Dagger, Cassowary bone, pigment, Kwanga people


late 19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik River
Kwanga people
Cassowary bone, pigment
L. 14 5/8 in. (37.1 cm)
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

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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.

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