Sepik People of Papua New Guinea, ‘Nº 41 "Cassowary Bone Knife, Set of 3"’, ca. 20, Chamber

Collected from the field in the 1960s by Douglas Newton, head curator of the Tribal Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these daggers represent a typical tool or small weapon used by native tribesmen of New Guinea. Fashioned from the bones of cassowaries—a large, ostrich-like bird native to the region—these daggers were often worn as personal adornment and used in ceremonial rituals, but their primary function is more obvious: as a weapon to attack an enemy within close range.

Dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were thought to be spiritually and supernaturally powerful, possessing the ability to protect its carrier.

Image rights: Fran Parente

About Sepik People of Papua New Guinea