Nukuma Human Bone Dagger

East Sepik Province

Papua New Guinea 

Circa 1900

What is great about this middle Sepik human bone dagger is not only the rarity of the type and the design representing an ancestral face, but the fact that we have detailed information about its history.

Collected in 1992 on a trip into the Washkuk Hills, Chris Boylan recorded some interesting information: The owner was an old man called Niumunuk of Ablatak village and it belonged to his father before him, coming to him through his mother’s clan, called “Hamkwa”.

In Nukuma language these human bone daggers were called Ma hapa and were made from the tight bone of a relative (usually an uncle on the mother side)

What is very interesting from a symbolic point of view is that, contrary to most religions and traditions (including ours), where we conserve some objects or simply remember our deceased ancestors, the  peoples of the middle Sepik where carrying with them the actual physical relic of their ancestors on a daily bases.

I am sure the present dagger would have been several generations at least before the owner, so I am confortable placing it around 1900. The piece is in very good condition and sits on a custom base by Romain Laforêt.

t

H: 33 cm (13 inches)

Price: 1800 euros enquiry