THE ASMAT - THE ASMAT Sago palm basis of life / not...

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THE ASMAT Sago palm basis of life / not cultivated but grows by chance o Believed in order to thrive, the sago groves had to receive human skulls obtained in headhunting o The human body compared to a tree / head of a human equivalent to the fruit of a tree o Sago beetle grubs a delicacy obtained when Asmat cut down sago trees and bore holes in them Let trees rot while sago grubs develop large number of trees must be cut down for feast and grubs o Weapons used in headhunting were stone clubs, cassowary dagger weapons Three towed cassowary bird very dangerous since cassowaries kick with a lot of power The birds can run up to 31 mph in the dense forest and are good swimmers A metaphor for successful headhunter o Asmat set up tall poles called ‘BISJ’ poles on the beach or facing the river in front of the men’s house to commemorate family members who required that their deaths (natural or otherwise) be avenged by headhunting raid Feast required for setting up the poles a way for men to gear up psychologically for warfare Each figure in a bisj pole celebrated a particular relative o Headhunting takes place at dawn 3 groups of attackers, old men at the back strong middle aged men who are archers and spearmen in middle young men together with ambitious men of middle age in the front o Adult Asmat men traditionally wore a carved bone ornament through their noise called ‘bipanew’ Headhunting symbol Other animals represented on Asmat shields and in their body ornaments: praying mantis, cuscus, possum, fruit bats Fruit bats are the largest in the world Compare consumption of fruit by these animals to a man taking another’s head Headhunter must kill his victim in the canoe at a bend in the river by cutting it off as the victim kneels over the winner’s canoe Take full advantage of death, must know the name of the victim Name and personality then given to the killer’s nephew once the canoe arrives home The dead man is butchered with various portions given to different relatives and eaten Cannibalism primarily done for the transfer of spiritual power of the victim to the victor Men become more successful in war
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The skull is treated so that the flesh falls off, it is then decorated with abrus seeds, feathers, shells o Once skull has been obtained, nephew can be initiated o This initiation will allow him to grow into an adult Without the skull he will not be able to achieve maturity When the skull is clean, the initiate sits with his head down in a pose of
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This note was uploaded on 12/22/2011 for the course ART HIST 250 taught by Professor Brett-smith during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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THE ASMAT - THE ASMAT Sago palm basis of life / not...

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