Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Dagger

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik River
Culture:
Iatmul people
Medium:
Cassowary bone
Dimensions:
H. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Implements
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Cohen, 1964
Accession Number:
1978.412.835
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.
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Cohen, New York, until 1964; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

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