the influx of tides; thus, speci es common to either type of water are in close proximity to one another (Eyde 1967, 9) Mangroves dominate this habitat with trees ranging from fifty to one hundred feet high (Ford 1973, 27). The buttress root of the mangrove tree is used to make shield s, and the whole tree is used to carve bis poles ( Figure 16 ) (Eyde 1967, 12). Palm tree varieties such as the nibung, nipah, and pandanus are exploited as building mate rial and as food (Eyde 1967, 26). Pandanus is used to make sleeping mats, rain capes, and carrying bags ( 27). Very thin strips of pandanus fronds are fashioned into string and then woven into stri ng bags (27). The coconut palm is also used for food ( Figure 17 ). The betel nut palm provides the mildly intoxicating nut that is chewed while the men converse and lounge in the menÂ’s house (Sowada 1961, 61). Fruit

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26 trees include wild varieties of banana, nut meg, lemon, lime, orange, jack fruit, brush cherries, and sea almond ( Figure 18 and Figure 19 ) (Eyde 1967, 12; Ford 1973, 27; Sowada 1961, 2; Ryan 1972, 228). Liana, la wyer vines and rattan wind through the various levels of vegetation creating a ta ngled mat (Sowada 1961, 2). Swamp grass, mosses and ferns precariously hang onto the mud (2). Orchids of many varieties abound in the forest (2). The most important plant of the forest for the Asmat and many other swamp dwellers is the sago palm ( Figure 20 ) (Ryan 1972, 232). There ar e two varieties, the thorny metroxylon rumphii which is the most common in the Asmat region, and the smooth metroxylon sagu (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 11). The latter is a large palm, over twenty-five feet high (Ryan 1972, 232). Althoug h growing from seed is possible, the palms are plentiful in the wild, propagating from underground roots. Several immature plants create dense growing clumps (232). It takes about fifteen years for the sago to mature fully (232). The starch contained in the p ith of the sago is stored to provide food for the treeÂ’s fruit, so the tree is harvested before it flowers (232). Although, it is not necessary to cultivate sago, the area around th e palm is weeded, both help ing the tree to survive and grow and signifying its ownership by thos e who weed (Eyde 1967, 29). Each family had its own territory in the forest for the production of sago (29). Ownership of the territory is passed down through the family (29). Men select the tree, chop it down and in the days of headhunting served as lookouts. Women do mo st of the pounding a nd processing of the pith into flour, which is rich in carbohydr ates (28-31). Sago comp rises perhaps ninety

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27 percent of the diet (Schneebaum 1989, 51). Amos is the term for sago and is also the term for food in general (Eyde 1967, 28). For the Bismam, ritual cycles begin with cutting ten to a hundred sago palms; holes are drilled into the bark to encourage the Capr icorn beetle to lay its eggs (39). The beetle eggs mature into larvae in 30 to 40 days, which are collected and presented at many ceremonies where they were divided as gift s that help to solidify relationships ( Figure 21 ) (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 94). Sago flour is also an impo rtant ceremonial food (94). Giving sago flour, sharing a sago meal and rubbing sago on someone are all gestures of goodwill and friendship (Sowada 1961, 38). Furthermore, sago is identi fied with the ancestors; Sowada recorded a myth that “… relates how two ancestors, w ho were unable to obtain sago while living on this earth, changed themselves into sago trees so that future generations might not starve” (35). Although most of their food is gathered from the surrounding forest, the Bismam do cultivate crops such as yams, cassava, papaya, sugar cane, and taro ( Figure 22 ) (Eyde 1967, 64). New Guinea and Australia, in the ancient past were part of the same continent; therefore, they share a wide variety of mars upials with slight vari ations for each land mass (Ford 1973, 36). Four varieties of opossums are found in New Guinea including the glider, ringtail, pygmy and striped (36). Related to the opossum is the phalanger commonly know as the cuscus ( Figure 23 ) (36). Tree kangaroos and bush kangaroos are other types of marsupial shar ed between the two land masse s as well as the little known quoll, very similar to the Australian variety ( Figure 24 ) (36). In addition, a rat sized marsupial of the phascogale family has several varieties in New Guinea (36). All of these

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28 animals are hunted for their fur, teeth a nd meat (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 18). The flightless cassowary, a bird similar to the emu of Australia, is the largest bird on the island ( Figure 25 ) (Ford 1973, 37). It is hunted fo r its meat, feathers and bone (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 19). Bo wer birds are also native to both New Guinea and Australia (Ford 1973, 37). Other bi rds of the swamp in clude varieties of pigeons, the white cockatoo, the black palm cockatoo, many varieties of parrots, the wood chicken or jungle fowl, owls, egrets, seve ral kinds of birds of paradise, and many varieties of hornbills ( Figure 26, Figure 27, Figure 28 ) (Eyde 1967, 11). They are mainly used for their feathers although eggs are gathered for extra protein (64). Bats are common in New Guinea and are related to many Australian bats (Ford 1973, 35). Flying foxes are commonplace to both areas and are plentiful in the swamp ( Figure 29 ) (35). These bats are kno wn for eating fruit and can have up to a five foot wing span (35). The Asmat region has reptiles such as lizards, snakes, turtles and freshwater crocodiles (Eyde 1967, 11). Lizard skin is used for drum heads as can be seen in figure 11 (54). Saltwater crocodiles were extensivel y hunted by foreigners, almost to the point of nonexistence in the area; however, they were not totally wiped out and still presented a danger in 1970 (Konrad, Konrad, and Schn eebaum 1981, 19). Crocod iles are eaten and the jaw bone is used to create a dagger (Schneebaum 1990, 14, 95). The Bismam eat many varieties of fish incl uding saltwater species such as sawfish, thornback, shark, and ray fish (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 19). Where the water becomes fresh, the large catfish is the best catch (Eyde 1967, 11). Crustaceans,

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29 such as shrimp, crabs, and crawfish, are ea sily found along the stream and river beds (910). Mussel is eaten and its shell is utilized as a knife or scraper (24). This shell is one of many kinds of shells burned to produce lime (24). Men fish with bows and arrows, spears, harpoons, and traps (18). Women usua lly fish with nets, which are ideal for catching shrimp and small fish (19). The nuclear family unit works together to utilize fish traps (19). The abundance of marine life guara ntees a stable easily exploited food source that assures the Bismam a nutritional adequate diet (23). The Papuan dog is a working animal that has to prove its worth at hunting (59). Once done, the dog is spoiled with leftover sa go and fish (59). A well-respected dog is given the name of an ancestor and becomes so beloved that upon its passing, it would be mourned with the type of wailing used for huma n deaths (59). Dogs are used to hunt wild pig (61). Boar meat is highly prized ( Figure 30 ). Their tusks are used for necklaces, and their bone is carved to create nose ornaments (Z uberinich 1997, 113). Hunting wild boar has become a substitute for hunting humans, and the successful boar hunter gains prestige (113). Also gathered from the bush, are a variety of edible food stuffs including snails, termites, insects and honey (Eyde 1967, 64). Even though colonization has had dramatic effects on the people, they still maintain a hunting-gathering lifestyle dependant primarily on the sago palm (Zubrinich 1997, 106). Social and Political Organization Father Zegwaard, in 1959, estimated the population of the Asmat at 25,000 (Zegwaard 1959, 1020). In 1990, Tobias Schne ebaum estimated the population at 65,000 by including people of the outlying ar eas of whom Zegwaard was not aware

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30 (Schneebaum 1990, 12). In 1993, Dirk Smidt ha d a similar population estimate between 50,000 to 70,000 (Smidt 1993, 17). Villages are sett led along rivers to facilitate travel, and in the past this location allowed th e men to lookout constantly for headhunting parties ( Figure 31 ) (Gerbrands 1967, 24). A large powerfu l village is seated on the main artery of a river at a bend or at the c onnection of a branch (Smidt 1993, 17). Smaller villages are located further back on tributarie s to the main river and consist of about one hundred members, while the larger villages have as many as two thousand people (Smidt 1996, 49). In the past, villages would relocate to find better fo od sources when overharvesting occurred (Sowada 1961, 35). Every village has at l east one menÂ’s house or yeu but more often a village has two or more menÂ’s houses, and a large village ha s as many as six (Sowada, 1961, 19). In the volatile days of headhunting, the competition among yeus was fierce and pervaded all aspects of life (Eyde 1967, 89). Each yeu had enough members and autonomy to form its own village if community tensions ever warranted such a move (Smidt 1993, 18). The menÂ’s house is the building closest to the river ( Figure 32 ) (Eyde 1967, 100). It is rectangular and built on pilings six to twel ve feet high (90). It is from one hundred to two hundred feet long and twenty to thirty feet wide (90). Ni pah and sago palm leaves are used as thatch on the peaked roof (90). Be tween the river and the menÂ’s house is a large clearing, like a courtyard, and a village path ( Figure 31 ) (Sowada 1961, 18). Notched logs or simple ladders serve as st airs to allow access to a three foot wide porch (18). Several open doorways run along the long side of the building that faced th e river (Zegwaard and Boelaars 1982, 17). Each doorway repr esents a kin group (Eyde 1967, 97).

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31 Across from the door are two fireplaces that are the property of the related families that make up the extended family (90). A fire place is merely a mud slab placed directly on the floor (90). The fireplace is su rrounded by four poles that, if the yeu has “certain rights,” are bis poles, elaborately carved poles that represent the ancestors ( Figure 33 ) (96). Behind the fireplace, a rack provides storage for firewood, sa go, and personal items. (95) Fish and meat can smoke-dried on this r ack as well (95). The rafters provide a place for extra storage for possessions such as sp ears and paddles (95). Ceremonial objects such as ancestor figures, masks and drums are st ored in the back of the yeu in a special room partitioned from view by palm fronds (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 31). Women and children are not allowed to see certain objects until they appear as part of a ceremony that involved th e entire community (31). In th e hot and humid climate of this region, the vegetation used to build rots easily; therefor e, men’s houses are reconstructed at least every five years (Gerbrands 1967, 25). The opening of a new men’s house is celebrated with a ritual feast (25). Politically, each yeu is arranged by the upstream half and the downstream half; in the center, a common area used by both groups is complete with a central fireplace (28). Leaders from each half meet at the central he arth, to discuss important matters that are common to the entire group (Smidt 1993, 18). The central hearth also serves as a reception area for formal guests (18). The yeu is a living quarter for unmarried me n and boys, and it serves as a school for the boys to learn myths, songs, morals a nd anything relevant to the life (Gerbrands 1967, 25). Married men spend the day at the men’s house and sleep there when their wives are menstruating (Eyde 1967, 89) A clearing in front of the yeu serves as an area

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32 to carve, to dance, to hold mock battles and, in the past, to bury the dead (Gerbrands 1967, 28). The dead are now buried across th e river from the village (Kirk 1972, 399). Before the conversion to Chri stianity, all religi ous activities were conducted at the yeu Rituals took many months to plan, prepare a nd execute and were cy clic; therefore once a ritual was completed, the planning for a new one began (Eyde 1967, 337-338). In the past, rituals were used to enhance life, by insuring fertility in youngsters, communicating with the ancestors, and solidifying relati onships within the community or between villages. Most families have a home either next to or behind the menÂ’s house with which the head of the household is aligned (Eyde 1967, 100). Before the influence of missionaries, a prestigious man may have more than one wife, and all the wives occupied the house with her children (101). In this case each wife was given a separate fireplace for cooking for her children and to establish her section of the home (101). Boys over the age of ten live at the menÂ’s house and girls live with their parents unti l they are married (179). In the past, a young married couple often sought an alliance with a powerful headhunting male relative, brothe r, brother-in-law, father, or father-in-law (238). In the case of co-residence, the young married coupl e added an addition to the home of a prestigious male relative giving them their own doorway openi ng and fireplace (238). The Bismam live in an egalitarian society where social status is earned (Zegwaard 1959, 1040). In the past the Asmat led a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the swamp habitat (Sowada 1961, 35). Sago territories could beco me depleted from over-harvesting, and marine life also went through periods of scarcity (Eyde 1967, 237). This combination of territorial pressures led to acquisitions of new territory through headhunting (237).

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33 Wealth and prestige were acquired through th e gathering of more food, through the labor and territory of multiple wives, and territo ry gained through headhunting (235). Food and territory were then distributed to members of one’s family, yeu (237). Receivers were obligated to the giver to recipr ocate either in the form of f ood, favors or both (234). Thus, headhunters were esteemed for thei r ability to hunt as well as to gain territory and were positioned to become the most powerful members of the community (307). Alliances with a powerful man were created through marriage, and, before conversion to Christianity, alliances were also created among married men through the exchange of their wives (Sowada 1961, 81). This was known as a papisj relationship. (Zegwaard & Boelaars 1982, 21). Married me n sought to create bond friends with members of other yeus within a village (22). This relationship provided additional resources through reciprocal ex changes of food and established alliances that could be counted on in headhunting raids (22). In vill age disputes, a bond friend was expected to fight with his friend even if it was against his own yeu (22). The husband had to ask his wife to participate in the exchange (22) Zegwaard and Boelaars described the men’s attitude as they discussed the exchange with their wives, “They must talk them into the exchange. It seems to be a delicate matter and the men must be on thei r best behavior to convince both women” (22). If she denied her husband’s request, she would suffer physical and emotional abuse, but she had the right to refuse (22). Since women vicariously shared in the pres tige of their husbands, and this exchange increased the wealth and prestige of their husbands, one can theorize that a woman would willingly participate.

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34 Prior to the banning of headhunting, hea dhunters were socially the most admired because of their ability to increase wealth and create alliances through marriages and papisj relationships (Eyde 1967, 349). Furthermore, headhunters were able to manipulate these alliances to become prestigious leaders, bigman ( tesumajipic ) within the community (236). Tesumajipic was the highest position, and many men of the village achieved this status (236). A tesumajipic was a leader in his family, his extended family and his yeu, and sometimes his influence extended acro ss the entire village (349). Warsekomen, Father ZegwaardÂ’s chief informant, was one such tesumajipic (Sowada 1961, 81). He was known to have taken nine heads (Sowada 1968, 193). He was related to half of the yeu leaders throughout the village (Sowada 1961, 81). He had seven wives who were related to menÂ’s house leaders he was not related to (81). He had fourteen children and was related to 41% of the population of Sjuru (81). He also had six papisj alliances (81). Bismam Cosmology This section reviews a few points about Bismam cosmology. The first is the myth of creation, the second a relationship between hu mans and trees and the third is the belief that a spirit migrated cyclically th rough three planes of existence. Before the acceptance of Christianity the Bismam understanding of creation figured prominently in the everyday life a nd ritual activities. Today, this idea still resonates meaning. The myth of Fumeripitsj expl ains the origin of the Bismam people. It also provides a framework for many of th e metaphors and for the symbolism in the Bismam cosmology. Tobias Schneebaum explains the story of creation: One day, while out fishing, Fumeripitsj, the Creator, fell into the river and drowned. His body washed up on a small is land. Some birds flying over the island saw the body and, not knowing whether it was alive or dead, tried to revive it with

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35 medicine, but the body lay still. They decided to see War, the great sea eagle, to ask his advice. War agreed to help if the bi rds would bring the medicine he needed. War flew to the island, put some of the me dicine on a stick, and anointed the joints of Fumeripitsj as well as his chest and forehead. Fumeripitsj still did not move. War called for a different medicine and a nointed the same parts as before. This time Fumeripitsj began to move. Suddenly he began to scream, and all the birds but War flew away in fear. Fumeripitsj sat up and said, “I am Fumeripitsj.” The sea eagle said, ‘I am War.” Fumeripitsj went into the jungle and built a feast house but he was lonely. He cut down trees and carved figures, each with a head and a body with arms and legs. Some were male: some were female. He pl aced them inside the feast house, but he was still lonely. So he cut down a tree, hollowed out a section of log, and carved a drum. He covered one end with a lizard sk in, gluing it there with lime and some of his own blood, and tied it w ith rattan. When Fumerip itsj beat on the drum, the figures began to dance and sing in th e normal way. Thus the Asmat came into being. Later, Fumeripitsj was attacked by a crocodi le. He fought the huge reptile, killed it, cut up the body, and threw the many pieces up into the sky. The pieces fell to earth and turned into other people, other tr ibes, and other races. (Schneebaum 1990, 26) Significant ideas expressed within this myth include the following: the belief that someone who was dead can come back to li fe with the correct magical formula, the power of a woodcarver to create the power of drums to animat e, and the idea that others were equivalent to crocodiles. However, the mo st important idea of this myth is the idea that the Bismam people were originally trees. This idea permeates Bismam life, and trees play a significant role in the culture. The sa go palm provides most of the diet. It provides shelter and even decorations. As resources for the commodities of everyday life, the sago palm and other trees are essential to the quality of life. Like the story of the origin of the Bismam, the story of the origin of the sago palm is also explained in a myth. The ancestor, Biwiripitsj, acci dentally sank in the mud of a swamp (Zegwaard 1959, 1038). Where he sank, a sago palm grew and his head sprouted in the fruit of the palm (1038). This is very similar to the myth, menti oned earlier by Sowada, where two ancestors became sago trees so that others would have food (Sowada 1961, 35).

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36 All of these myths linking humans a nd ancestors to trees contribute to a prominent Bismam metaphor. Zegwaard explai ns, “…the human body is associated with a tree: the legs compare to the plank roots, the trunk to the human body, the arms to the boughs, the head to the top (often with the fruit that sits in the top)” (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). Furthermore, a male who is adorned w ith a headdress, necklaces and body paint is considered to be in “full blossom” like a sa go palm is when it reaches maturity (1033). Continuing the tree metaphor, headhunters consider themselves “youngerbrothers” to birds and other animals that eat fruit, such as cockatoos, hornbills, flyingfoxs, cuscus, and tree kangaroos (1039). The bi rds and animals hunt for fruit from trees in the same manner that the warrior hunts for s kulls, the fruit equivale nt in humans (1039). This metaphor is enhanced when the animal is the same color as the Bismam person, as seen in the black king cockatoo, hornbill, cassowa ry, wild boar and flying fox (Gerbrands 1967, 30). The cassowary eats fruit from the fore st floor instead of from trees (Beechler, Pratt, and Zimmerman 1986, 45). It is considered a worthy ad versary and is hunted in the same way as the wild boar (Eyde 1967, 63). Th e wild boar also eats fruit from the forest floor and is a blackish animal (Parker 1990, 22) It too is consider ed a worthy adversary and is hunted in the same manner as a human victim (Zubrinich 1997, 113). The metaphor of fruit eater to th e headhunter will be seen in many different manifestations when looking at ancestor skulls and trophy skulls in the following chapters. One final spiritual belief to understand is the migration of th e spirit through the living realm and the spiritual realm. Alt hough the Bismam have accepted Christianity, they still understand their world as one fille d with spirits (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 103). Several types of lifeforces and spirits combine to create a living person. The ndat

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37 ancestral spirit is one such spirit that has a unique journey migrating through three planes of existence (Kuruwaip 1982, 21). The first is the living world, the second is an intermediate plane known as ndamir and the last is safan the realm of the ancestors (Sowada 1990, 70). This ancestral spirit passes through each of these levels in a cyclic movement (Kuruwaip 1982, 21). The spirit is dependent on family members, both living and dead, to help it navigate through these levels, each of which ideally maintains an equal number of members to preserve the ba lance and order of th e universe (Kuruwaip 1982, 21). The Bismam believe that a spirit be gins life by choosing a woman who has demonstrated excellence in her role as mo ther (Sowada 1990, 67). The spirit enters the body of a tree frog and jumps on the shoulde r of its chosen mother, which causes spontaneous conception (67). However, the spirit is not complete (67). Only a part of the spirit force enters the womenÂ’s body at concep tion (67). When the child reaches a certain maturity, he is given its spirit name, the ndat thus infusing the person with another animating force (67). Once the individual is pr operly named, the spirit is fully contained in the person (67). When a person dies, his or her sp irit enters the middle plane, ndamir the realm of the dead (Kuruwaip 1982, 22). Ndamir is meant to be only a temporary dwelling place for the spirit (21). In order for a spirit to move from ndamir to safan living family members perform a number of rituals (21). However, if the spirit is not properly remembered through ceremonies and feasts, it becomes malevolent and can cause tragedy (Schneebaum 1990, 52).

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38 The last level, safan is located in the setting sun at the point where the sea meets the sky (Kuruwaip 1982, 22). When the spirit is in safan it is benevolent, and can be asked to bestow favors on its living relatives (22). Safan is equated with extraordinary prosperity, and ancestral spirits have to reach safan in order to be reborn (Sowada 1990, 70). The Bismam concept of the spiritual wo rld is a world of mutual exchange or reciprocity. The living need the benevolence of an ancestor to help with daily existence, and the dead need the living to perform rituals to insure their successful migration through the spirit world. I will now explore ancestor skulls and trophy skulls using the concepts and information presented in this chapter.

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39 CHAPTER 3 ANCESTOR SKULLS A typical ancestor skull collected from the village of Pirimapun in 1956 was created from the remains of someone who di ed of natural causes and whose corpse was treated in a traditional manner (Figure 34) Ancestor skulls were kept by family members and adorned with a variety of materials such as seeds, wood, fiber netting, and feathers creating an assemblage. Missionaries have c onvinced the Bismam people to change their traditional burial practices; thus, ancestor skulls are no longer created (Kirk 1972, 399). This chapter begins with a review of th e dress and adornment of a living Bismam person. The reader will be introduced to the t ypes of ornaments, the materials used to create the ornaments, and the prestige associat ed with the ornaments. This evaluation of ornaments will allow the reader better insight into the prestige associated with the adornment of the ancestor skull. Then, I will compare the ancestor skull to a carrying bag and a ceremonial paddle both of which are objects that connote th e status of the owner. The next section describes Bismam fune ral practices. Althoug h mourning rituals are the same today, burial customs have changed. Traditional burial practices are described so that the reader understands how the ancestor skull was obtained. This section ends with a visual analysis of the adornment of ten ancestor skulls. The next section describes the protective f unction of the ancestor skull. First, the reader is introduced to the types of spirits and lifeforces that may cause the living harm. In the days of headhunting, the shield physically protected the owner in battle, but it also provided spiritual protection and empowered th e owner. It will be suggested that the

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40 ancestor skull is also believed to protect and empower its owner spiritually. Next, this section will compare the symbolic designs ca rved on the shields and the symbolic objects used to create the ancestor skull assemblage and suggest that these forms had a similar function. The last section of this chapter argues that the ancestor skull func tions as a mode of communication between the living owner and the dead relative. For the reader to understand this possibility, the pape r examines the function of the jipae masquerade to allow the living to communicate with the dea d. The paper compares the belief that the ndat spirit inhabits both the jipae mask and the ancestor s kull. Finally, the paper compares the adornment of the jipae mask with the adornment of the ancestor skull and concludes that the similarity of adornment suggests a pattern of re presenting an ancestor spirit. Dress and Adornment This section will briefly review the object s and materials that a Bismam individual wears, allowing the reader to compare the objects and materials worn by the living with those used to adorn an ancestor skull. This section will also introduce the carrying bag and the ceremonial paddle as ob jects that convey status and compare them to the ancestor skull, which also conveys status. Fiber Ornaments Sago palm fronds and rattan palm fronds ar e plaited to construct some items of adornment. A womanÂ’s skirt, known as an awer is a belt with thin strips of sago leaves woven to the front that are long enough to st retch from the front, between the legs, and secured to the b ack of the belt ( Figure 35 ) (Eyde 1967, 41). The belt itself is made of plaited sago palm leaf fiber that can be w oven into a pattern as seen in figure 35.

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41 According to Van Amlesvoort, a woma nÂ’s marital state is revealed by her awer because only a married woman would wear it, yet Eyde states that this skirt is worn by all women who had been through puberty (A mlesvoort 1964, 34-35; Eyde 1967, 41). A more recent photograph, taken in 1993, shows a woman wearing an awer combined with western clot hing at a ceremonial event ( Figure 36 ). This woman has used traditional fiber material and techniques to construct a new clothing form to cover her breasts. She also wears rattan arm bands ar ound her bicep and forearm, while the man next to her wears an arm band around his bi cep. The Bismam also wear leg bands typically worn on the calf (Eyde 1967, 56). Vari ous materials such as leaves, sago strips and feathers can be added for additional decoration (56). Arm bands also serve as pockets and can be used to hold items such as a bone dagger ( Figure 36 ) (Sowada 1961, 43). A forearm band is not only adornment but help s protect a hunterÂ’s arm from the force of a bowstring (Rockefeller 1967, 152). Men wear a plaited waist belt created from sago fiber. In the past, a waist belt was a common adornment but also worn at ritual events ( Figure 37 ) (Eyde 1967, 41). Another ornament worn around the waist was the triton shell. In the past, it was an adornment reserved for distinguished headhunters: today, men of high status still we ar the shell (25). New sago fronds are collected and cut into thin strips and are frequently added to the personÂ’s of individuals as well as to objects as d ecorative elements (Eyde 1967, 42). In Figure 38 strips of sago leaves are braided and intertwined with NdanimÂ’s hair, effectively lengthening his hair. Note that he also wears a rattan armband and sago waist band. Sago leaves are symbolic of the ancesto rs since the ancestors were the original

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42 owners of the sago fields and their presence on an object or person si gnifies the presence of the ancestor (40-41). Necklaces Necklaces both for everyday wear and for ceremonial wear are constructed from a wide variety of materials including se eds, shells, and bone. The man shown in Figure 39 wears a necklace of seeds, one of teeth and one with a large piece of shell. The Bismam incorporate many kinds of shells such as moth er-of-pearl and the chambered nautilus into their personal adornment (24). The man in Figure 40 wears a piece of shell for a necklace pendant and he also has a sh ell pendant for his headdress. For everyday wear, a simple piece of shell is fashioned into a pendant tied to a string and worn around the neck (24). A necklace can be made of seeds from the abrus precatorius more commonly known as the rosary pea, a striking re d berry. Complementing the red of the abrus is a seed from the coix lacryma-jobi a wild grass also known as Job’s tears that range in color from white to grey to silver ( Figure 41 ) (Ryan 1972, 231). These two “beads” are commonly used together to decorate many obj ects such as headdresses, ancestor skulls, carrying bags, nose ornaments, and sculptures. A dog’s tooth necklace is prized even t hough they are a typical item most people would own (Eyde 1967, 60). Both women and married men wear dog’s tooth necklaces on ceremonial occasions (60). In a photograph of a bis ritual Figure 36 a woman is shown wearing two dogs tooth necklaces. Fath er Zegwaard noted that in the days of headhunting, a dogs’ tooth necklace was used as a substitute for a bamboo necklace in a part of the initiation ritual, (a ritual that required a head of an enemy) and that young unmarried men could thus have a dogs’ tooth necklace (Zegwaard 1959, 1023). Papuan dogs are kept as hunting dogs and not pets. Ther efore, one could assume that the necklace

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43 reflected hunting prowess. Many other kinds of animalÂ’s teeth were fashioned into necklaces such as: pig, human, marsupial, and rat (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 183). Traditionally, the boarÂ’s tusk was associ ated with headhunting, and wearing it meant that the wearer had successfully captured a head (Schneebaum 1990, 59). The Bismam also believe that wearing a boarÂ’s tusk weakened a human enemy, making him easier to overpower (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). BoarÂ’s tusk is still worn today but reflects the prowess of hunting just the wild boar. The woman in Figure 42 wears a boarÂ’s tusk necklace that may reflect her husbandÂ’s power as a hunter. Bamboo was employed to fabricate ritu al decapitation knives and headhunting horns. Special necklaces with bamboo pendant s were given to an initiate during the course of the initiation ritu al (Eyde 1967, 57). The pendant wa s designed to resemble the decapitation knife, forming a link between the two objects (57). The woman in Figure 42 also wears a bamboo ornament necklace, barely visible in the lower left corner of the photo. Earrings The woman in Figure 42 wears earrings made from l oops of metal and of braided fiber with a string of material s including cassowary quills, ab rus seeds, coix seeds, and a piece nautilus shell attached (59). The man in Figure 43 wears braided rattan earrings. Nose Ornaments Nose ornaments are worn through the septum sometimes as everyday wear but more frequently for ceremonial occasions (Eyde 1967, 60). Shell, pig bone, cassowary bone, and wood are used to make this jewelry with a wide variety of ornate and simple forms (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 183).

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44 After being eaten, a wild boarÂ’s thigh bone is elaborately ca rved to create a distinctive nose ornament (Eyde 1967, 61). Wh ile the ornament is worn by both men and women, it is more often used by men on ceremonial occasions because men are responsible for hunting. In the past, boars we re regarded as similar to human victims (Gerbrands 1967, 43). Figure 44 shows Jaobenum wearing an elaborate pig bone carved to resemble a praying mantis, a figure asso ciated with headhunting (Smidt 1993, 30). The men in Figure 45 wear the very important bipane nose ornaments. To make the bipane ornament two spirals are cut from mo ther-of-pearl and glued together with resin creating a bisymmetrical piece (Gerbr ands 1967, 42). The completed ornament, delicately threaded through the septum is symbolic of boldness and power (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The bipane has two animal associations. Firs t, the halves look like the tusks of a boar (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 183). Second, the one side resembles the cuscus tail, again a reference to a fruit eater as brother to th e headhunter (Gerbrands 1967, 42). Men usually wear this ornament but for special occasions a woman would sometimes wear it (Figure 46) (Eyde 1967, 24). The man in Figure 37 also wears a bipane nose ornament. Headdress Cassowary, cockatoo, crown pigeon, hornbill an d bird of paradise were just a few of the types of birds whose feathers are coll ected and stuck into the hair as adornment. The woman on the left in Figure 46 wears bird of paradise feathers and white cockatoo feathers. Cassowary feathers and white cock atoo feathers are symbolic of toughness and bravery (Zegwaard 1961, 1033). The cassowary al so symbolizes speed. In the days of headhunting, a warrior who wanted to increase his speed for battle drew a cassowary foot

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45 on the bottom of his foot (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The man in Figure 41 wears cassowary feathers and white cockatoo feathers. As a fruit eater, the hornbill was considered a brother of the headhunter also (1039). The hornbill also figured in Asmat mythol ogy and was considered a link between the world of the living and the spirit realm, and it was believed that a spirit of the recently dead might inhabit the hornbill (Sowad a 1961, 45; Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 29). The male hornbill has honey-colored f eather on its head and white feathers on its tail, both of which are worn as personal decoration (Gerbrands 1967, 30). Feathers may also enliven objects such as spears, paddles, bags and sculptures (Eyde, 1967, 63). Several feathers are glued to a s tick and placed into the hair to create a bold statement as seen in figures 37 39 40 45 and 46 Feathers attached to a stick are often combined with a cuscus pelt to make a headdress. The cuscus pelts have a range of colors-white, spotted, tawny, black or brown (Eyde 1967, 62). In the past, the cuscus was id entified as a headhunter Â’s brother because it is also a fruit eater (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). Th e Bismam believed that the spirit of a recently deceased individual might reside te mporarily in the cuscus, thus directly identifying the animal with the ancesto rs (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 29). The men in figures 36 39 40 and 45 wear cuscus pelt headbands with edgings of seeds. Body Paint The Bismam wear a variety of painte d designs on their bodies and faces. Body paints derive from a number of sources. Sin ce clay does not occur na turally in the swamp environment, it is obtained through trade from further inla nd, and yellow clay is burned to produce red paint (Schneebaum 1990, 33). White pigment is derived from three sources: clay, sago flour or pulverized shells. Black is made from charcoal ash (33). Red,

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46 white, and black symbolize qualities of br avery and power (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The individuals in Figure 21 are gather ed to celebrate a contemporary bis ceremony, and wear a wide variety of body paint styles. For ex ample, the woman in the center of the photograph on the right hand side has white chevrons on her arm, dots and dashes on her chest, and her face has white areas pained her cheeks and forehead punctuated with dashes of white paint close to her eye. The woman standing ne xt to her has red and white stripes on her arms, large red and white stripe s across her chest, stripes of white on her cheek, forehead and nose, and two red stripes under her eye across her cheek. In Figure 10, a number of men in their canoe s illustrate variations of body paint. For example, the man at the front of the canoe on the left ha nd side wears white paint on his legs, arms, and chest. He painted bold stripes of white down the middle of his forehead across his nose, and he painted another larg e stripe from his ear to the tip of his chin. In the next canoe, the man at the front wears large stripe s of white across his abdomen and arms. He wears a white stripe across the right side of hi s face and a black stripe across the left side of his face. In the next canoe, the man at th e prow wears white stripes across his legs and a large patch of white on his chest. In the last canoe, the man at the prow wears white paint from his knee to ankle, and he painted the front of his chest white. He painted the front of his arms white, and he outlined his br ow ridge in white with a white dab on his nose. Ornaments as Armament Rituals are a chance for married men and wo men to dress more ornately, especially if they are participants in the event (Eyde 1967, 60). In the past, for a man, dressing for a ceremony or a headhunting raid was the sa me. Even though headhunting is no longer practiced, men will still wear ornaments th at are symbolically associated with

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47 headhunting and serve to signify the status of the wearer. Gerbrands de scribed the goal of a headhunter when dressing himself for a raid: … the Asmat transforms himself into one of the black, fruit-eat ing birds or flying animals. He sticks white feathers in his hair to imitate the hornbill, which had white tail feathers. He paints red around his eyes, for a black king cockatoo suddenly shows a red color on a bare spot around its eyes when angry, upset or afraid. On his forehead he wears a fur band made for the sk in of the cuscus, incidentally, it is also used as a symbol of the headhunter, as it is a fruiteater, though not a flying one. (Rockefeller 1967, 15) This is the same goal that a man with status has when dressing for a ceremonial event as seen in Figure 37, Figure 39, Figure 40 and Figure 45. These men have stuck white feathers in their hair and are wearing cuscus fur hea ddress. Furthermore, feathers and marsupial pelts associate the wearer with fruit eating birds and animals and encourage the wearer to identify with headhunt ers. The attire of wh ite feathers, cuscus headdress and a bipane nose ornament as seen in Figure 45 has multiple symbolic associations. The white feathers allude to the cockatoo and hornbill, which is also fruit eater and in addition is a link to the ancestor realm because hornbills can embody the spirit of the recently dead. The cuscus, like th e hornbill, is also a fruit eater and capable of containing the spirit of the recently dead. The bipane nose ornament resembles the boar’s tusks making it a tool to spiritually di sarm the enemy and it resembles the cuscus tail allowing the wearer to identify hims elf as a fruit eater and the headhunter. For the Bismam in the days of headhunting, many of these adornments not only symbolized certain qualities, such as prowess in hunting, but ac tually instilled them in the wearer (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). The Bismam ha d a concept of adornment acting as a shield or “armament” (1033). Therefore, th ey would not have entered a battle without proper adornment.

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48 In the past, when wearing adornments on ordinary days, the wearer would proceed cautiously because many ornaments were considered powerful and wearing them sometimes was construed as an act of aggre ssive (1033). However, Gerbrands remarked that Matjemos, a sculptor from Amanamka i in 1961, donned a cuscus headband while he carved a commissioned work in the menÂ’ s house (Gerbrands 1967, 53). Gerbrands theorized that Matjemos must have felt that the project was signi ficant enough to dress for the occasion (53). Thus, one can suggest that some ornaments, such as MatjemosÂ’ headdress, were worn to address the signi ficance of the task of the day and not necessarily meant to suggest aggressi ve activities such as headhunting. On ceremonial occasions, women often donne d ornaments typically reserved for men thus allowing her to display her presti ge achieved by her asso ciation with a man (Figure 42 and Figure 46). For ceremonial events or as everyday wear men demonstrate their personal power by donni ng these potent ornaments. Objects That Convey Status Certain objects are worn or carried to stat e clearly that the owner is a person of the highest status, bigman or tesumajipic In the past, a tesumajipic was a person who was a renowned headhunter and had enough political stature to be consulted on community affairs. Although headhunti ng is on longer practiced, tesumajipic are still found in the Bismam political structure and are still signifi ed by carrying or wearing these objects. Both males and females wear carrying bags, know as eram ese (Eyde 1967, 42). In mythology, ancestors from long ago left specia l objects in their ca rrying bags to pass down to future generations (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). Women construct the bags from sago palm fronds. They measure about a foot wide and a foot high (Figure 47) (Eyde 1967, 42). Carrying bags are decorated with white

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49 feathers, cassowary quills, red seeds, and white seeds. A wo man wears the carrying bags suspended from her neck hanging on her b ack. The woman in the center of the photograph in Figure 48 is wear ing her bag on her back. Men of lower status also wear carrying ba gs on their back. A man of high status such as a leader in the menÂ’s house or a ma ster carver wears his bags hanging on his chest (42). The man on the left in the photogra ph in Figure 48 wears his bag on his chest, thus proclaiming his higher status. Although paddles are not dress, they serve as a type of personal adornment that indicates status. (50) Paddle s can be of the everyday variety (Figure 49) or of the ceremonial variety (Figure 12). While a typi cal paddle is about si x to eight feet, a ceremonial paddle is longer, about seven to nine feet (49). A ceremonial paddle could have a figure carved into the handle and usua lly has low relief designs on the shaft and fin (49). One type of ceremonial paddle is completed with white cockatoo feathers attached to the handle (Figure 10), and another type has blac k cassowary feathers (Figure 50) (49). These special paddles are only carried by a tesumajipics who are allowed to carry their paddles on their s houlders while the typical paddl e is carried by in the hand (50). Several examples of paddles with white feathers can be seen in the photograph of men in their canoes in Figure 10. The ownership of an ancestor skull is a statement of prestige. Schneebaum reports that the first born male received th e ancestor skull of his parent (Schneebaum 1990, 56). However, Zegwaard and Boelaars stat e that the brother-in-law of the deceased with the most influence receiv ed the skull and effectively to ok the place of the deceased in the family and community (Zegwaard and Boelaars 1982, 25-26). The eldest male in

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50 the family line is a higher status person that his siblings, male or female. In Bismam society, brothers-in-law are equivalents to actual brothers. Alt hough a discrepancy of who actually inherited the skull exists, it is clear that the inheritor had to be at the top of a line of succession either th rough age or influence. Like the carrying bag and the ceremonial paddle, the way in which the ancestor skull is worn testifies to the status of the wearer. Women could inhe rit an ancestor skull but they could not wear it. Males of lower stat us wore the skull to the back as seen in Figure 50. Only a male of high standing in the community, a tesumajipic wore their ancestor skull to the front. Wearing the ancesto r skull was thus a visual statement of the prestige of the wearer (Figure 37 and Figure 43). Funeral Death When someone dies due to illness or old ag e, the family surrounds them as they die (Arsdale 1982, 50). Close female relatives announce the family’s loss with wailing, a loud, moaning cry (50). This signal informs th e village that someone has died (50). This sound is also believed to reach beyond the worl d of the living and in to the ancestor realm to inform the spirit community of the loss (50). This oral expression of grief is combined with a wrenching physical act of grief in which both male and female relatives go to the riverbank and vigorously fling themselves, re peatedly, into the th ick mud (Figure 52) (50). Robert Mitton, a camp manager for a mining company and admitted “New Guineaphile”, visited the village of Sawa, in the Northwest Asmat region. After he witnessed this grieving practice, he wrote a colorful description in his journal. The funeral process began when a villager, Arim, became extremely ill. Mitton writes,

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51 Shortly after lunch the wailing for Arim intensifies. …the wailing goes on all day and through the night, and so many people crowd into the house beating on the walls that it threatens to collapse. Duri ng this pre-death wailing period, friends of the mourners take up strategic positions in the house, for at the moment of death all hell breaks loose, and the mourners are in danger of doing themselves grievous bodily harm. People hurl themselves out of doorways and, as another sign of grief, wallow and almost drown themselves in mud. … There is a false alarm when they think Arim has died, and a horn is sounde d; everyone throws himself out of the house into the mud. Then another man di es in a neighbouring house--new grief. When Arim eventually dies, there is phe nomenal out pouring of grief. Emotionally exhausting. (7 March) The mourning for both characters continues all night, and in the early dawn preparations are made to bury chap number one. At this point, the mourning becomes very intense; men and wo men are throwing themselves from the house into mud, rolling in it in grief. … The women roll themselves in mud, entirely naked, then from the mud back to the house they perform a slow stooped walk with their arms clasped around their thighs. At the house, a jumping dance is performed, what Father Van De Wouw calls a ‘frog dance’. When the corpse is carried from the house, everyone starts th rowing himself upon it, to be dragged off by his less grieved neighbours. The funeral ends when the corpse is placed in a canoe and taken to the other side of the river to be buried. (Mitton 1983, 190) From Mitton’s description, the reader can get a sense of the dramatic display of grief that death elicits from any Asmat pers on. The act of flinging oneself into the mud has a specific purpose. It is believed that the scent of the living relative needs to be hidden from the spirit of the deceased and th e mud serves to cover the scent of the living (Zegwaard 1959, 1039-1040). The Bismam believe that the recently deceased spirit is able to recognize and follow its family’s sm ell (1039-1040). Furthermore, the spirit has the ability to entice a living person’s lifeforce out of their body. If this is accomplished, the Bismam believe that a person would fa ll into a catatonic state and die. The mud disguise ensures that the spir it would not find its living family and would then begin its migration into the spirit realm. In addition to the wailing and rol ling in the mud of his relatives, a tesumajipic received a chanted eulogy consisting of a desc ription of the individu al’s qualities and his lifetime achievements (Arsdale 1982, 50). This memorializing could be impromptu and

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52 conducted by the female mourners or by a speci alist who is hired to recite before the family and friends gathered at the deceased’s yeu (50). The recitation for a distinguished male continues a few hours a day for a significant period (50). Burial Burial practices have changed due the in fluence of the Dutch administration and missionary activities. Today people are buried ac ross the river from the village. In the past, the treatment of the body varied with the status of the individual or the circumstances of death. Most men and wome n were buried in the courtyard of the yeu unless the woman had perished in childbi rth (Smidt 1993, 19). Her body was considered dangerous and had to be removed far from the community (19). Children’s bodies were placed in tree limbs (19). The bodies of renowned headhunters and community leaders were laid on a platform in the courtyard of the yeu and covered with woven mats (19). Sometimes their bodies were place in special tr ees that were “spiritu ally charged” (19). A corpse that had been left on a platform was guarded from animals by the lower status members of the men’s house and young boys (Schneebaum 1990, 56). Van Amelsvoort noted that, “The family may place objects which serve ritual functions such as nose bones and bracel ets on the corpse” (Amelsvoort 1964, 53). Eyde wrote that family members placed objects su ch as “…axes, knives, flying fox caps…” on the grave site as payment to the men w ho dug the grave. The photograph in Figure 53 was taken in 1957 of a female corpse di splayed on a platform along with her awer a skirt she would have worn everyday, and a bow with arrows, contributed by her husband (53). Although no specific information about the nature of the objects was noted at the time, it might be suggested that bows and arrows were tools used by men in Bismam society and as such could be interpreted to be an item for payment to a male grave digger. However,

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53 the deliberate placement of the deceased’s awer an everyday item of personal adornment only worn by adult females, seems to be a way to identify the person rather than a payment for services. Thus, th e placement of items of personal adornment on the corpse may be a preliminary step in the decorati on of the ancestor sku ll which would correspond to Van Amelsvoort’s description of the objects being of a “ritual function” (53). If these men were responsible for the entire burial process, perhaps some objects placed on the corpse were for payment and some were to be used to decorate the skull. Once the body had deteriorated to a stat e where the skull had dislodged naturally, then the rest of the corpse could be buried or placed in a tree (Schneebaum 1990, 56). Husbands of the sisters and daughters of th e deceased were res ponsible for the burial (Eyde 1967, 202). Once exposure to the weather removed the fles h from the skull, it was taken to the yeu to be decorated (Zegwaard and Boel aars 1982, 25-26). Zegwaard and Boelaars reported that the skull of a prestigious headhunter, or tesumajipic was dealt with in the nambir kus ritual, but neither elaborates on the details of this ri tual (Zegwaard and Boelaars 1982, 25-26). One can assume that because the skull was taken to the men’s house, a place where women were rarely allowe d, and because the husbands of the sisters and daughters of the deceased were responsible for burial, men were in charge of creating the ancestor’s portrait on the skull. Ancestor Skull Assemblages The ancestor skulls described in the fo llowing pages were collected in the 1970s except for Figure 34, which was collected in 1956 These skulls most likely represent the last generation whose remains were treated in the traditional manner.

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54 The ancestor skulls in Figure 2, Figure 34 Figure 37 Figure 43 Figure 51 Figure 54 Figure 55 Figure 56 Figure 57 Figure 58 Figure 59 Figure 60 are created in a consistent manner. First, the mandible is s ecured to the skull with a piece of thickly plaited rattan that creates a cord. This rattan cord is looped through the base of the skull and out the nasal cavity around the lower jaw and back to the base of the skull. The inclusion of the mandible is a clear indication that the skull is an ancestor skull, not a trophy skull. The skulls in Figure 51 and Figure 59 are the only ones that have lost their mandibles, but they can still be identified as ancestor skulls by the remaining adornments. Ancestor skullsÂ’ eye sockets and nasal cavities are filled with a mixture of beeswax and resin into which coix and abrus seeds are set. The resin in the nasal cavity helps to hold the rattan cord in place, and it also serves to secure any nose ornament to the skull. A headdress of plaited fiber on to wh ich coix seeds have been sewn is attached. Strings of shells and coix s eeds with white cockatoo feathers are attached to the main band. In some cases, braided rattan loops attached to the zygo matic arch form a configuration suggesting earrings. One can s ee the similarity to earrings by comparing the womanÂ’s earrings in Figure 42 with the si milar form on the skull in Figure 2. Often a string of plaited rattan is attached to the zygomatic arch. Th is string allows the skull to be suspended from the rafters of a house or to ha ng the skull from the living relativeÂ’s neck as a pendant (Figure 37, Figure 43 and Figure 51) Together this group of skulls suggests that a pattern of adornment is foll owed to create the ancestor skulls ( Figure 2 Figure 34 Figure 37 Figure 43 Figure 51 Figure 54 Figure 55 Figure 56 Figure 57 Figure 58 Figure 59 Figure 60).

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55 While each skull displays a basic pattern, i ndividuality seems to be a strong factor as well. Compare the bipane nose ornament on the skull in Figure 2 to the ornately carved pig bone on the skulls in Figure 55and Figure 56. One easily sees the impact that one ornament has enlivening each skull and setting it apart from others. This may seem a minor change, but, as described by Gerbra nds, one item of adornment can make an impression even to an outsider. As a ne wly arrived observer among the Bismam of Amanamkai, Gerbrands described how such a seemingly insignificant feature as a nose ornament allowed him to distingu ish one individual from others. I had only been in the village for a week, and except for some of the leading men I had become familiar with only a few faces and the names belonging to them. Among the shouting crowd on the danci ng-ground of Awok I had nevertheless noticed a rather retiring man of middle age becau se of the huge shell ornament he wore in his nose. (Gerbrands, 1967, 42) Gerbrands stated that most Bismam wore a bone or shell ornament when they appeared in traditional costume, but as an outside observer, even he was able to make the distinctions based on the configurati on of such ornaments. Comparing the bipane nose ornaments in Figure 2, Figure 37, Figure 45 and Figure 46, one can distinguish among them. Assuming that a member of the commun ity could distinguish even more subtle differences, than a particular ornament c ould signify the individual that wore it. Displaying even more variety is the sku ll in Figure 34 that uses a piece of sago palm wrapped with coix and abrus seed s as a nose ornament, and the skull in Figure 59 that has a stick with the ends decorated with coix and abrus seeds for a nose ornament. The individualism of the skull is enhanced even when a nose ornament is not used. The skulls in Figure 59, Figure 57, Figure 58, and Figure 60 do not have nose ornaments. The skull in Figure 54 has just the bright red abrus seeds filling the nose cavity, while the skull in Figure 57 uses just the coix seeds to adorn the nose cavity. The skulls in Figure

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56 58 and Figure 60 have a combination of coix a nd abrus seeds filling the nose cavities. Each configuration of seeds adds to a sense of individualism. The coix are white to grey to almost sliver in color while the abrus is a bright red. The Bismam use the colors black, red and white to paint their bodies for ritual occasions. The color combination employed on the skulls suggests a similarity to body paint. A quick visual scan of the individuals in Figure 10 and Figure 21 should allow the viewer to observe several instances of white and red pa int on the face. Also note that the paint is applied in stripes, patches, and dots. Seve ral individuals in Figure 21 wear necklaces made from the white coix seed, red abrus s eeds or a combination of both seeds. Figure 41 provides a closer view of facial paint a nd an example of the striking red and white seed necklace. When considering the use of the red and white seeds in the adornment of the ancestor skull it is possible that these co lors remind the viewer or face paint worn by the living and remind the viewer of the brig htly colored seed necklaces worn by the living. Also note how some of the skulls are dis tinguished by the struct ured placement of seeds. For example in Figure 34 the eye cavities of the skull have been given a circle of white coix seeds that surrounds a center of re d abrus seeds. This effectively draws the viewerÂ’s attention to the eye sockets of the sku ll. This same type of treatment can be seen in Figure 54 where prominent red abrus seeds ha ve been purposely placed in the center of the eye sockets, also drawing the viewerÂ’s focu s to the eye sockets of the skull. The skull in Figure 34 also has a structur ed placement of seeds on the nasal cavity, which creates a stripe of red and white that is carried through to the nose ornament. The skull in Figure 2

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57 has a pair of red abrus seeds deliberately set into the nasal cavity just above the bipane nose ornament that seems to point the viewerÂ’s attention to the dramatic nose ornament. Typically, a headdress is composed of th e white cockatoo feathers, but, as one can see from Figure 55, cassowary feathers can be use d. Hornbill feathers can also be used. The pattern of beading on the headdress va ries as well. For example, compare the headdress of the ancestor skull in Figure 34, which has an x-pattern arrangement of coix seeds, with the liner pattern created by the ar rangement of coix seeds on the border of the headdress shown in Figure 2. Furthermore, note how th e x-pattern is increased to a horizontal row of four x-shapes in the borde r of the headdress illustrated in Figure 56. The border of the headdress in Figure 60 maintains the simple line of beads seen in Figure 2 but increases the row by two beads, adding to the variety of styles in a basic pattern. In Figure 45, the men wear short white feathe rs attached to sticks and stuck in their hair and cuscus fur headbands with beading on the edge. In Figure 51, the living wears a cuscus headband with beading on the edge, al ong with an ancestor skull that wears a headdress of woven fiber beaded with coix seeds. One can see in Figure 51 that the beading serves to attach the feathers to the skull in the absence of hair. Rattan loops attached to the side of th e skull replicating ea rrings provide another opportunity for the individualism of the an cestor skull to be accentuated. Note the earrings on the ancestor skull shown in Figure 2. They are constructed with strings of seeds and shells, quills, and a tuft of cuscus fur. The ances tor skull in Figure 55 has an even larger tuft of fur. The ancestor skull in Figure 56 has one ear ring with a rhinoceros

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58 beetle at the end, and the ances tor skull in Figure 57 has earri ngs with cassowary feathers at the tip. Each of the skulls in Figure 2, Figur e 34, Figure 37, Figure 43, Figure 51, Figure 54, Figure 55, Figure 56, Figure 57, Figure 58, Figure 59, and Figure 60 adheres to a pattern of adornment. However, the vari ety of materials used and the different configurations of that material strongly s uggest a sense of individualism in each ancestor skull. In traditional burial pract ices, personal objects such as nose ornaments and earrings were placed on the corpse. If one assu mes that these personal objects such as a nose ornament were used to adorn the ancestor skull rather than payment for assistance in the burial ritual, and one assumes that a nose ornament signified a particular individual who was easily recognized by the members hi s community; then, it is highly probable that these skulls were visually constructed to recreate a portrait of a specific individual. Protection In addition to serving as portrait of a sp ecific person, the ancestor skull also has a function that can best be unders tood when comparing that func tion to the way a shield is used. In order to understand this compar ison, the reader must first understand the Bismam beliefs about spirits and lifeforces and how these energies may cause harm to a living human. This section will then examine the belief that a shield serves to protect its owners spiritually and to compare that to the be lief that an ancestor s kull also protects its owner. Finally, the author will compare a design carved on the shield to the bipane nose ornament used to adorn the ancestor skull, suggesting that the de sign and object have a similar function.

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59 Spirits and Lifeforces The Bismam seek spiritual protection for a va riety of reasons. Firs t, spirits from the forest, river and sea can be annoying and dangerous (Schneebaum 1990, 52). Second, the recently dead cause sickness and food shorta ges because their deaths have not been avenged (52). The recently dead may also lure away its relativeÂ’s lifeforce while they are mourning over the corpse. Third, spirits from women who died in ch ild birth are known to kidnap and kill men (Sowada 1990, 70). Finally, the Bismam believe that several sp iritual energies combined in a human to form a living creature. A person is born with two of these life forces: yuwus and ndamup (Sowada 1991, 66). Another element, in this case an ancestral spirit, ndat joins the others in the early years of life, e ffectively completing the person (66). The Bismam believe that for humans, the yuwus force is necessary for life (66). This force is clearly seen in strong human emotions such as fe ar, anger, hate, love (66). The yuwus is believed to be located in a personÂ’ s abdomen tied to his navel and its loss is considered fatal (66). Ndamup on the other hand, is an animating el ement found in all living things (66). In a human, this spirit takes on its hostÂ’s ap pearance, and is able to leave the body at will to roam or wander (66). The ndamup is located in the head, and when a person sleeps with his head in an uncomfortable position, his nadmup is especially prone to wandering (Zegwaard 1959, 1030). If this roaming spir it meets a living person, the observer would not be able to distinguish the spirit from its host because the ndamup not only looks like the host, it can also speak and act like the host (1030). However, if the observer is able to recognize that they are interacting with the ndamup he can warn the host of the impending danger thus saving the hostÂ’s life (1030).

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60 The ndamup can also leave the host and move into other life forms, such as animals, and while possessing them it can become harmful (Sowada 1990, 66). Sowada reports that when a crocodile had killed several people in the village of Sawa, the villagers believed they were being victimized by the ndamup of a man from Erama in retaliation for an old headhunting raid (66). During the period in which headhunting was st ill a vital part of existence, it was believed that the ndamup could be called away by enemies (Zegwaard 1959, 1030). As part of the events leading up to a hea dhunting raid, a specialist was called upon to summon the ndamup of individuals from the village in tended for attack (1030). If the ndamup “[ate] the smell” of a burning mixture pr epared by a specialist or if it “[ate] the smell” of a cooked pig in an enemy village then the spirit was bewitched and could not return to its body (1030). If the ndamup was not able to return to its body, the person died within a few days or was so weakened that when the conjuri ng village attacked, the people who lost their ndamup were the ones easily killed ( 1030). The danger of such black magic was even stated in a myth in which two heroes died because their ndamup had visited an enemy village and feasted on roast wild pig (1030). The third animating for ce of the individual is ndat (Sowada 1990, 66). Ndat is an ancestral spirit caught in the continuous cy cle of life, death and rebirth (66). The ndat of the ancestor has a protective power (67). An individual was not considered whole until the ndat joined the other animating forces (66). The ancestral spirit shares with the host individual its personality and skil ls (66). Without the inclusion of ndat in a person’s makeup, the individual did not live (70). Of ten when a child died, the Bismam believed that the ndat spirit had not joined the other anim ating forces, and the child was thus

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61 incomplete and could not survive (70). An i ndividual could increase his or her ancestral power by taking the name of another ancestor and over the course of a lifetime, several ancestors might be invoked to help (67). Protective Function of Shields and Ancestor Skulls In the days of headhunting, shields prot ected the owner from physical violence (Figure 6). The power of the shield was so respected that the Bismam believed it was preferable to have a shield than w eapon (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 46). Even though, headhunting raids have stopped, shields are still considered powerful protective objects (Schneebaum 1990, 37). Just as child is named after an ancestor to infuse him with the ndat spirit, the naming of inanimate objects such as shields, figures, and canoe prows after an ancestor also infuses the object with the ancestorÂ’s ndat making the object f unction better (Sowada 1990, 67). A shield is named after an ancestor to instill the strengt h and courage of its namesake into the shield (Schneeb aum 1990, 37). A shield inhabited by the ndat of the ancestor, made the ancestor seem alive to it s owner (37). The owner of shield is thus stronger and more confident knowing that hi s ancestorÂ’s power protects him (Sowada 1990, 67). A large number of shields increases the pow er of the entire community and serves as a protective force (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 46). In addition, to protecting against physical enemies, shields ha ve the power to ward off spiritual enemies and negative forces. Shields are brandished a nd carried to the riverÂ’ s edge to frighten away the malevolent spirit that caused the death when someone dies unexpectantly (Smidt 1993, 71). Shields are placed in or near a doorway to protect a family home

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62 against evil spirits entering the home when the family is not present (Schneebaum 1990, 37). As the shield is inhabited by the ndat of an individual, the bodily remains of the deceased are also still inhabited by the ndat (Schneebaum 1990, 56). Thus, wearing the skull is believed to protect the liv ing relative through th e presence of the ndat (Figure 37, Figure 43 and Figure 51). The protective force of the skull, like the protective force of the shield, provides confidence and security to the person wearing the skull, especially knowing that the powerful ndat of the ancestor is defi nitely with him. Ancestor skulls are also used as headrests specifically to keep the ndamup from wandering because of its own nature or in the days of headhunting, because the ndamup was lured away by enemies (Figure 61). When a woman inherited an ancestor skull, she was supposed to keep it covered in the rafters of her house (Schneebaum 1985, 146-47). In Figure 61, an ancestor skull is seen hanging behind the woman, and another ancestor skull is seen on the floor on the left side of th e picture. Considering that shields were able to protect the family when positioned in th e doorway, it can be surmised that physical contact was not always necessary to evoke the protective force of the ndat and that hanging the skull in the home protected the home as well. Protective Designs and Objects Shields are carved from the buttress root of the mangrove tree. Among the Bismam a three dimensional projection is carved at the top of the shie ld, a small figure, a head or an abstraction of either one (Figure 6) (Smidt 1993, 56). Shields are painted with red, white and black, the same colors used in body adornment. The front is carved with low relief designs (56). Both the figure on top of the shield and the designs on its front represent the ancestor that the shield is named after and refers to other ancestors as well

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63 (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 43). In this way, the owner enlists the protection of many ancestors (Smidt 1993, 71). Gerbrands documented the shield represented in figure 6 when he collected it from the village of Atjametsj in the early 1960s. The figure on top represen ts the owner’s dead sister. The low relief figures on the front depi ct two of the owner’s dead brothers and another dead sister (125). On a shield with a similar motif collected in the village of Otsjanep at the same time (Figure 62) the figure on top is smaller and less defined, but th e ancestors in relief on the front of the shield have more robust body forms. In these two examples, it can be suggested that the figure on t op and the designs on the front visually reinforce for the owner that his “spirit family” was protecting him. While the ancestor skull itself is the physic al remains of an ancestor, it is also an assemblage created to be a portrait of that ancestor. If the multiple ancestor figures represented on the shield serve to remind the owner visually of the power of the ancestor contained within the shield, then the portra it created on the remains of the deceased must visually intensify the memo ry of that particular ndat serving to remind the owner of the presence and protection of the ancestor within the skull. Many shields have representations of bipane nose ornaments typically worn by powerful males for ceremonial events or, in the past during headhunting raids. The bipane adornment has metaphorical associations su ch as a boar’s tusk that weakens the enemy and as a cuscus tail that empowers the headhunter to become like his fruit eating brother. On the shield, this ornament was re duced to a simplified motif consisting of a basic c-shape (Figure 63).

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64 The bipane nose ornament is a powerful and prestigious ornament both for the living and for the ancestor s kull. The inclusion of the bipane ornament on an ancestor skull must create a visual statement that expresses not only the individuality of the deceased but also makes a statement about the powerfulness of ornament itself, especially as it relates to headhunting (Figure 2). The Bismam believe that the ndat that the shield is named after, the ndats of the ancestors represented by the ancestor designs on the front of the shield, and the power that radiates from the symbols such as the bipane on the front of the shield work together to paralyze living enemies as well as spirit enemies (Schneebaum 1990, 37). Just as the shield could paralyze the enemy, the ancestor skull that possess the ndat of the ancestor, is visually constructed to re mind the viewer of a portrait of the deceased and is adorned with powerful ornaments such as the bipane must also function to paralyze spiritual enemies. Communication Another function of the ances tor skull is as a tool for communication. A brief review of a two Bismam myths that involve a decapitated head allows the reader to realize that communication between the liv ing and dead has precedence in Bismam cosmology. This section will explore how the jipae masquerade serves as a tool for the living and the dead to communicate. Finally, this section will compare the adornment of the jipae mask and the ancestor skull and will suggest that a pattern of adornment on both represents the ndat ancestral spirit. Myth of Talking Head Father Zegwaard provides insight into the practice of keep ing the skull of a relative through his record ing of two myths. Each myth f eatures a disembodied head that

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65 is able to talk. Warsekomen, a bigman in th e village of Sjuru, told Father Zegwaard an important myth that explained the reasons behind headhunting. There were two brothers. The senior was called Deso ipitsj (deso-wound; ipitsjman: man with wound) and the junior Bi wiripitsj (biwir or bewor many colored parrot: parrot man). Because of his physical condition the elder brother had always to stay indoors and the younger had to go out to support him. One day, returning from a hunting trip, Biwiripitsj brought home a pig. He cut off the head and thrust a dagger into the throat so that the point came out through the neck. The dagger was a sharpened cassowary thighbone. With the poi nt of the dagger Biwiripitsj pinned the head of the pig to the floor of the hut, which was covered with bark. The elder brother had been watching and after some ti me remarked: “Bah, a pig’s head is but a pig’s head. Why not replace it with a human head? That would be something, I think.” But the younger brother didn’t like the idea at all. “What are you talking about? Besides, where could I get a human head?” (The story presupposes that just the two brothers are around.) The older brother insisted, and proposed: “Well, you can have my head.” But the younger w ouldn’t hear of this and refused emphatically. However, Desoipitsj continued to argue and in the end succeeded in persuading his younger brother. Biwiripits j thereupon killed Desoipitsj with a spear, cut into the throat with a bamboo kni fe as far as he could, and pressed the head forward until the vertebrae of the neck cracked. He then removed the head from the body. The loose head, however, was able to speak and it gave instruction to Biwiripitsj, who obedi ently executed the orders given by it. (Zegwaard 1959, 1021) The myth continues with the head of Desoipitsj explaining to Biwiripitsj many ritual tasks such as the proper way to cu t his own body and distri bute the pieces. The head also instructs the correct way to greet a war party returning from a headhunting raid and the appropriate manner to carry out complex initiation rituals. The significance of the story is Desoipitsj’ s ability to continue to speak after his death. There can be no mistake that the charac ter is truly dead. The description of his decapitation is quite vivid, including the crack of the vertebrae. Such attention to detail is obviously intended to relate th e body of Desoipitsj that of an actual human. One could suggest that these are supern atural beings; however, no mention is made of any special powers except that Desoipitsj and Biwiripitsj are the only people. The myth suggests that

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66 the Bismam are familiar with the concept th at disembodied heads communicate with the living. While examining this myth, a few other points to note are listed as follows: Biwiripitsj is known as parrot man, a human he ad replaces a pig’s head, and a bamboo knife is used to decapitate the victim. The headhunter is metaphorically compared to animals that eat fruit including, parrots, cock atoos and wild boar. Men and women adorn themselves with cockatoo feathers in their hair. The wild boar’s tusks are used as a pendant or worn around the arm. Men wear the bipane shell nose ornament which can be read as pig tusks. The bamboo knife used to decapitate a victim is linked to the bamboo pendant worn by headhunters. The second myth, collected by Father Zegw aard, told the story of a head that provides instruction for headhunting activities. The myth is contained in a song sung at a festival for a new men’s house. Biwiripitsj (this name appears in many my thological stories) we nt with his wife and children to the river Fa it to pound sago. Near the mouth of the river he felled a palm that was in full flower…Biwiripitsj then called his son and ordered him to lie prostrate on the bare trunk of the tree. The boy did so. The father [according to some versions the mother] took a sago pounder and struck th e boy’s neck with force. The head, decorated with hair le ngthenings, was separated from the body and with a few jumps landed in a jimemmut tree, where it became entangled by the hair. Blood from the head trickled down the tr unk. The chin pointed upward and the hair lengthenings hung down. The father [or moth er] struck again and again with the pounder and smashed the body. Blood and flesh were entirely mixed with the pith of the sago palm, and the entrails spla shed high into the surrounding trees. When the mother began to work the pith, it prove d to be very easy to knead. She rejoiced and said: “Before it was very hard to knead sago and wri ng it out, now it’s extremely easy.” The son, however, was not completely dead, for the head began to talk. He taught his father the songs that have to be sung at the decapitation festivities: the songs on the way home from a raid, at the arriva l in the village, when shaking out the brains, and so on. (Zegwaard 1959, 1027 -1028) In both stories, the person’s decapitated h ead continues to converse with the living, giving instruction about tradi tions and rituals that need to be performed. Like the

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67 previous myth, this one illustrates the belief th at a decapitated head is an important tool for communicating with the dead an d explaining ritual practices. Communicative Function of Jipae Masks and Ancestor Skulls Every two to three years, the jipae masquerade invites the recently deceased to return to the village before they comp lete the final leg of the migration to safan (Zegwaard 1993, 33). The jipae masquerade consists of tw o types of mask, the clown mask and the spirit mask (Eyde 1967, 338). In Figure 13, the clown mask is on the left and the two spirit masks are on the right. The jipae masks represent the spirits of those who have died since the last masquerade. Deciding who would be represented by the mask is discussed at length in the men’s house (Zegwaard 1993, 33). Great quantities of food are provided for those who create the mask, those who wear the mask, the alte rnate wearers, and th e guests of the ceremony (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 220-221). Zegwaard reports that “…politics and rivalry between family groups plays an important ro le in these decisions” (Zegwaard 1993, 33). One can surmise that the tesumajipic of the yeu are the only ones who would have enough resources to provide the amounts of food necessary for the ceremony. Who would fund the ceremony may thus be a matter of prestige. Recently deceased bigmen and bigwomen are represented by the masks, but other recently deceased villagers who are not represented by a mask would be move d to migrate by the power of the ceremony (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 220-221). The first character to appear in the mas querade is referred to as the orphan boy mask. He is teased and harassed for a couple days within the villag e by all, especially young boys. The orphan boy mask appears fo r about two days during which the atmosphere of the masquerade is jovial and light (Zegwaard 1993, 39). As sunset

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68 approaches on the second day, the other characters called jipae appear at the edge of the forest (37). Even though these masks represent spirits of the dead, the mood of the ritual remains cheerful (40). The masks walk through the village with the villagers following. The group stops at each former home of th e deceased persons who are represented by the masks. The mask is greeted by living family members (38). The relatives briefly reenter a state of mourning, and the family members asked the spirit many questions about its welfare. They assure the deceased that although they are missed, they are no longer needed in the village because other people in the community have taken their places (3637). Finally, the family member gives th e spirit food, typically the sago larvae delicacy (38). After visiting the homes of the deceased, the group then moves to the yeu for dancing, mock battles and food exchanges (38) When the sun comes up, the masks walk back to the forest (38). The jipae masquerade allows the living to co mmunicate with its deceased relatives while in the ndamir realm just before the spirit crosses to safan The ndat spirit crosses over into safan and can then be called upon to add strength to a shield. The ndat spirit is also the protective force in the ancestor skull. Father Sowada states that the jipae visit, “…brings about the concomitant proof that ancestral assistance and powers will be continuously forthcoming” (Sowada 1990, 69). He does not state directly the role of the ancestor skull has in this “ancestral assistance and power.” One can logically a ssume that the ancestor skull, which is decorated to represent the ancestor and used as a protective device, al so functions like the jipae mask to reinforce to the living relative th at a particular dead relative who is in safan is ready to help. The closeness with whic h the skull is handled by the living and the

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69 portrait that reminds the view er of the individual suggests that the living could easily communicate with the dead through the adorned ancestor skull. Adornment of Jipae Mask and Ancestor Skull The jipae costume is made of twined rope created by the men in the yeu from a sacred bark used only for this purpose (Z egwaard, 1993, 34). The face and upper torso of the wearer are covered by the knitted fiber and a thick fringe of sago strips hang from the arms and the waist of the costume, giving it a flowing movement (34). Wooden pieces carved to resemble bird bills or shells are att ached to create the eyes of the mask (34-35). The decoration of the skull and mask share a few visual similarities. Like the ancestor skull, the mask was given a nose ornament. Compare the ancestor skull in Figure 2 and the jipae mask in Figure 64 and Figure 65. Comp are also, the nose ornament of the jipae mask in Figure 68 with nose ornament of th e ancestor skull in Figure 55. The jipae mask is adorned with white cockatoo feathers, and beaded netting conn ects the feathers to the stick. A similar combination of the seed s, netting and white cockatoo feathers are used for the ancestor skullÂ’s headdress as s een in Figure 67 when comparing the ancestor skull worn by the person on the left with the jipae mask standing next to him. The jipae mask is painted with alternating red and wh ite colors that follow ridges created by the knotted fibers. The same colors are found on th e ancestor skull in th e red and white seeds that fill the eye and nos e cavities (Figure 67). The jipae mask and the ancestor sku ll are both inhabited by the ndat ancestral spirit. The repeated use of materials, such as the nose ornament, white cockatoo feathers, red and white colors in the jipae and in the decorated skull suggests a similar manner for depicting the specific ndat ancestral spirit.

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70 Conclusion For the Bismam, adornment is a means through which the individual proclaimed his skills and status. Among th e living, dressing for a ceremonial occasion allowed one to wear a number of elements including many of the following: fiber ornaments, necklaces, nose ornaments, earrings, headdresses, and body paint. An ancestor’s skull was acquired when an individual from the community died of disease or old age. The skull assemblage is created by some of the same elements worn by the living Bismam such as a nose ornament s, earrings, and headdresses. The ancestor skull is a remnant of a particular individual and the individuality of the deceased is made evident in the skull construc tion through the personal and dist inctive ornaments used to define the skull. When dressing for ceremonial occasions, indi viduals wanted to dress in the mode of a headhunter, the most respected member of the community. Material that suggested headhunting included: cuscus fur, white cockat oo feathers, white hor nbill feathers, black cassowary feathers, spiral cut shell, boar bone, boar tusks, red color, black color, white color, bamboo plates, and human bone. The adorned ancestor skull is given to a family member and became his personal property. Social status is i ndicated by possessing the skul l because the “most important” relative keeps the skull. A male family memb er of the deceased is allowed to wear the decorated skull; female family members are not The way in which the ancestor skull is worn is an indicator of the prestige of the individual who owned it. Males of high status, or bigmen, are allowed to wear the skulls on their chests, while men of lower status are required to wear the sk ulls on their backs.

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71 In the past, shields physically protected the warrior who carried it from arrows, spears and daggers. However, the real power of the shield is revealed by its decoration which depicted relatives who have reached th e ancestral realm. These ancestors increase the effectiveness of the shield against both physical and spiritual enemies. The same is true for the power of the ancesto r skull. It is able to prot ect the wearer from spiritual enemies and represents a relative who has reac hed the ancestral realm. When used as a headrest, it is able to protect the slee per from the negative of effect of the ndamup spirit roaming around. An ancestor skull is hung in the family home or stored in the rafters and is able to protect the home from malicious spiritual enemie s who might enter the family abode. The bipane designs carved on the shield and the bipane nose ornament on the ancestor skull symbolically represent the headhunter and imbue the object with even greater power. Ancestor skulls were purpos ely decorated to resemble headhunters. The ancestor skull incorporated a headdress of beads and shells with ty pically white feathers, a nose ornament of shell or bone, and from the colo r palette of body paint, red and white beads. While headhunters were considered the mo st highly regarded living members of the community, dead headhunters were consid ered the most powerful and influential ancestors in the spirit world. Personal or naments used to define the ancestor skull assemblage served to create a portrait of an individual, the patterns of the decorations as well as the power associated with those objects created a symbolic portrait of ‘headhunter’ as well. Finally, the skull is a means to communicate with the ancestor realm. The skull is a physical embodiment of the ndat ancestral spirit as is the jipae mask during the

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72 ceremonial masquerade. Like the appearance of jipae masks, the sight of the ancestor skull assemblage reassures the owner that a relative is in th e ancestral realm and could be counted on for protection and assistance at any time. Furthermore, the way the jipae mask is decorated is similar to the way the ances tor skull is decorated with a nose ornament, white cockatoo feathers, red co lors and white colors. This similarity of adornment indicates a pattern for depicting the ndat ancestral spirit. Furthermore, the ancestor skull as a representative of one ancestral spirit ma y have also served to remind the viewer of the entire realm of the ancestors. Therefore, an adorned ancestor skull sym bolically and simultaneously represented a particular individual, a h eadhunter, and an ancestor.

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73 CHAPTER 4 TROPHY SKULLS This chapter examines the adorned and displayed trophy skull. Trophy skulls were the remains of enemies that had been killed in headhunting raids, butchered, and cleaned. As seen in Figure 68, these skulls are identified by the hole in the side of the skull where the brains were removed. Headhunting is no longer practiced by the Bismam; therefore, this analysis examines the role these objects ha d in the past. The rituals described in this section are practiced today but in an alte red state conforming to the demands of the Indonesian government and the c onversion to Christianity. This chapter begins with an explanation of revenge, one type of reciprocity. To understand how the trophy skull is obtained, the actual headhunting raid is briefly reviewed along with the processing of the corpse to produce the trophy skull and other trophies. Once the trophy skull was acquired, it became part of one or more visual configurations. The first assemblage of trophy skulls discu ssed is directly linke d to revenge and the headhunting raid. The bis ritual, a ceremony to honor the recently deceased, displayed trophy skulls attached to a bis pole. This display was a visu al statement that revenge had been achieved. The second section looks briefl y at Bismam ideas of grow th and health. The section reviews the initiation ri tual that is believed to stimu late growth in young boys changing them into adults. The decoration of the initiate is examined especially as it relates to the adornment of men, women, and headhunters. Ne xt a brief note about the adornment of

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74 the trophy skull is analyzed comp aring it with the adornment of an ancestor skull. Finally, I review the display of the a dorned trophy skull in the initiati on ritual. In th is ritual, the adornment of the trophy skull makes a visual st atement of individuality that enhances the ritual function of the skull. The display of the adorned skul l reminds the viewer of the adult role the initiate will be assuming. The last section looks at the assemb lage of trophy skulls known as a kus fe This section will first examine the most prestigi ous member of the Bismam community, the tesumajipic This individual has a great deal of power and prestige within the communityÂ’s social structure. The kus fe is displayed in two bu ildings-the menÂ’s house and the family home-and, it can be displa yed in different locations in each these buildings. Each place that it is displayed allo ws the assemblage to be viewed by different members of the community. The kus fe is a visual statement of its ownerÂ’s skills as a warrior and his social status. Reciprocity and Revenge In anthropological terms, reciprocity is the mutual exchange of goods between parties who are related by family or w ho live in the same community (Bohannan 1992, 125). This definition is applicable to many social activities in the Bismam community. Mutual exchanges of food, sago and fish, are a common forms of reciprocity. Giving food, especially sago, is a way to express fr iendship, and the mutu al giving of food establishes and reinforces bonds of friendshi p and family. For the Bismam, gift-giving obligates the receiver to the giver until a gi ft or service of equal value is given back (Sowada 1961, 50). The Bismam believe that eq uivalence creates compatibility (Sowada 1990, 69).

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75 Marriage is also a form of reciprocity be tween families, especially if each family has a daughter to “give away” (Fleischhacker 1991, 6). An as sortment of pre-negotiated goods, or bride-wealth, is exchanged if an equivalent daughter is not available. Papisj or wife exchange is also a form of reciprocit y between two men. This exchange cements the men’s relationship and encourages partnershi p in endeavors such as warfare. Even pregnancy is seen as an exchange of spirit forces between the realm of the living and that of the ancestors (Fleischhacker 1991, 6). In the past, reciprocity was also evid ent in “blood-wealth exchange.” This exchange occurred between members of the same yeu between yeus in the same village and sometimes between closely related vi llages (Sowada 1961, 54-55). Eyde told the story of a non-lethal dispute and subsequent exchange that occurred in the village of Amanamkai where there were three men’s houses (Eyde 1967, 325). Tiwankasci trespassed onto territory that belonged to Macamos’ extended family and was fishing there when Macamos discovered him (325). Ma camos was so enraged by this violation that he took his digging s tick and hit Tiwankasci on the forehead, causing excessive bleeding (325). When the two men returned to the village, the men of Tiwankasci’s yeu gathered up arms and proceeded to the yeu of Macamos’ group. A brawl broke out between the two groups, and eventually lead ers from both men’s houses met in a third men’s house that was neutral in the altercation (325) After deliberations, a payment of a “…stone axe, a bone dagger, a bundle of ca ssowary feathers, a bundle of arrows, and a lance” was agreed upon to compensate Tiwankasc i for his loss of blood (328). The initial offense of trespassing was considered in this payment, but shedding blood was the more grievous offense; therefore, Macamos had to pay (332).

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76 Altercations such as that described above were commonplace among the Bismam (332). Family members and yeu members resorted to means ranging from wrestling to battle to settle such disputes, and people not as well connected often threatened each other with weapons and exchanged blows with digging sticks or palm fronds (332). Once calm was established, food exchanges often resolved the dispute and returned the relationships to more cordial terms (332). If the fight became so intense that someone was killed, then the person responsible for the death and his family had to compen sate the victim’s family (Sowada 1961, 53-54). The killer could not approach the grieving fam ily for fear of revenge, so members of his yeu arranged the terms of the gi ft exchange and arranged a gift-giving ceremony (54). In this exchange, the killer remained concealed within the men’s house. He handed goods over to members of his own family who were inside the yeu and they in turn passed the gifts of “…sago, spears, shells dogs teeth, paddles, etc…” to the victim’s family, who waited outside the yeu (54-55). As a final gesture of good will, the grieving family adopted a member of the offender’s yeu and addressed him by the name of the deceased (55). In this larger system of reciprocity, h eadhunting was an exchange that usually took place between villages that were not clos ely related. Ideally, headhunters would only seek the number of victims equal to those th ey themselves had lost when they had been victimized; headhunting was deemed necessary to maintain ideal balance within the cosmos (Fleischhacker 1991, 6). In spite of the ideal of balance, Eyde reported on one occasion that the village of Amanamkai collec ted twenty heads in revenge for the death of one of its members (Eyde 1967, 77). Furthe rmore, Eyde noted th at, the village of

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77 Amanamkai had been able to weaken its opponents by repeatedly attacking small groups as they gathered sago or fished (82). A fe w large headhunting raids against the weakened villages insured that they would dismantle and move, thus allowing Amanamkai to claim their sago and fishing territories (82). Feelings of revenge motivate the spirit co mmunity as well as the living community. Bismam cosmology maintains that when someone dies, their ndat spirit remains in the intermediate plane known as ndamir a limbo realm, until their death are properly remembered through ritual or, in the past, revenge (Fleishchaker 1991, 12). Furthermore, the Bismam consider any death except that of the very young or the very old to be caused by malevolent actions of an enemy, either th rough physical aggression, such as warfare, or through the supernatural manipulation of a personÂ’s lifeforce (Smidt 1993, 19). Common illnesses such as malaria, pneumoni a, infections and parasites cause many deaths, and even these are suspected of bei ng the result of black magic (Fleischhacker 1991, 12). The spirits of individuals who died from decapitation were believed to be especially dangerous (Zegwaard 1959, 1029). In ndamir these spirits could be harmful to the living, but once established in safan they, like other recently deceased spirits, were considered helpful to the living community. Ev ery effort was thus made to seek revenge so that the spirit of the d ecapitated could migrate into safan The Bismam believed that all spirits desire to move to safan because from there they can be reborn. The living also want the ancestral sprit to move to safan because from that vantage they can be persuaded to inhabit many items, thus causing the item to improve its function or become protective.

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78 Headhunting Raid Headhunting raids were orchestrated even ts that accompanied larger ceremonies, including the completion of a men’s house, the bis ritual and the initiation ritual (Zegwaard 1959, 1028). Because of the time, re sources and people necessary for a large raid, they seldom occurred (1032). Planned raids involved at least one yeu but more frequently all the yeus of the village w ould be involved (Eyde 1967, 276). Some villages were able to form a pact with a neighbori ng village to conduct a raid together (280). The pact also kept the two villages from pr eying upon one another (280). However, the Bismam often took advantage of unexpected oppor tunities such as a lo st stranger or even a welcomed guest (Zegwaard 1959, 1032). Lying in wait for a victim who was gathering sago or fishing was a favored mean s to acquire a head (Eyde 1967, 71). Before a headhunting raid, the enemies’ life forces were attacked with black magic during the eram asan ceremony, which was designed to assault the ndamup lifeforce of the enemy (Zegwaard 1959, 1030). A “magical” pole was smeared with a secret substance known only to the specialist perf orming the ceremony (1030). A leader of the men’s house dipped the pole into a fire causi ng the substance to smoke and to emit an intense smell (1030). The smell wa s designed to lure the enemy’s ndamup from his sleeping body. If the spirit “ate the smell” the living person would die or be easier to kill in battle (1030). Another pre-headhunting raid ceremony was the fo mbufum in which men who have vowed revenge rowed a canoe near a village upon whom a revenge raid had been planned (1031). They fed the ndat of the ancestor who demanded revenge by dropping food in the river (1031). Then, they unveiled the canoe’s new prow which

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79 commemorated the dead relative (1031). This ritual was a warning to the enemy village that a revenge raid would soon happen (1031). A planned raid was begun before dawn w ith several canoes quiet ly gliding toward the pre-selected village. Each family group that had a fireplace within the yeu rode in the same canoe together (Eyde 1967, 276). As the canoes maneuvered up the river they maintained the same organizationa l groupings that they had in the yeu ; therefore, upstream and downstream halves of the yeu rode next to each othe r in the canoes (277). Once the warriors were as close as possible wi thout being seen, they left their canoes and continued on foot surrounding the village (Zegwaard 1959, 1035). Th e battle position of an individual warrior was based on his age a nd experience (1035). Older men were the advisors, middle-aged men served as the bow men, and young men became the infantry (1035). The attack began with a bamboo horn blast and a shouting ex change designed to panic the sleeping village (1035). Startled by the commotion, the frightened villagers ran out of their houses (1035). Archers fired upon the fleeing people driving them toward the foot soldiers, who stood ready to kill or overpower their vict ims (1035). Women and children attempted to escape via the j ungle or river with limited success (1036). Sometimes the attackers captured women and ch ildren to add to their own families, but they were also hunted (1036). The element of surprise was fleeting so that, while men of the village could run away, many stood thei r ground (1036). The raiders had a limited advantage because most of the fighting was hand to hand combat with shields, spears, and daggers (1036). For the young men, a kill was a means to estab lish themselves as headhunters and to claim the rewards of that title (1036). They competed with the more experienced warriors who wanted a kill to incr ease their prestige (1036). If the battle was

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80 heated the victim was killed immediately a nd the head was remove d (1036). The end of the battle was signaled with another blow from the bamboo horn (1036). If time and circumstances allowed, the vict im was beaten, with the head receiving the most abuse (1036). The victim was not considered a person but a head. Zegwaard reported that the victor proclaimed, “My h ead, my head won in a raid” (1036). If the victim’s name was unknown to the raiders, in timidation and beating were used to learn the name, which was vital for future initia tion ceremonies (1036). However, because of the close proximity of villages, trading, vi siting and even marriages took place across village boundaries. Thus, the name of the victim may well have been known to the raiders (Eyde 1967, 75). The captive’s arms we re bound to a long pole placed across his chest, and he was placed in a canoe (Zegwaar d 1959, 1036). At sacred points in the river, such as at bends or at the junction of two st reams, the victims were killed and beheaded (1036). Zegwaard reported that “The beheading is done by persons with special skill for it…” (1037). Eyde noted that “The beheaders of the victims are sometimes the wives of the headhunters. This is one way in which a great warrior, tesumajipic enables his wife also to become tesumaj great” (Edye 1967, 74). If the body was to be used in the initiation ceremony, then some of the victim ’s blood was gathered in a shell (Zegwaard 1959, 1023). The hunters left a personal item of the victim’s such as a necklace, skirt, hair or body part, so that the victim’s fam ily would discover the fa te of their loved one (1036-1037). Father Zegwaard witnessed one of these personal items: “On one occasion I saw a sign composed of an arrowpoint, a red fruit, and some hair of the victim” (1037). He also noted one example where the victim ’s intestine was hung acr oss the river (1037).

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81 On the journey back to their own village, the headhunters sang a ritual song (1022). As they neared the village, the raiders blew the bamboo horn to announce their victory. In a prescribed dialogue, the villagers asked the raiders if they had succeeded. After a positive response, which included the victimÂ’s name, the women, who were dressed in ceremonial attire, began da ncing and singing (1022). Cannibalism Once at the village, the victimÂ’s body wa s ritually butchered as prescribed by mythology. Father Zegwaard collected a very de tailed description of the butchering of a human within the context of a myth. To begin with, the head of Desoipitsj taught Biwiripitsj the tec hnique of butchering ( nao ). He was told to make a deep cut with a bamboo knife from the anus to the neck in such manner that the cut went through one side of th e trunk to the armpit and from there went by the collar bone to the throat. He was instructed to make a similar cut on the other side, but now from top to bottom. Through these openings he had to break the ribs with a sharpened palmwood stick ( om ) or with a stone ax ( si ). Then he put his hand underneath the chest, which could now be lifted easily and put aside. Arms and legs were first l oosened, then cut off. Now Biwiripitsj took the entrails as in a bundle and removed them from the backbone with a vigorous jerk. Only the backside remained. The vari ous parts, including the entrails, were placed in the fire and roasted. The upper part of the body and the arms were at once ready for consumption, but the lower part a nd the thighs had to be mixed with sago (a starch prepared from the pith of the sago palm) which had to be made in the form of long sticks, whereupon thes e too could be eaten. (1021) Father Zegwaard noted that his informan t, Warsekomen, mixed the mythological elements with the realistic elements. This detailed description of the butchering seems to reinforce the realism of cannibalism. It was evident from this description that almost every part of the victim was used. Eyeballs and genitals, considered inedible, were ritually disposed of (1024). However, most of the body was edible and the flesh was distributed to the community (1027). The fa mily and friends of the warrior who had

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82 defeated the victim received the best portions ; yet, taboos prevented the warrior himself from eating the victim’s flesh (Schneebaum 1990, 53). Kathleen Van Arsdale noted that the vi ctim’s personality was believed to be contained in his flesh and these character istics were considered transferred through consumption (Arsdale, K. 1978, 46). Smidt stated that the victim’s power was contained in the brains (Smidt 1993, 20). Zegwaard noted that the head contained “germinative power” that was transferable to human s and sago palms (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). The lifeforces, yuwus ndamup and ndat although not explicitly stated by these scholars as being consumed, are the forces that animat e the human, giving them personality, power and fertility. Zegwaard stated that cannibalism was not the goal of the headhunting raid but merely one part of the event (1020). However, the protein value of human meat could be a factor, as Peter Van Arsdale pointed out, “…that despite non-nutritional intents it constituted a significant dietary co ntribution” (Arsdale, P. 1978, 50). He goes on to say that human meat was nutritionally si milar to pig meat (50). He also theorized that when headhunting was at it peak during and after World War II; it was possible for a group of one hundred to consume five to ten victims per year, provi ding most of their protein needs (50). The victim’s flesh was t hus both nutritionally a nd spiritually rich. The Use of Skeletal Remains The femur, mandible, vertebrae and skull of the victim were saved as well and became trophies. Dogs were given the ot her bones (Zegwaard 1959, 1027). Cassowary femur bones, crocodile jaw bones and human thigh bones were used to make daggers. Cassowary daggers were the most common, but crocodile bone daggers and the human femur were the most valued of these bone t ools, and only headhunters had the privilege to own these daggers (Eyde 1967, 70). The h ead and upper portion of the femur was

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83 reduced to a sharpened point with barbs and liner designs while the condyles of the femur were covered with a fiber net ( Figure 69 ). Strings of coix and abrus seeds with attachments of cassowary feathers were anch ored to the net creati ng an ornate object. Daggers were worn in a braide d rattan arm band as part of the attire of a headhunter (Figure 36 and Figure 43) (Zegwaard 1959, 1023). Disp lay of the weapon made a public statement of the hunter’s status. In the process of preparing the trophy s kull, the mandible was “thrown outside” (1024). Boys or women, who had participated in the initiation ritual often salvaged the mandible to use as the pendant of a neckla ce (1024). In Figure 70, the mandibles are attached to cassowary quills with fiber. For the wearer, this display may be a statement to the community of vicariously achieved status. For the headhunter, who made the kill, it may be a statement of his ability to attr act followers, emphasizing his own prestige. The atlas vertebra was also used as a pendant, typically worn by the headhunter himself. The necklace in Figure 71 was made from the atlas vertebra of the victim and decorated with coix seeds, abrus seeds, sma ll shells and quills. In this case, the wearing of this trophy was a public statement of the headhunter’s prowess. The Use of the Parts of the Head As the most highly prized trophy, the head of the victim was removed from the body and taken to the men’s house for processi ng. In a continuation of the headhunting myth of Biwiripitsj and Desoipitsj, the treatmen t of the skull for use in the initiation ritual was explained. In the evening the head should be roaste d; during the night it should be kept on some sort of loft; and in the morning it should be scalped…The treating of the head of the victim was again to be the function of the mother’s oldest brother. The next morning the head was to be taken down fr om the loft and the nose-skin was to be taken off first. The jaws had to be remove d. The brothers of the initiate’s mother

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84 worked in turns according to their age. While cutting and carving they would comment on the victim’s past action; for example, while taking the skin off the mouth one would say: “Yesterday this mouth ate fish on the bank of the river; today it is dead.” (Zegwaard 1959, 1023-1024) The nose skin and part of the upper lip of the victim was stretched over a bamboo plate. The ornament was used in the initi ation ceremony (1023). The skull was roasted again and then it was struck on the parietal pl ate with a star-shaped stone axe; Figure 68 clearly shows the hole left from the axe (1024) The brains were removed and placed in a sacred container made of sago palm leaves (1024). The brains were mixed with sago and eaten by older men of the village at a special midnight ritual (1024). After the brains were removed, the trophy skull was prepared in two ways, either becoming part of an assemblage, or if the headhunting raid was part of the initiation ritu al, being decorated. Bis Ritual In spite of the fact that the Bismam no longer conduct revenge headhunts for the ancestors, they still perform the bis ritual to honor the ance stors. After a death, the deceased’s family begins the process of accumulating resources and bigmen begin the intensive planning of a bis festival cycle, a process that takes years. More than one person is remembered in the bis ritual and families combine their resources to host the event. There are two types of poles: one used for the bis ritual and one used as support for the men’s house ( Figure 72 and Figure 73) (Kuruwaip 1982, 13). For the ritual, several poles are made (Schneebaum 1990, 42). For the construction of a new yeu a minimum of four poles are made for the central fireplace but as many as twenty are possible for all the fireplaces (Rockefeller 1967, 37). Bis poles used for the ritual are twenty-five to thirtyfive feet high (Sowada 1961, 47).

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85 When the bis ceremony draws near, a hunting party goes into the forest and selects the best mangrove trees (Schneebaum 1990, 42) The mangrove tree is characterized by the plank roots that flare out at the base of the tree. The fora y into the forest is conducted in a similar manner to a headhunting raid with the warriors in cerem onial dress stalking and attacking the trees (Smidt 1993, 23). The mangr ove tree has red sap so that as the tree is cut it seems to bleed, heightening the metaphor between man and tree (Rockefeller 1967, 34). As the tree is chopped down, one of th e planks is retained. When the warriors return to the community, they are greeted w ith the same ritual gr eeting and bamboo horn blowing used for a successful headhunting raid (Smidt 1993, 23). Next, the logs are taken to the cleari ng in front of the yeu where carvers commissioned by the organizers of the bis ritual begin roughing out images and designs (Smidt 1993, 23). The pole is carved upside down with the plank projection at the top of the pole. Once the major forms are carved, the poles are moved to a special room in the yeu where the carving is refined (Rockefeller 1967, 34). During this time, the carvers are fed by the family who sponsored the pole (Sowada 1961, 48). Relativ es of the decease designate a brother-in-law to assist the carver (Eyde 1967, 201). He is responsible for removing woodchips, coating the pole with li me to keep it from drying too quickly, covering the pole at night with palm fronds a nd guarding the pole at all times (201). Poles take several weeks to ca rve (Rockefeller 1967, 34). The pole has three main parts the top is the projection, the middle has large stacked figures, and the bottom usually has a canoe form. The plank root of the mangrove becomes a projection, known as the penis or tjemen of the pole (Figure 72 ). It is carved in an openwork style. Designs carved into the po les especially in the projection are related

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86 to headhunting symbols such as th e hornbill, cuscus, praying mantis, bipane nose shell, and head of cockatoo (Schneebaum 1990, 42). Th e large stacked figures in the middle of the pole represent the recently deceased rela tives who are to be commemorated in the ritual (Schneebaum 1990, 42). According to Eyde, these figures represent a couple who are the parents or grandpar ents of the person sponsori ng the pole (Eyde 1967, 201). At the bottom of the pole a miniature ca noe is often carved, known as the jifoj It symbolized the soulÂ’s journey ac ross the sea toward safan (347). The pole shown in Figure 72 was collected in 1961 from the village of Otsjanep on the Casuarina Coast. At the tip of the projecti on of the pole, an ancestor figure is depicted in a seated position. In the openwork of the pr ojection another figure sits below the figure at the top of the projection in a seated position facing the opposite direction. The s-shape representing the cuscus tail can be seen in the tjemen of the pole in Figure 72 and is repeated several times. This bis pole has two stacked male fi gures, but the relationship of the figures to the sponsor of the pole was not documented. Both figures have marks on the arms and legs that may represent scarif ication or body paint. The middle figure holds a triton shell, an ornament reserved for bigm en. A canoe with two small figures occupies the bottom portion of the pole. At the base of the canoe, arms and legs of a figure are depicted in low relief on the side. The head of the canoe figure sticks out three dimensionally serving as the stern of the canoe. The bis pole in the row of bis poles shown Figure 73 was photographed in the interior of a menÂ’s house in Amanamkai in 1961. In the tjeman of the pole repeated hornbill beaks are easily identified by the beak ridges along the base of the projection. Several cuscus s-shapes are also found in the openwork of this projection. The figures on

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87 this pole represent an ancestral couple as Eyde suggested. The top figure is Bwarim and below him is his wife Seji. The pole was car ved by Matjemos and used for the central fireplace of the yeu Amman. The bis pole in Figure 5 was collected in 1922, and no documentation was recorded about who the figures represented, who carve d the pole or where th e pole was displayed. In the openwork projection of the pole, one can see a two dimensional figure at the base of the projection. The tjeman of this pole is broken at the top. The main body of the pole features one large figure with three subsidiary figures. One subsidiary figure in at the main figureÂ’s feet, one is at itsÂ’ abdome n in and upside down position and one is on the main figureÂ’s head. Typically the head of a st acked figure is carved on the top of the main part of the pole, but in this cas e a birdÂ’s head is carved at th e top of the pole. The base of this pole has been altered from its original form. For the bis ritual, when the carving is completed, the poles are erected in the clearing in front of the yeu and the actual ceremony began with drumming, mock battles, dancing, singing and feasting (Smidt 1993, 25) In the central Asmat region, poles are displayed vertically on scaffolding, but along th e coast, poles are pl aced at an angle on scaffolding. This difference can be seen when comparing the poles displayed in Figure 74 with those displayed in Figure 75. In either case, the projection of the pole is supposed to point toward, safan (Gerbrands 1967, 25). If the poles are carved for th e interior of the menÂ’s house, they are placed vertically with the tjemen supporting a horizontal post (146). Sometimes interior bis poles are used in a more symbolic function and placed next to supporting post (146).

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88 In the past, the end of the bis festival was followed by a headhunting raid on the offending community (Schneebaum 1990, 44). If successful, trophy heads were brought back. Eyde reported that, “… the head was carried to the small wooden “canoe,” jifoj at the base of the mis [ bis ] pole before it was taken to th e central fireplace to be pinned down with a bone dagger” (Eyde 1967, 347). Part of the corpse or the entire corpse, depending on the size of the canoe, was te mporarily placed in the canoe (Eyde 1967, 347). Then, the body was butchered and parceled out to the guests of the ritual and the members of the yeu. The victim’s blood was sp read on the canoe and fat was rubbed into the pole. The placement of the flesh in the canoe, allowed the ndat ancestral spirits of the pole, to take this “food” with them into safan (Eyde 1967, 347). Bis Display In Figure 5 a bis pole with skulls attached serv es as documentation that trophy skulls were publicly displayed in the bis ritual. This pole is twelve feet five inches high and was collected in 1922 by Paul Wirz, two decades before any permanent contact was established between Europeans and the Bismam (Kaeppler, Kaufmann and Newton 1997, 513). Whether this pole was part of a bis ritual or from the interior of a yeu was not documented. Although one cannot see the holes on the sides of these skulls, they can be identified as trophy skulls because the ma ndibles are not attached to them. The bis pole serves as a focal point of co mmunication between the living and dead (Smidt 1993, 25). Once placed in front of the yeu it is a public pledge to deceased members of the village that they are not for gotten and, in the past that their death would soon be avenged (25). It can be surmised that the purpose of di splaying a trophy skull on a bis pole was to show the ndat spirit that revenge had been carried out in its honor and this in turn would placate th e spirit and begin to establis h a positive dialogue between the

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89 living and the dead. Thus, the skulls on the bis pole were a symbol of debts paid and implied future prosperity. The idea that human heads are equivalent to tree fruit is based on the creation myth in which Fumeripitsj carved human figur es from wood and brought them to life by drumming. This idea is stretched into a meta phor equating human body pa rts to tree parts. The most important aspect of this metaphor is that the human head is equivalent to the fruit. Therefore, the trophy skulls are unders tood to be “human fruit.” The assemblage created by purposefully attach ing the skulls to the projec tion suggests a tree with fruit hanging from a branch. This is easily seen when comparing hanging skulls in Figure 5 and the hanging coconuts in Figure 17 and hanging jack fruit in Figure 19. More than one figure would be included on the pole and more than one pole would be carved. Each figure carved on the pole repr esents a named ancestor; thus, infusing the pole with multiple ndats making it more powerful. The pole in Figure 5 has five ancestor figures, that in Figure 72 has seven figures, and that in Figure 73 has two ancestor figures. To have an ancestor represented on a pole is an honor, and accumulating enough wealth to feed the carver and ritual pa rticipants is prestig ious (Sowada 1961, 48). Therefore, for the owner of the pole, the bis pole is a statement of their honorable lineage and their status w ithin the community. A successful headhunting raid was a show of the unity, resources and power of the yeu As a product of the raid the trophy sku ll also represented the strength of the yeu to organize and execute the headhunting raid as well as the strength of the warriors who acquired the skulls. Together the assemblage of trophy skulls and the multiple figures on

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90 the bis poles proclaimed the power of the living community and the power of the ancestor community. The placement of the bis pole in the public courtyard al lowed this assemblage to be seen by the members of the yeu members of the village, guests from other villages, anyone passing by on the river, and those in the ancestral realm. These viewers would have immediately understood all the visual stat ements made by this assemblage of skulls and pole. The placement of this assemblage within the yeu would still have allowed the pole and skulls to be glimpsed by these same groups of viewers because the doors to the yeu remained open in the daylight. However, it would have been a more blatant visual statement to the members of the yeu guests of the yeu and the ancestors that inhabit the yeu Growth In the early 1950s when Father Zegwaard was working with the Bismam, he found a high rate of infant mortality, two out of three children died within the first year of life (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). Naming a child after an an cestor helped to infuse the child with the ndat of the ancestor, giving the child more poten tial for a healthy full life. In the past, the Bismam believed that trophy skulls w ould also make their children, “strong and healthy” (1039). In the days of headhunting, the Bismam be lieved that trophy skulls would stimulate growth in sago stands (1039). The sago palm play ed a vital role in the diet of the Bismam and the thinning of sago stands was cause for serious concern. This depletion was interpreted as the malevolent action of a recentl y deceased spirit or the loss of lifeforce of the area where the trees grow. To correct th e situation, a headhunting raid was conducted to placate the spirit or to revive the li feforce. Father Zegwaard reported seeing

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91 “…decapitated heads hanging…” in fields wh ere bananas, coconuts and sugar cane were growing; yet, he does not me ntion a configuration (1039). Bis poles were known to be taken to the sago stands after use, possi bly with skulls still attached (1039). In the past, the initiation ritual, require d an adorned trophy skull to be used to stimulate growth in a young boy insuring his hea lth, maturity and fertility. The belief that trophy skulls made children strong and healthy and stimulate the growth of sago stands was seen as another impetus for the Bismam to headhunt. The metaphor of humans to trees was also part of the Bismam beliefs a bout the initiation ritual as Father Zegwaard explains, As the fruit contains the germinative pow er, for the Asmat observe time and again how a new sago palm grows form a falle n fruit, and as the human head is associated with fruit, the Asmat expect that the germinative power of the head (fruit) will be transferred to the boy’s gen itals by the ritual of placing it between the legs, and thus that it enable s him to reproduce. (1039) The forces that stimulate growth in the sa go field and in boys were the lifeforces of yuwus ndamup and the ancestral force, ndat These elements animated the living person and gave him skills and personality. Like the ancestor skull, the trophy skull was believed to be a repository of an individual’s lifefor ces. When the person died, these forces were believed to be transferable. The initiation ri tual facilitated this transference from the victim’s skull to the boy being initiated. Initiation Ritual After a headhunting raid was conducted, th e trophy skull became an integral part of the initiation ceremony in which a boy becam e an adult in Bismam society (Zegwaard 1959, 1022). This ritual required not only a deco rated trophy skull but also the name of the victim (1027). The transference of the victim’s lifeforce to the initiate occurred during the ritual through direct c ontact with the trophy skull (1039).

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92 The warrior who acquired the skull gave it to a young male re lative-son, nephew or cousin-who was ready for initiation (1026). On rare occasions a skull was given to an older man or woman (1026). The boy’s oldest maternal uncle was responsible for the process of preparing the skull and for prepari ng the initiate (1022). Upon returning from a successful headhunting raid, th e corpse was processed as described in the preceding section. The boy’s uncle went to the river with the head of the co rpse and dunked it into the river, while the villagers sang and play ed the bamboo horn (1022) The uncle took the head into the men’s house and plac ed it near a fire to dry (1022). The next part of the ceremony required that the initiate take a “magical mat” to the canoe in which the victim’s body had been tran sported and to pretend to journey back to the victim’s village (1022). To end the act, wa ter was splashed on his head and he went to the men’s house (1022). Inside the yeu, the init iate sat in a ritual pose with his head down. He ignored all the activities around him an d stayed in the position for several days while the head was being processed (1022). At this point, if someone addressed the initiate, they used his nao jus or decapitation name that had been coerced from the victim before he was beheaded. Father Zegwaard re marked that “Now and then the bystanders tried to upset him, but he sat tight. In this way he was to ma ke clear that he was going to be a determined, fearless warrior” (1022). In the afternoon or evening after the raid, the uncle t ook the head from its position next to the fire and placed it in the fire to burn the hair, creating an ash, which he combined with the blood of the victim that ha d been gathered in a clam shell at the time of the death (1023). This substance was rubbe d on the initiate’s h ead, shoulders and body (1023). Next, the initiate was dre ssed in ceremonial attire. A special piece of skin from

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93 the victim’s head was stretched over the bam boo plate and this was gi ven to the initiate. In this part of the initiation ceremony, the in itiate was given the victim’s name. At the same time, he was rubbed with the mixture of burnt hair and blood and was adorned in the manner of a headhunter. All of these elements helped to transfer the victim’s lifeforce to the young boy (1023). Father Zegwaar d described this ceremony in detail: … the whole body of Desoipitsj junior wa s painted with red ochre. Alternating black and white stripes were painted on the fa ce with wet ash and chalk. The hair of the initiate was lengthened with sago-leaf fi bers, made in curls; a piece of motherof-pearl had to hang on his forehead; on the back of the head were placed two big tassels of cassowary feathe rs; in the septum was placed a beautiful open-work swine-bone or wooden nosepin, decorated wi th beads or Job’s tears; around the arms, wrists, calves of the legs, and the ankles, belts of finely split rattan were attached, and in one arm-belt was placed a carved human bone or a cassowary bone [dagger]; across the chest and the shou lders was put a crossed band; on the abdomen a triton shell; around the hips a sago leaf-fiber apron [otherwise exclusively worn by married women]; and on the back the bamboo plate or owam (1023) At this point, the skull was further clean ed, and the brains we re consumed in an evening ritual (1024). The skull was then d ecorated and placed be tween the initiate’s legs. The decoration was described by Father Zegwaard, Thereupon the skull was painted with ash, oc hre and chalk, and then decorated with tassels of cassowary feathers, beads, and so forth. The nose was filled with resin, and a net was drawn over the whole head to facilitate attach ing the ornaments. (1024) The young boy continued in the “pose of one who is ashamed” for two or three days, while the skull remained between his legs (1024). The initiate stared intensely at the skull during these few days (1024). The next stage of the initiation required th at boy’s family to fully adorn themselves, the initiate, and the skull. Then, the party went on a journey toward th e sea in a canoe that was also freshly decorated (1024). The boy stood in the canoe with the skull and his relatives around him (1024). The other villagers sang with drum accompaniment as they

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94 rowed toward the horizon (1024). In the canoe, the initiate pretended to be an old man slowly losing his strength and life force (1025). Eventually, he prete nded to collapse as though dead (1025). Then, his maternal uncle scooped him and the decorated skull up and dipped them into the water (1025). Back in th e canoe, all of the ini tiate’s adornment was removed and the party turned to go home (1025). His ornaments were placed in the “magic mat” and the trophy skull was given to a female (1025). She had received permission to wear the skull during the ritual from the headhunter who killed the victim (1025). The singing continued on the journey b ack to the village (1025). As the journey continued the initiate prete nded to slowly change from a newborn to a young child, eventually to an adult. During this jour ney, he was addressed several times by his nao jus or decapitation name and he replied by bl owing on a bamboo horn (1025). Once back at the village he was dressed in ceremonial at tire again and his bamboo plates were hung across his chest indicating that he was a full grown adult (1025). The next stage of the ceremony occurred onl y a “few days” later (1025). In this stage, the initiate, the woman to whom he ha d given the trophy skull, his family and the villagers went to the forest to gather sa go (1025). The uncles of the initiate cut down a sago palm (1025). As the villagers sang, the initiate and the woman took turns swinging the sago pounder pretending to chop through a sa go leaf ring constructed by the uncles (1025). In Father Zegwaard’s description, it was unclear whether the woman was wearing or carrying the trophy skull. Next, everyone in the party went to gather sago and the woman and the initiate exchanged sago with each other (1025). At end of this stage of the cycle, the initiate was, again, dr essed in ceremonia l attire (1026).

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95 The initiation ceremony continued with a ni ght of dancing to drums in the menÂ’s house (1026). In the morning, everyone plaite d their hair with sa go strips (1026). The initiate was again dressed in ceremonial atti re, and the trophy sku ll was also decorated (1026). The trophy skull was then hung in the middle of the yeu and stayed there until the next evening, when the final stage of the initiation ceremony took place (1026). Father Zegwaard described the last pa rt of this ceremony. He states: At night a fire was built in front of the house, and singe rs and dancers sat in groups in solemn silence. The initiate came out of the bachelorsÂ’ house, carrying the magic mat under his arms and in his hand the richly decorated skull. The men carried shields which they moved up and down, toward them and away from them, while a song was intoned; the dance began and th e initiate joined th e men, swinging the skull. The songs which were sung during th e preparation of the head and during the sago pounding were repeated. (1026) This dance lasted until dawn and marked the end of the init iation ceremony (1026). Adornment of the Initiate Several instances of adornment and displa y were involved in th e initiation ritual. The initiate himself was adorned and displa yed, and the trophy sku ll was decorated and displayed. The initiate was decorated when given his headhunting name, for the journey in the canoe, upon return from that journey, af ter the ceremony in the sago field, and for the final dance in the courtyard of the yeu His repeated adornment and presentation to the group may have been a way of emphasizing his role as an adult, bo th to the initiate himself as well as to the group assemb led to witness his transformation. Normally, children do not wear any orname nts, while adults wear a variety of ornaments some of which allude to their status within the community. From Father ZegwaardÂ’s description of the initiate, one can see that the decoration proclaims the newly established adult role of the initiate. For headhunting and ritual occasions, men and women paint themselves with red, white and black pigments and wear sago fibers woven

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96 into their hair (Figure 10, Figure 21, and Figure 38). Arm bands and leg bands are typically worn by men and could be worn as everyday wear or for ceremonial events (Figure 36). Interestingly, the initiate is al so adorned with a sago fiber skirt, normally associated with adult women (Figure 35 and Figure 36). Furthermore, statements about the initiateÂ’s future role as a powe rful male or in the past a headhunter seems to be indicated by a number of the ornaments as well. For example, he is decorated with a piece of shell hung on his forehead, (Figure 40) cassowary feathers, (Figure 41) a pig bone or wooden nose ornament in his septum, (Figure 44) and a dagger in his armband ( Figure 43). All of these ornaments are associated with powerful men and in the past headhunters. However, the initiate is not adorned with the cuscus headdress, bipane nose ornament and white feathers associated with bigmen or in the past, headhunters (F igure 45). These ornaments may indicate a higher level of status than the initiate is deemed worthy of. However, the initiate is adorned with a triton shell, an ornament re served for men who achieved the status of bigman. Yet, the final ornament received by th e initiate is the bamboo plate covered with the victimÂ’s skin, another ornament related to menÂ’s power, but, as shown in Figure 42, women are sometimes allowed to wear it. Th e mix of ornaments typically worn by both male and female adults suggests the adult role of the initiate, while, the mix of different status level ornaments of a powerful man and the bigman may signify the many levels of status that the initiate will potentially achieve. Adornment of the Trophy Skull As described earlier a precise method, as dictated by mythology, was followed to prepare the victimÂ’s head to become a trophy skull. Because skulls were used in the

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97 initiation ritual, its preparation fell to the initiate’s mother’s olde st brother (1023). Once completely processed the head was decorated fo r the first part of the initiation ritual. The color scheme of the skull was indi cated by the materials. Ash was from burnt wood and produced black pigment. Ochre was found in imported clay with heavy deposits of iron ore minerals and produced red paint. Chalk was created from the burning and pulverizing of shells and created the white color. This was the same color combination and materials used as body paint for headhunting and ceremonial dress described earlier (Figure 10 and Figure 21). Zegwaard’s description refers to attachment of “tassels of cassowary feathers” to the skull. The cassowary, a large flightless bird with large black feathers symbolizes speed, power, and bravery, characteristics associated with the bird (Zegwaard 1959, 1033). One may assume that the actual stre ngth and speed of the cassowary combined with the fact that it is difficult to hunt, were admired qualities. Wearing cassowary feathers instilled thes e qualities in the pe rson who wore them. At the end of Zegwaard’s first sentence in his description of the trophy skull, he used the phrase “beads and so forth.” On th e ancestor skull, shells and beads were attached on the headdress and on earrings. Much can be inferred from the word “beads” and considering that next he states that “t he nose was filled with resin”, it was likely the eye sockets were also filled with resin, a nd following the pattern of the ancestor skull, these orifices would have coix and abrus seeds ( Figure 34). It is likely that the word “bead” was used by Zegwaard to refer to such seeds. The “net drawn over the whole head to f acilitate the attachment of ornaments” mentioned by Zegwaard could refer to a hea ddress similar to the type found on ancestor

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98 skulls (Figure 2). One can see the fiber netti ng knitted to frame what would have been the face. Seeds were then beaded in to the netting in a crisscross pattern. Strings of beads with feathers at the end were twined to the cris scross seed work. The fiber netting with seeds and feathers could easily be described as “net drawn over the head to facilitate the attachment of ornaments.” Similar netting is found on the adornment of a bone dagger (Figure 69). Here fiber netting covers the en tire joint of the bone. Strings of seeds with cassowary feathers are knitted into the netting. This form also conforms to Father Zegwaard’s description. However, the main di fference in these two forms is the display of the facial area of the sku ll. Father Zegwaard does state that the net was drawn over the whole head; however, if this was done then the nose cavity filled with resin and the colors used to paint the skull would be c overed by the knitted fi bers. For example, in Figure 69, one cannot see the various knobs of the joint of the bone because of this netting. Because the name of the victim was collected when the skull was collected, it seems likely for this ritual the individua lity of the deceased was an important consideration. Individualism w ould be better expressed if the trophy skull was decorated in a manner similar to the ancestor skull with netting like a headdress with cassowary feathers and orifices filled with red and white seeds. Display of the Trophy Skull in the Initiation Ritual The decorated trophy skull played a substant ial role in the many stages of initiation ceremony and would have been seen by the village rs participating in the ritual. The first appearance of the adorned trophy skull was in the men’s house where it was placed between the initiate’s legs to be medita ted on. From this location, the men of the yeu would have easily seen this display. And villagers passing by the yeu may have glimpsed this display because the doors of the yeu stayed open most of the time. Next, the adorned

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99 trophy skull was carried by the in itiate in the canoe and imme rsed into the water with him. This dramatic display would only have b een seen by those partic ipating in the ritual. The skull was then given to a favored fema le. This woman brought the trophy skull into the sago grounds for the ritual preparation and exchange of sa go. It is unclear weather the skull would have been decorated during this part of the ritual. After this stage, the trophy skull was adorned again and prominently disp layed in the center of the men’s house for twenty-four hours. Members of the yeu as well as some passing villagers would have seen this display. Finally, th e decorated trophy skull was carr ied by the initiate as he participated in the concluding dance of the initiation ceremony. This display would have been seen by the men and women participa ting in the ritual. The similarity in the decoration of the initiate and the trophy sku ll must have visually suggested a connection between the two and the repeated display of the initiate with the skull must have reinforced this connection for th e viewers witnessing the ritual. Prestige Positions of power are not dictated by he redity. The Bismam liv e in an egalitarian society where any male has the opportunity to rise to a position of importance (Eyde 1967, 236). In anthropological terms, a bigman exists in small communities and rises to that position because of hi s skills, personality and charisma (Bodley 1994, 436). His power is temporal and based on the coopera tion of those around him (436). In the Bismam system, a man can distinguish hims elf by excelling in hunting, woodcarving or chanting (Eyde 1967, 76). In the past, however, even to be consider ed for the position of bigman, a man had to have taken at least a “few heads” (Zeg waard 1959, 1040). A man had to work hard to achieve status (Eyde 1967, 234). He had to become so good at hunting that others would

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100 want to befriend him and ingratiate themse lves to him (234). A man who sought this power worked to create alliances with ot her men in the community-through his marriage, his offspringÂ’s marriages and through papisj relationships (234). By successfully marrying, he gained both a wo man to process sago and a portion of her familyÂ’s sago grounds so that he had more territory to gather sago from (235). A man married more than one woman doubled his out put of sago and his te rritory increased by the incorporation of the new wifeÂ’s inheritance from her family (235). Tesumajipic also had extended family households. His brothers may choose to live with him. By having more than one wife, the bigman aligned hims elf to more than one brother-in-law who might choose to live with him (234). Eventual ly, sons would add to his entourage, and daughters would bring in sons-i n-law (234). The combined efforts of this expanded group produced more food, and the combined territ ory provided more re sources. A man who sought to become a tesumajipic produced more sago so that he had food to share, which made others beholden to him (234). By aligni ng themselves to him, the extended family members assured themselves through the act of reciprocal food sh aring that a steady source of food was available (237). The group also fought together in local di sputes as well in headhunting raids (237). As this group grew larger, the likelihood of sago grounds be coming depleted and fishing streams being over fished was increased (237). In this case, a large group moved into the territory of another village (237). At first, they temporarily trespassed. The women processed sago while the men stood guard or fought the owners of the land (237). Depending on the ferocity of resistance of th e original owners, the group attempted to claim the land permanently. If th e land grab was successful, the tesumajipic gained the

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101 rights to the land, which he th en apportioned to the members of his extended family (237). The extra food gained through the expansi on of territory, allowed the bigman to sponsor ceremonial events. Large amounts of food, includ ing sago, fish, fruits, wild animals and the sago larvae de licacy, were brought to the yeu by members of the tesumajipicÂ’s group and then redistributed among members of the whole yeu and guests from other yeus Food exchanges were a way to establish friendly relationships with neighboring villages. David Eyde described an exchange th at he witnessed between a group from Amanamkai and the village of Mipim 1961. Warim was the bigman from Amanamkai and Wararu was the bigman from Mipim. About a month later, in the course of a ritual trading expedi tion upstream, several canoe-loads of men from Aman-Namkaj [Amanamkai] went to Mipim. As the canoes approached Mipim, Warim stood astr ide the canoe on the gunwales with his feathered paddle, po mot held high. The men shouted loudly and pounded their paddles on the sides of the canoe while th e leading chanter of the group called out over and over again that this was to be a peaceful visit to Mipim, and Warim called out that everyone was to be generous in their dealings with the people of Mipim. For a long time there was no answer from the shore, but finally some Mipim men appeared and Warim and Jokpenem paddled forward. When peaceful relations had been established, the rest of the canoes of Aman-Namkaj proceeded to shore. On shore, most of the men from Aman-Namkaj disembarked. Tobacco, which had been saved out of that which I had distri buted in the course of ceremonial cycles, was traded by the men of Aman-Namkaj for sago and bananas from the people of Mipim. This was not a part of the orok exchange. Warim, on the other hand, carried sago leaf sacks of jec a kind of shellfish, to the menÂ’s house and to WakaruÂ’s house. In all, nine sacks of shell fish about one food high by one half foot by one half foot, and three mat bags of shrimp of about the same size were laid on the floor of the menÂ’s house. One or two bags of she ll fish were carried directly to WakaruÂ’s house. In return, the people of Mipim p iled reciprocal gifts on the ground outside the menÂ’s house. There were three large bundles of kum a fruit which resembles a green apple, and about sixty-five four pound lumps of sago laid down in two piles next to each other. I presume that the two piles corresponded to two moieties of Mipim menÂ’s house group. Of the food laid down, Warim carted off about a fourth to his canoe. The rest was picked up by other Aman-Namkaj people, who all chipped in to make a pile of tobacco fo r the people of Mipim, Finally, all the

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102 canoes were loaded. The man of Namkaj paddled away, pausing several times to call back salutation to the pe ople of Mipim. (284-285) In this description, note the privileges of the bigman. He straddled the edges of the canoeÂ’s hull and carried a feathe red paddle. As mentioned in the third chapter, carrying a feathered paddle was a privilege of a tesumajipic He also received a fourth of the food given to his group. Likewise the bigman from Mipim received a greater portion of the food. Tesumajipic received special treatment in th e form of more food and less manual labor, and they had the right to adorn themselves with symbolic objects such as an ancestor skull worn on the ch est (Figure 37, Figure 43 and Figure 67) (Zegwaard 1959, 1040). The bigmanÂ’s privileges continued in many other ways as Eyde describes: Only a tesumajipic is privileged to wear a triton shell, pikawor at the waist. Only he uses a paddle decorated w ith white cockatoo feathers, pomot or cassowary feathers, po jiwi His most vivid stance is standing up on the edges of the sides of the canoe, paddling or blowing on a headhunting horn. Such men are called upon to recite the names of the men they have killed, newen atakam to overawe the spirits in the course of a ceremonial cycle. They have the unquestioned right to sit with the drummers and the chanters at the central fireplace in the menÂ’s house in the course of a ritual or distribution. They receiv e the lionÂ’s share of any food distributed, especially when they come to another menÂ’s house as guests. (Eyde 1967, 236-237) Wearing the triton shell, like wearing the ancestor skull on the chest, was a privilege of the bigman and the feathered padd le was a mark of the high social standing of the tesumajipic Only headhunters, who had a large number of victimÂ’s names and were bigmen, recited in the newen atakam This was a list of all their victims and where the victim had been killed (Zegwaard 1959, 1030) By sitting in the center of the menÂ’s house, a tesumajipic has the front row seat to all the even ts staged there. By receiving the most food, he continued the cycle of reci procal giving with his extended family, solidifying his power base. Tesumajipic or bigmen, were headhunters who had reached the highest level of status in the Bismam society.

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103 Kus Fe Assemblage Another function of the trophy skull was as a prestige object. The headhunter went on a raid to fulfill ritual obligations and to acquire territory. Even when working for the benefit of the ancestors or to help a young boy become a man, a warrior was also motivated by individual rewards. Headhunting wa s a prerequisite to gaining a wife and to building one’s reputation to become tesumajipic After the skull was used in the bis ritual or the initiation ritual, its decoration was no longer needed. The unadorned skull became part of a kus fe an assemblage made of an accumulation of trophy skulls attached to a rope and strung together to form a column (Figure 3 and Figure 76) (Zegwaard 1959, 1039). Th e visual elements of this configuration were simple-rope and sku lls; however the symbolism of the form expressed concepts integral to the Bismam ideologies. Like the bis pole display, the symbolism of fruit played a role in this configuration. When the string of skulls was hung, it suggested naturally occurr ing arrangements of fruit in pods, clusters, or bunches. Looking at a kus fe arrangement, even someone from outside Bismam culture made the connection between skulls and fruit as Sowada related: Colonel Thompson was commissioned to inve stigate the area for signs of Japanese intrusion. He related that, upon going dow n the Wildeman river upon a huge raft decked with four machine guns, “human heads festooned almost every hut we passed and hung in clusters like bunc hes of grapes.” (Sowada 1961, 25) The arrangement of skulls in this manner reinforced the metaphor that heads were human fruit. In the swamp habitat of the Bi smam, many types of fruit-bearing plants may have been the inspiration for this type of arrangement such as coconut palms, banana trees, jack fruit plants, and papya plants (Figure 17, Figure 18, Figure 19, Figure 22).

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104 The relation of the clusters of hanging skulls to clusters of fruit was also reflective of the belief that the lifeforces of the trophy s kull have at ability to animate life. Father Zegwaard clearly explaine d this relationship. As the fruit contains the germinative pow er, for the Asmat observe time and again how a new sago palm grows from a falle n fruit, and as the human head is associated with fruit, the Asmat expect the germinative power of the head (fruit) will be transferred to the boyÂ’s genitals by the ritual of placing it between his legs, and thus that it enables him to reproduce. (Zegwaard 1959, 1039) Trophy skulls, as stated in the previous s ection, were used in the initiatio n ritual which was also based on the head having the power to stimulate growth. After a skull had been used in the initiation ritual, it was re turned to the warrior who made the kill. Its adornment was no longer necessary. The form of the assemblage suggested a fruit form, and one can conclude that the trophy skull was still considered to represent the germinative power, but not iden tification of the individual. However, a large number of skulls indicated a large numb er of youths who had been transformed into men. Men who would in turn be related to the warrior who owned the kus fe and thus, were called upon to defend the warrior if necessary. This group of men would also be ready to defend the yeu and the village. The impact of this visual display lay in the numbers of trophy skulls used in the construction. A headhunterÂ’s status within the community was measured by the number of trophy skulls hanging in his kus fe Only a tesumajipic had the privilege to recite a newen atakam and this listing of all one has kille d was designed to inform the spirit world, especially those spirits with malicious intensions, of the apti tude of the headhunter (Eyde 1967, 236-237). Reciting the list gave a bigm an and his followers a sense of safety (1034). The same can be suggested for the kus fe which can be seen as a visual recitation

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105 of kills thus serving as a forceful visual statement of the tesumajipic who made the kills. The kus fe could also be read as a warning to others, living or dead, to beware. While the visual elements of the kus fe other than skulls were sparse, the impact of the assemblage lay in the quantity of skulls. Since the prestige and position of a male lay in his ability to acqui re the trophy skulls, the kus fe was an important means by which the headhunter could claim attention among his peers. Furthermore, a womanÂ’s status was tied to that of her closest male relative: uncle, father, brother or husband. Because of the importance of headhunting as a measure of status, it behooved her social po sition to encourage her closes t male relative to headhunt. In the case of her husband, she could exert the most influence through denial of sexual favors (Smidt 1993, 20). But, she could also insult him in public if he had not proven himself in warfare (20). Logically he r status was also measured by the kus fe of her male relative displayed. Kus Fe Display This assemblage was hung in a doorway of the menÂ’s house (Figure 32). The yeuÂ’s doorways were open to a public courtyard, the major path for crossing the village and the river beyond (Figure 31). Comm on pedestrian traffic would ha ve been able to see the kus fe display in the doorway. Each doorway was asso ciated with a partic ular family. People of the village who were in the courtyard or were passing the menÂ’s house as they moved through the village would know exactly whose family was a ssociated with the door and would know the bigman of that family. Becau se the villagers would have had the details of the ownership of the doorway and the tesumajipic associated with the family, they would have understood that the kus fe was a statement of that particular individualÂ’s power.

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106 Colonel Thompson reported that he was able to see these displays as he navigated the river. The display of the kus fe for Bismam people on the river, who may or may not know the bigman, understood the display of the kus fe demonstrated the power of the yeu Doorways in the menÂ’s house were open; thatching was placed over the door at night (Eyde 1967, 95). Kus fe were also displayed near the fireplaces within the yeu (Figure 33). In this case, it was still possible that a passer by could catch a glimpse of the kus fe However, it would seem that a displa y over the fireplace becomes more of a statement to the people within the menÂ’s hous e. The ancestors were believed to be physically manifested in the woodcarvings and masks inside the menÂ’s house so this more intimate display could be for their benefit. The kus fe hung in the doorway to a family home would also have been seen by the foot traffic along the common path of the village but perhaps not visible from the courtyard or the river (Figure 77). As in the menÂ’s house, a kus fe might be hung next to the fireplace of a family home (Figure 3). The home of a bigman housed extended families that include wives, perhaps brothers and brothers-in-law, children and their spouses. If the display was seen from outside of the home, the kus fe would have demonstrated the power of the bigman who ow ned the home. If the display was only seen by the extended family members, then the kus fe would also have demonstrated the power of the bigman to them and may have been seen as a sense of security because the viewer had taken steps to align themselves with a powerful headhunter. Furthermore, the tesumajipic would have displayed the kus fe in his home for the be nefit of any ancestral spirits inhabiting the family home who would also have been appreciative of the commitment of revenge demonstrated by the assemblage of many trophy skulls.

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107 The kus fe was a purposefully arranged group of objects meant to convey meanings to the members of the living community a nd spirit community. The Bismam headhunter arranged the skulls to imply fruit, fertilit y, and fulfillment of obligations, bravery of the headhunter and prestige of the tesumajipic Conclusion Appeasing the ancestors required their li ving kin to remember them and revenge their death. The desire to seek revenge wa s based on the Bismam ideology of dealing with others in terms of reciprocity, which in turn led to the balance of the natural and supernatural worlds. The display of trophy skulls on the bis pole was a visual statement to the living community of the pow er of the headhunter to achie ve revenge and the success of the menÂ’s house to have conducted the rai d. It was also a visual statement for the ancestral community that th ey were not forgotten. The form of the bis pole with hanging trophy skulls reminded the viewer of the creation myth of Fumeripitsj where men were created from trees. The Bismam spoke of themselves and their bodies in terms of a tr ee; thus, the head was the fruit of the body. The form of placing the sku lls on the projection of the bis pole suggested fruit on a tree. The trophy skull was decorated for the ini tiation ceremony. It was decorated in a manner similar to the ancestor skull compete w ith headdress, abrus seeds and coix seeds. To emphasize further connection to the victim, it was also painted in a manner similar to that of painting the face of the living Bismam. Because th e name of the victim was collected along with the head, it can be suggested that the id entity and individuality of the victim were valued in this context. The trophy skull served to transf er the adult power of the victim to the initiate. In this way, the young boy became an adult. The repeated display of the decorated trophy skull throughout the initiation ritual, between the legs of

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108 the initiate, in the canoe with the initiate, in the middle of the menÂ’s house, and swung by the initiate in the final dance of the cere mony, ensured that everyone involved in the ceremony understood the connection between the initiate and the victim. This ritual ensured the health of the init iate and his growth and matur ity. In turn, the future wellbeing of the community was ensured by the continued existence of potent males. Trophy skulls also insured the growth of sago sta nds and thus the communityÂ’s continued well being. Only a man who had taken many heads became a leader in the Bismam community. Headhunters were rewarded with loyalty, re spect and followers. A warrior with many skulls proved his superior stre ngth against other humans and hi s ability to control his own destiny in a harsh environmen t. A group of trophy skulls was a testament to the strength of the headhunter. When placed in the context of a kus fe arrangement the trophy skull did not need to be decorated. In this arra ngement, the trophy skull was disconnected from its identity and personal characteristics. Here, the skull was identified more with the concept of fruit as demonstrated by the arra ngement of the skull to resemble a hanging cluster of fruit. The deliberate placement of the kus fe near the doorway of the yeu or the family home announced to anyone passing by on th e river or village pa th, that the bigman associated with that doorway was powerful and productive. The placement of the kus fe near the fireplace in the yeu or in the family home was also seen from outside but not as boldly. However, the interior placement wa s a statement to yeu members and family members that they were aligned with a pow erful male providing them with a sense of security.

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109 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION For the Bismam, a decorated or displaye d human skull was more than a memento of an individual. The manipulation of the sku ll into meaningful constructions as part of several visual configurations served to connect the Bismam viewer to the powers of those from whom the skulls were taken and reiter ated ideas of power a nd potency central to their philosophy. The treatment of the skull as a physical object varied with the role that the deceased played inside or outside of the commun ity. If the deceased was a member of the community, the skull was retained, after the corpse had disintegrated, and the skull had naturally separated from the skeleton. If th e deceased was from outside the community, the head was forcibly removed from the body. If the skull was that of the member of the community, the mandible was secured to the rest of the skull with pl aited fiber and resin, keeping the underlying facial st ructure intact. If the sku ll was taken as a headhunting trophy, the mandible was removed and used as a pendant for a necklace. When comparing the treatment of the mandible between ancestor and the enemy, it is evident that the Bismam considered the applicati on of the mandible nece ssary to recreate the portrait of the individual. The eye and nose cavities of the ancestor skull were filled with resin into which white and red seeds where set. These colors alluded to pigments actually worn by the living and were found on many t ypes of adornment such as necklaces, headdresses and carrying bags. Trophy skulls also had these orifices filled with resin, red abrus seeds, and white coix seeds, and dur ing rituals taking place immediately after the

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110 headhunting raid, the surfaces of trophy skulls were decorated with pigments of red, white and black, simulating facial paint. Resin was also used to attach a nose ornament such as a bipane shell or boar bone to the nose cavity of the ancestor skull; however, the trophy skull was not adorned with nose orna ments. Because of the individuality associated with items of personal adornmen t, a specific nose ornament identified the individual represented by his s kull, thus constructing a portra it. Ancestor skulls were also given a headdress made of a fiber framework decorated with seeds, shells, and, typically, white feathers. Trophy skulls were similarly outfitted with a headdress made of a fiber framework, but the trophy skull ha d the black feathers of a casso wary bird attached to the fiber headdress. The skull of the deceased family member was manipulated to r ecreate a portrait of the family member when he was a living, vi tal member of the community, expressing the individuality of the deceased and connecting the skull with its liv ing self. Like the ancestor skull, the troph y skull was decorated when it was necessary to connect with the living individual whose name, power and st rength were respected, but when that connection was no longer necessary, the deco ration was no longer necessary. Then, the skull became part of an assemblage that disconnects the victimÂ’s skull from his individuality. The decoration of the ancesto r skull also served to remind the viewer of the powerful and respected headhunter. Men aspire d to be headhunters while women sought to be associated with headhunters, either by kinship or marriage. Therefore, a living individual wore the items that signified a connection to the headhunter, such as cockatoo feathers, hornbill feathers, bipane and boar bone nose ornaments, and abrus and coix

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111 seeds. When that person died, their portrait wa s recreated with these same materials. The deceased individualÂ’s portrait, as recreated on the ancestor skull, reiterated the role of the headhunter, the most prestigious member of the community. The trophy skull had associations with the st andard headhunter visual form as well. Black was a color symbolic of headhunters, and the cassowary feathers in the headdress were black. Red and white colors of the abru s seeds and coix seed beads repeated the color palette of body paint. The trophy skull wa s also painted with these colors. When the trophy skull was used in the in itiation ritual, the individuality and potency of the victim were valued since they reinfo rced the power of the initiate for whom it was used. The decoration of the skull with powerful ornament s such as cassowary feathers served to connect the trophy skull to the power of the h eadhunter and in the transference of that power to the initiate. Not only were ancestor and tr ophy skulls decorated to create visual statements, they were purposefully arranged and displayed in various degrees of visi bility in the public arena. One powerful method of display was to wear the skull. Ancestor skulls were most often displayed to the public in this manner. A male who had proven himself in headhunting raids and who was also a tesumajipic was allowed to wear the skull suspended across his chest as a pendant, while a male with less prestige had to wear the skull so that it rested on his back. This method of display emphasized the connection between the living relative and the dead relative. Trophy skulls were not necessarily worn. However, during the initiation ritual, a male initiate had to hold a decorated trophy skull in front of his genitals. This format of display was not as public as the wearing of an ancestor skull, yet, all the male members

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112 of the yeu would have seen this exhibiti on. Like wearing or sleeping on the ancestor skull, this method of holding the trophy skull suggests a physical connection with the skull as object and a spiritual connection with the lifeforces contained within the skull. Skulls were also displayed in the Bismam home. At first, this may seem like a private display; however, because indivi dual Bismam homes had open doorways that were only covered at night, much inside the house could be seen by the passing villager, and it was often intended to be seen. Ancesto r skulls were hung on the walls of private homes and the kus fe arrangements of trophy skulls were placed near the fireplace or close to a doorway. Ancestor skulls we re hung as individual units while the kus fe was a large cluster of skulls. The visual power of the ancestor was emphasized by the portrait of an individual headhunting ancestor. However, the kus fe was a display of many skulls and the visual statement was intensified by the num ber of skulls included in the assemblage. Its placement in the family home testified to the power of the bigman who collected the skulls and the family that supported him. Kus fe were also displayed inside the yeu. When placed near the tesumajipicÂ’s fireplace, all the males of the yeu saw this powerful statement of headhunting prowess and resp ected the owner. Furthermore, all the ndat ancestral spirits that inhabited the bis poles, masks and shields saw this display. When strategically placed close to the doorway, a ll of the village and anyone passing by on the river were confronted with this arrangement reminding them of the power of the headhunter, his yeu and his village. One final display to be noted was the placement of trophy heads on bis poles. The bis ritual was a pledge to the headhunting victims that their deaths would be avenged. For the bis ritual, the headhunters of the village went on a raid. If they were successful, they

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113 hung the enemyÂ’s head from the projection of the bis pole. This was a visual statement to the community testifying to the strength of the warriors. It was a statement to the ancestors that they were remembered and respected. This arrangement was a visual manifestation of the placation of the ancestors and the restor ation of balance to the world of the living and the dead. As headhunters, the Bismam beliefs a bout death and the spirit world perpetuated the need for ritual murder, wh ile their understanding of the skullÂ’s power and potency led to their collection of the hu man head. The ancestor skull was decorated and displayed to connect the viewer symbolica lly with the deceased indivi dual who was portrayed through ornamentation as a powerful headhunter and beneficial ancestor. The trophy skull was decorated and displayed to c onnect the viewer with the in dividuality of an enemy who was depicted as a headhunter. The trophy s kull was also displayed in a form that suggested fruit, thus disconnecting the viewer from the individuality of the victim and connecting the viewer instead with the myth of creation. The human skull, when decorated or displayed in an assemblage, became a powerful visual statement connecting the viewer to individuality, hea dhunting prowess, ancestor potency, tesumajipic prestige, creation mythology, and a metaphor ical understanding of self.

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114 Figure 1. Map of Asmat region with art style regions and inset of New Guinea. (Smidt 1993, 16-17)

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115 Figure 2. Ancestor Skull. Collected by Gunter and Ursula Konrad in 1971 from Baous village. Human skull, feathers, rattan, seeds, fur, and shell. Vlkerkundemuseum der Josefine und Eduard von Portheim-Stiftung fr Wissenschaft und Kunst, Heidelberg. (Konrad 1996, 75)

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116 Figure 3. Kus fe inside family home. Atsj village. 1959. (Konrad 1996, 74)

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117 Figure 4. Bamboo horns. Carved by Shuw. Co llected by Michael Rockefeller in 1961 from Amanamkai village. Bamboo. Metr opolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Rockefeller, 1967, 229)

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118 Figure 5. Bis pole with trophy skulls. Collected by Paul Wirz in 1922 from Siretsj River area. Museum der Kulturen, Basel. (Kaeppler, Kaufmann and Newton 1997, 495)

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119 Figure 6. Central style shiel d. Carved by Tjokotsj. Collected by Adrian Gerbrands in 1961 from Atjametsj village. Wood, lime, re d ochre, charcoal, sago leaf fiber, and seeds. Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. (Smidt 1993, 125)

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120 Figure 7. Northwest style shield. Collected by the Maatschappij ter Bevordering van het Natuurkundig Onderzoek der Nederlandsch e Kolonien in 1913 from the Unier River. Wood, lime, red ocher, charcoal. Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. (Smidt 1993, 54)

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121 Figure 8. Citak style shield. Collected by J.J. Spijker in 1954 from Urebi village. Wood, lime, red ochre, and charcoal. Rijk smuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. (Smidt 1993, 55)

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122 Figure 9. Brazza River style shield. Collected by Gunter and Ursula Konrad in 1975 from Tainet-Burbis village. Vlkerkundemuseum der Josefine und Eduard von Portheim-Stiftung fr Wissensch aft und Kunst, Heidelberg.

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123 Figure 10. Men in canoes with body paint, plain paddles and feather paddles. (Schneebaum 1990, 16)

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124 Figure 11. Drum. Collected by W.M. Visser from Casuarina Coast. Wood and lizard skin. Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. (Smidt 1993, 108)

PAGE 138

125 Figure 12. Carved paddle. Collected by Michae l Rockefeller in 1961 fr om Ewer village. Wood and sago fiber. Metropolitan Muse um of Art, New York. (Rockefeller 1967, 236-237)

PAGE 139

126 Figure 13. Jipae masquerade. Amanamkai village.1961. (Smidt 1993, 39)

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127 Figure 14. Five major dialect groups of the Asmat language. (Eyde 1967, 2)

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128 Figure 15. The Siretsj River. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 268)

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129 Figure 16. Chopping the buttress of a mangr ove tree. Basim village. 1979. (Smidt 1993, 65) Figure 17. Coconut palm. (McCurrach 1976, 53)

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130 Figure 18. Banana tree. (Smith et al. 1992, 271) Figure 19. Jack fruit. (Muller 1988, 126)

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131 Figure 20. Sago palm. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 92)

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132 Figure 21. Capricorn larvae at bis ceremony. Amborep village. (OÂ’Neill 1996, 30-31) Figure 22. Papya fruit. (Smith et al. 1992, 162)

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133 Figure 23. Cuscus. (Flannery 1990, 131)

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134 Figure 24. Tree kangaroo. (Flannery 1990, 97)

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135 Figure 25. Cassowary. ( Konrad and Konrad 1996, 118) Figure 26. Illustration of white cockatoo. (Beehler 1986, 20)

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136 Figure 27. Illustration of black palm cockatoo. (Beehler 1986, 20) Figure 28. Female hornbill. (Coates 1977, 111)

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137 Figure 29. Flying Fox. (Flannery 1990, 266) Figure 30. Hunters with wild boar. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 132)

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138 Figure 31. Map of Amanamkai village.1961-62. (Eyde 1967, 102)

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139 Figure 32. Exterior Awok yeu along river. Amanamkai village. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 50)

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140 Figure 33. Interior of Awok yeu Amanamkai village. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 89)

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141 Figure 34. Ancestor skull. Collected by W. M. Visser in 1956 from Pirimapun village. Human skull, feathers, rattan, seeds, sago palm leaf. Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. (Smidt 1996, 50)

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142 Figure 35. Jewejmenmaq wearing a traditional awer Amanamkai village. 1961. (Smidt 1993, 31)

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143 Figure 36. Woman with awer armbands, breast covering a nd man with cuscus headband, white feathers, and armband dagger. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 295)

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144 Figure 37. Man with ancestor skull, waist belt, and nose ornament. (Berge 1994, 45)

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145 Figure 38. Ndanim with sago strips in ha ir, armbands and a waist band. Omadesep village. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 86)

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146 Figure 39. Man with three necklaces. Jow village. 1994.(Konrad and Konrad 1996, 264)

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147 Figure 40. Man with shell necklace, shell pendant on his forehead, arm bands, waist band, cuscus headband, feathers in his ha ir, and nose ornament. He is carrying a carved paddle and a bamboo horn. Ot sjanep village.1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 152)

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148 Figure 41. Man with abrus and coix seed neck lace, cassowary feathers in hair, facial paint, armbands and carrybag on his b ack. Ayam village. 1995. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 288)

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149 Figure 42. Woman with earrings, boarÂ’s tusk necklace, bamboo pendant necklace, and facial paint. (Schneebaum 1990, 58)

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150 Figure 43. Man with ancestor s kull on chest, trophy dagger in armband, and necklace with atlas vertebra pendant. (Sowada 1968, 191)

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151 Figure 44. Jaobenem with wild boar bone nose ornament. Amanamkai village. 1960. (Smidt 1993, 30)

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152 Figure 45. Bishop Sowada and man with bipane nose ornament, cuscus headband, white feathers in hair, many necklaces and a carrying bag on his chest. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 13)

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153 Figure 46. Magasew with bipane nose orname nt, cuscus headband and feathers in her hair. Her friend wears a dogÂ’s tooth n ecklace. Amanamkai village. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 66) Figure 47. Selection of carrying bags. Left to right: Basim village, Amborep village, Otsjanep village. Plaited sago fiber, seeds, feathers and quills. Konrad collection. (Konrad, Konrad and Schneebaum 1981, 160)

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154 Figure 48. Man on left wearing a carrying bag on his chest and woman on the right wearing a carrying bag on her back. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 294)

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155 Figure 49. Man with plain paddl e. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 78)

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156 Figure 50. Man with cassowary feat her paddle.1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 78)

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157 Figure 51. Man with ancestor skul l on back. (Schneebaum 1990, 57)

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158 Figure 52. Women rolling in the mud. Omandesep village. (Kirk 1972, 348)

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159 Figure 53. Corpse on platform. Otsjan ep village.1957. (Amelsvoort 1964, 53)

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160 Figure 54. Ancestor skull. Collected by Gunter and Ursula Konrad in 1971 from Basim village. Human skull, feathers, rattan, fiber, seeds, and shell. Konrad collection. (Helfrich 1995, 176)

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161 Figure 55. Ancestor skull. Collected by Gunter and Ursula Konrad in 1971 from Bakair village. Human skull, feathers, rattan, fi ber, fur, boar bone, seeds, and shell. Konrad collection. (Helfrich 1995, 177)

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162 Figure 56. Ancestor skull. Collected by Gunter and Ursula Konrad in 1971 from Baous village. Human skull, feathers, rattan, fiber, seeds, fur, boar bone, shell and rhinoceros beetle. Konrad co llection. ( Helfrich 1995, 176) Figure 57. Ancestor skull.Collected by Gunter and Ursula Konrad in 1971 from Baous village. Human skull, feathers, rattan, fiber, seeds, and shell. Konrad collection. (Helfrich 1995, 175)

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163 Figure 58. Ancestor skull. Collected by T. Schneebaum from Buepis village. Human skull, feathers rattan, fiber, seed s and shell. (Schneebaum 1990, 50)

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164 Figure 59. Ancestor skull. Collected by T. Schneebaum from Casuarina Coast. Human skull, feathers rattan, fiber, seed s and shell. (Schneebaum 1990, 50) Figure 60. Ancestor skull. Buepis village. Huma n skull, feathers ra ttan, fiber, seeds and shell. Crosier Asmat Museum, Hast ings, Nebraska. (Schneebaum 1990, 99)

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165 Figure 61. Inside family home with ancestor sk ull on wall and man resting his head on an ancestor skull. Basim village. 1971. (Konrad, Konrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 34)

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166 Figure 62. Shield with ancestor figures. Carved by Jan. Otsjanep village. Muse BarbierMueller, Geneva. (Newton 1999, 183)

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167 Figure 63. Shield with bipane designs. Carved by Junum. Collected by Adrian Gerbrands in 1961 from Atjametsj village. Wood, lime, red ochre, charcoal, and sago fiber. Rijksmuseum voor Volke nkunde, Leiden. (Smidt 1993, 129)

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168 Figure 64. Jipae mask. Buepis village. 1971. Konrad collection. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 421)

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169 Figure 65. Jipae mask. Collected by Father Lommer stsen in 1978 from Aorkat village. Konrad collection. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 433)

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170 Figure 66. Jipae mask. Buepis village. Konrad collection. (Konrad, Konrad and Schneebaum 1981, 162)

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171 Figure 67. Jipae masquerade, man with ancestor skull on his chest and shield. Buepis village. 1976. (Smidt 1993, 14)

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172 Figure 68. Trophy skull with hole for removal of brains. Casuarina Coast. Human skull. Crosier Asmat Museum. (Schneebaum 1990, 55)

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173 Figure 69. Human bone daggers. Human femur, cassowary feathers, seeds, and fiber. Crosier Asmat Museum. (Schneebaum 1990, 61)

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174 Figure 70. Mandible pendant. Japtambor villa ge. Human bone and cassowary quills. Konrad collection. (Konrad, K onrad, and Schneebaum 1981, 153) Figure 71. Atlas vertebra necklace. Naueu vill age. 1982. Helfrich coll ection. (Helfrich et al. 1995, 170)

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175 Figure 72. Bis pole. Carved by Chief Bifarq. Coll ected by Michael Rockefeller in 1961 from Otsjanep village. Wood, lime, red oc hre, charcoal, and sago fiber. (Smidt 1993, 102)

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176 Figure 73. Interior of Amman yeu with bis poles. Amanamkai village. 1961. (Smidt 1993, 102)

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177 Figure 74. Bis poles displayed vertically. Omad esep village. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 118)

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178 Figure 75. Bis poles displayed horizontally. Otsj anep village. 1961. (Rockefeller 1967, 142) Figure 76. Kus fe (Trenkenschuh 1982:6, 4)

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179 Figure 77. Exterior of family homes. Japt ambor village. (Konrad and Konrad 1996, 41)

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180 LIST OF REFERENCES Ambesi, A. 1970. Oceanic Art. Translated by R. Montgomery. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. Amelsvoort, V.F.P.M. van. 1964. Culture, Stone Age and Modern Medicine: The Early Introduction of Integrated Rural Health in a Non-literate Society. A New Guinea Case Study in Medical Anthropology Assen: Van Gorcum & Comp. N.V. Armstrong, R. P. 1971. The Affecting Presence: An Essa y in Humanistic Anthropology Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Arsdale, K. van. 1982. Music and Culture of the Bismam Asmat of New Guinea: A Preliminary Investigation. In An Asmat Sketch Book No.8, edited by F. A. Trenkenschuh. Hastings, Nebr aska: Crosier Missions. Arsdale, P. van. 1975. Perspectives on Development in Asmat. In An Asmat Sketch Book 5 A and B edited by F. A. Trenkenschuh. Has tings, Nebraska: Crosier Missions. Baxandall, M. 1991. Exhibiting Intention: Some Preconditions of the Visual Display of Culturally Purposeful Objects. In Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politices of Museum Display edited by I. Karp and S. D. Lavine. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. Balfour, H. 1901. Memorial Heads in the Pitt-Rivers Museum. Man .1:65-66. Barrow, T. 1972. Art and Life in Polynesia Auckland, New Zealand: A.H.& A.W. Reed. Beaglehole, J. 1966. The Exploration of the Pacific Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Beehler, B., T. Pratt and D. Zimmerman.1986. Birds of New Guinea Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Berge, C. 1994. Ancestral Sculpture in Asmat Art. The World of Tribal Arts (June):35-45. Bodley, J. 1994. Cultural Anthropology: Tribes States and the Global System Mountain View, California: Mayfie ld Publishing Company. Boelaars, J. 1981. Headhunters about Themselves: An Et hnographic Report from Irian Jaya, Indonesia (Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-en, Bolkenkunde, no.92). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

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181 Bohannan, P. 1992. We, the Alien: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press. Clifford, J. 1988. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Coates, B. 1977. Birds in Papua New Guinea Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: Robert Brown and Associates. Corbin, G. A. 1988. Native Arts of North America, Africa, and the South Pacific New York: Harper & Row. Craig, B.1990. Relic and Trophy Arrays as Art among the Mountain-Ok, Central New Guinea. In Art and Identity in Oceania edited by A. Hanson and L. Hanson. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. DÂ’Alleva, A. 1998. Art of the Pacific Islands New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Davis, Whitney et al. January-June 1980. Asmat Wood Craving: An Exhibition at the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology. Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dudley, L. 1993. Asmat Sculpture in Transition: Innovation in the Art of Irian Jaya MasterÂ’s thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Eyde, D. 1967. Cultural Correlates of Warfare am ong the Asmat of South-West New Guinea Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Yale University. New Haven, Connecticut. Flannery, T. 1990. Mammals of New Guinea Carina Queensland, Australia: Robert Brown & Associates. Fleischhacker, M. B. 1991. Making the Invisible Visibl e: Asmat Art and Spirituality Minneapolis, Minnesota: The Crosier Fa thers and Brothers Province, Inc. Ford, E. 1973. Papua New Guinea: The Land and the People Milton, Q: The Jacaranda Press. Gadjusek C. 1990. Ethnographic Collecting and Ethnographic Studies in the context of Medical Research among the Asmat. In Embodied Spirits: Ritual Carvings of the Asmat edited by Tobias Schneebaum. Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum of Salem. Gerbrands, A. 1967. Wow-Ipits: Eight Asmat woodcarvers of New Guinea Translated by I. W. Seeger. The Hague: Mouton & Co.

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182 _____ 1979. The Art of Irian Jaya. In Exploring the Visual Arts of Oceania. Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, edited by S. M. Mead. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii. ______1993. Atjamutsj: Unique Collection of Statues and Shields. In Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea edited by D. Smidt. New York: George Braziller, Inc. Guiart, J. 1963. The Arts of the South Pacific London: Thames and Hudson. Hoogerbrugge, J. 1993. Art Today: Woodcarving in Transition. In Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea edited by D. Smidt. New York: George Braziller, Inc. Hoogerbrugge, J. and Simon Kooijman. 1977. 70 jaar Asmat Houtsnijkunst/70 tahun seni pahat Asmat/70 years of Asmat woodcarving Breda, Netherlands: Volkenkundig Museum Justinus van Nassau; Rijksmueum voor Volkenkunde. Kaeppler, A., C. Kauffman and D. Newton.1997. Oceanic Art New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Jones, D. 1995. Palms Throughout the World Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. Kirk, M.1972. Head Hunters in TodayÂ’s World. National Geographic 141: 376-409. Knauft, B.1990. Melanesian Warf are: A Theoretical History. Oceania 60: 250-302. _____. 1993. South Coast New Guinea Cultures: History, Comparison, Dialectic New York: Cambridge University Press. Konrad, G. and U. Konrad, eds. 1996. Asmat Myth and Ritual: The Inspiration of Art Venezia: Erizzo Editrice. Konrad, G., U. Konrad and T. Scheneebaum. 1981. Asmat Life with the Ancestors: Stone Age Woodcarvers in Our Time Glashutten, West Germany: Friedlhelm Bruckner. Kuruwaip, A. 1978. The Asmat Bis Po le: Its Background and Meaning. In An Asmat Sketch Book No. 4 edited by F. Trenkenschuh. Hastings, Nebraska: Crosier Missions. Lamme, A. with D. Smidt. 1993. Collection: M ilitary, Explorers and Anthropologists. In Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea edited by D. Smidt. New York: George Braziller, Inc. Lewis, A. 1923. The Use of Sago in New Guinea Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.

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183 Linton, R. and Wingert, P. 1946. Art of the South Seas New York: Museum of Modern Art and Arno Press. McCurrach, J. 1960. Palms of the World New York: Harper & Brothers. Mitton, R.1983. The Lost World of Irian Jaya New York: Oxford University Press. Muller, H. 1988. An Introduction to Tropical Food Science New York: Cambridge University Press. Newton, D.1961. Art Styles of the Papuan Gulf New York: The Museum of Primitive Art. Newton, D., ed. 1999. Arts of the South Seas: Is land Southeast Asia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia: The Collecti ons of the Musee Barbier-Mueller. Munich: Prestel. Oliver, D. 1989. Oceania: The Native Cultures of Au stralia and the Pacific Islands. Volume I Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. OÂ’Neill, T. 1996. Irian Jaya. National Geographic ,189, (2): 2-33. Parker, S., ed. 1990. GrizimekÂ’s Encyclopedia of Mammals Volume 5. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. Rockefeller, M.1967. The Asmat of New Guinea: The Journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller Edited by A.Gerbrands. New York: The Museum of Primitive Art. Ryan, P., ed. 1972. Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea. Volume 1 Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press. Schmitz, C. 1971. Oceanic Art: Myth, Man and Image in the South Seas Translated by N. Guterman. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Schneebaum, Tobias.1985. Asmat Images: From the collec tion of the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress Minneapolis, Minnesota: Crosier Missions. _____1989. Change in Asmat Art. In People of the River, People of the Tree St. Paul: Minnesota Museum of Art. _____1990. Embodied Spirits: Ritual Carvings of the Asmat Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum of Salem. Sillitoe, P.1998. An Introduction to the Anthropol ogy of Melanesia: Culture and Tradition New York: Cambridge University Press. Smidt, D., ed. 1993. Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea New York: George Braziller, Inc.

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184 Smidt, D.1996. Asmat: Life and Art Out of Death. In The Object as Mediator: On the Transcendental Meaning of Art in Traditional Cultures edited by M. Holsbeke. Antwerp: Etnografisch Museum. Smith, N., J. Williams, D. Plucknett and J. Talbot. 1992. Tropical Forests and Their Crops Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Sowada, A. 1961. Socio-Economic Survey of the Asmat Peoples of Southwestern New Guinea M.A. Thesis, Department of Anth ropology, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. _____. 1968. New GuineaÂ’s Fierce Asmat: A Heritage of Headhunting. In Vanishing Peoples of the Earth Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. _____.1990. Primary Asmat Religious and Philosophical Concepts. In Embodied Spirits: Ritual Carvings of the Asmat edited by T. Schneebaum. Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum of Salem. Thomas, N. 1995. Oceanic Art London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. Trenkenschuh, F., ed. 1982. An Asmat Sketch Book 8 vols. Hastings, Nebraska: Crosier Missions. Villeminot, J. and B. Villeminot. 1978. Nouvelle-Guinee: Les Papous Chasseurs de Tetes Paris: Presses de la Cite. Wassing, R.1993. History: Col ony, Mission and Nation. In Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea edited by D. Smidt. New York: George Braziller, Inc. Zegwaard, G.1959. Headhunting Pract ices of the Asmat of Netherlands New Guinea. American Anthropologist 61 (December):1020-1041. _____. 1990. Spirit Children. In Embodied Spirits: Ritual Carvings of the Asmat edited by T. Schneebaum. Salem, Massachus etts: Peabody Museum of Salem. _____.1993. Jipae: The festival of the Mask Costumes. In Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea edited by D. Smidt. New York: George Braziller, Inc. Zegwaard, G. and J. Boelaars. 1982. An Annotated Translation of De Sociale Structuur van de Asmatbevolking Translated by F. A. Trenkenschuh and J. Hoggebrugge. In An Asmat Sketch Book No.1 edited by F. A. Trenkenschuh. Hastings, Nebraska: Crosier Missions. Zubrinich, K. 1997. Cosmology and Colonisation: Histor y and Culture of the Asmat of Irian Jaya A thesis submitted to Charles Sturt University for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

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185 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Katherine “Alex” Flanagan graduated from the University of Florida in 1988 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in painting. She continued her studies at the University of Florida in the art history program and served as a teaching assistant for many years. She worked at the Visual Resour ces Center on campus for a number of years as well. She graduated in 2005 with a Master of Arts in art history with an emphasis in oceanic art. She plans to continue her study of the Bismam people.