Typical Hand Axe from Papua Neuguinea

IRIAN YAYA (Indonesian part of Papua Neuguinea) of the ASMAT tribe from the BALIEM highland, surrounding area of PUNCAK JAYA. In this area we also find the DANI tribe with similar cultural possession.


Typical hand axe with complete polished stone blade. The stone blade is manufactured from a dark, very hard slightly greenish Diorit.

The hand shafting consists of a bast twisting with buffer underlay for the stone blade made of pasteboard similar material and wood parts. In most cases there is a carrying loop at the end of the hand shafting. Due to the difficult material obtaining and production, these blades were often produced from old broken stone axe blades. Therefore these stone blades could already be very old. Since the stone blade for itself already represented a high value object, it got new shafted again and again.

Dimensions of Hand Axes, midium measurements (LxBxT): 210x46x32 mm,

Weight: ca. 150-220 g

General use:

These hand axes serve mainly for ceremonial purposes. Hand axes, axe blades from stone and shafted stone blades belonging to the bride price of a woman and were forming an essential constituent of the family property and were highly valued traditional payment. How far they were used for the normal daily work is not known to He-Artefakte.

Ceremonial use:

To the sign of the mourning, a woman (some tribes also the man) chops off herself a phalanx of the finger with this special stone tool after the death of her husband or a family member.

Sometimes you see women (sometimes also men) with missing all upper finger phalanxes of a hand and often already some of the second hand. In case of a mourning the fingers are removed in ranks.

Heavy ceremonial axe blade from green Diorit. Stone blades of this size were presumably pure prestige objects and were used only in the barter and in the ceremonial range.

Dimensions (LxBxT):

370x91x46 mm

Weight: 2377 g

Ceremonial blade from black rock (basalt). In some areas this colour was left up only to the chiefs and some few highly respected members of the tribe.

Dimensions (LxBxT): 278x82x40 mm

Weight: 1391 g

Group of stone blades as used ceremonially. The ceremonial use could be established with microscopic examinations. The pointed tips showing stroke marks. These axe blades were popular commodities and traditional payments.
These shafted axe blades were not used for the daily work, they were only used ceremonially by a stroke on the back wood platform, you still can see the stroke marks on the wood. In the form on hand, these axes were also essential constituent of the bride price and therefore an traditional payment.
Information source: Travel to Indonesia of He-Artefakte and Mr. M. Dianda, who lives in the mountain area of Papuan New Guinea.

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