A piece of PNG

Stone axes

Paradise - - In Paradise | Contents -

WHEN DID STONE AXES HAVE THEIR HEYDA Y?

Stone axes were com­mon in Pa­pua New Guinea prior to the ar­rival of Euro­peans, who in­tro­duced steel axes. This started in the 1800s in coastal ar­eas and in the 1930s in the High­lands.

HOW WERE THE AXES USED ?

They were pri­mar­ily tools for cut­ting trees and shap­ing tim­ber for use – felling a tree with a stone axe took three to four times times longer than us­ing a steel one. Adzes, where the stone head is mounted at right an­gles to the shaft, were more often used in gar­den­ing, to break up soil. Only rarely were stone axes used for fight­ing (stone clubs were pre­ferred).

WERE THEY USED IN CERE MONIES ?

In the West­ern High­lands, large axes with broad flat and thin slate blades, and mounted in large dis­tinctly cross-hatched wo­ven rat­tan cane hafts (han­dles), were dis­played in tra­di­tional dances. They were used oc­ca­sion­ally to cut off parts of peo­ple’s fin­gers in mem­ory of rel­a­tives who had died. As valu­able ob­jects, stone axe heads were im­por­tant items in trade net­works, com­pen­sa­tion and bride-price pay­ments.

WHERE WERE THEY MADE ?

Only cer­tain hard vol­canic stones are suit­able for use as an axe head. Stone was ex­tracted in quar­ries, some­times from deep shafts – per­haps the first un­der­ground min­ing in PNG thou­sands of years ago. Tra­di­tional quar­ries or ‘ fac­to­ries’ are known to have ex­isted in the Wahgi and Jimi val­leys of West­ern High­lands Province and in Simbu Province.

HOW WERE THEY MADE ?

The pieces of stone, ex­tracted by split­ting stone that had been al­ter­nately heated and cooled, were shaped, a blade edge ground, and the whole thing pol­ished on sand­stone or sim­i­lar, often near run­ning wa­ter. An­thro­pol­o­gists have es­ti­mated that it took 35 to 45 hours to grind down, pol­ish and sharpen a work axe and an­other 40 hours to haft it. Axe heads were mounted into a wooden haft, often a suit­ably shaped sin­gle piece of wood that was split to ac­cept the axe head, then held in place with a tight bind­ing of split cane. Work­ing axe heads were thick with an oval cross-sec­tion, while cer­e­mo­nial axes were flat and thin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Papua New Guinea

© PressReader. All rights reserved.