Dagger, Cassowary bone, pigment, Kwanga people

Dagger

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik River
Culture:
Kwanga people
Medium:
Cassowary bone, pigment
Dimensions:
L. 14 5/8 in. (37.1 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Implements
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1974
Accession Number:
1974.29.1 H
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Warriors in the Sepik region formerly employed a variety of weapons. Most, such as spears, were intended to strike the enemy from a distance, but men also carried daggers for use in close combat. With blunt edges and sharp tips, daggers were exclusively stabbing weapons, often used to kill an enemy incapacitated by spears or arrows or, at times, in more stealthy acts of assassination. Many daggers were supernaturally powerful objects that played important roles in male initiation and other ceremonies. Daggers and daggerlike objects were worn as personal ornaments, and many ornate examples with blunt tips may have been ceremonial objects. Daggers were fashioned primarily from the leg bones of cassowaries (large ostrich-like birds) but also, in rare instances, from the femurs of ancestors or enemies.
Dr. Robert MacLennan, Lyons, France, 1964–1974

Forge, J. Anthony. "Learning to See in New Guinea." In Socialization: The Approach from Social Anthropology, edited by Philip Mayer. New York, 1970.

Hauser-Schäublin, Bridgette. Leben in Linie, Muster und Farbe: Einführung in die Betrachtung aussereuropäischer Kunst, am Beispiel der Abelam, Papua-Neuguinea. Basel: Birkhäuser, 1989.

Newton, Douglas. "Mother Cassowary's Bones: Daggers of the East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea." Metropolitan Museum Journal vol. 24 (1989), pp. 318–319, fig. 25.

Friede, John A. New Guinea Art: Masterpieces from the Jolika Collection of Marcia and John Friede. Vol. vol. 2. San Francisco: de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2005.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 26, p. 61.