SOLD Rare Asmat Art Hand carved 5 ft+ Totem Pole Cannibal Head Hunter Idol Irian Jaya

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Old Ritual Head Hunting Totem Pole Carving

(Such were once built for the festivities that take place after cannibal warfare, in the victorious village)
From Asmat, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea
Hand carved
Measures: 65" tall and 8" wide
This piece commemorates Head hunting and is all carved from one piece of mangrove wood.


We prefer to ship by greyhound, the safest way for no breakage, within the continental US only, insurance not included but available. If you require a different mode of shipping than greyhound which is by far the most economical and safest,  charges will be more.

Valued at $4,500.00 and up, but we closed our art gallery so are reducing what we have left to liquidate.

Item 101A1 in our inventory 

Rare Older very tall (5 1/2 ft) Ritual Head Hunting Totem Pole Carving, once built for the festivities that take place after cannibal warfare, in the victorious village.

It consists of 2 females, one standing on the shoulders of the other, to be better seen, because she is so proud to show everyone around the severed head of the enemy her husband just killed, head which will be cooked at once so the family can feast on the brain of the vanquished and add his power force to theirs. The woman is wearing a traditional boar teeth necklace and 4 woven (usually rattan made and used to carry tools slid through them) armbands. She is also carrying a bat with a carved hornbill head that they used to batter the corpse the men brought back. On her back, tucked in her (bark fiber hand woven) belt, a long cassowary bone knife hangs. The woman underneath is also carrying a large bat, this one with a hand carved cassowary head.

Asmat, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea

Hand carved

Measures: 65" tall and 8" wide

The color remnants on the carving were obtained with natural pigments:

White is made from crushed and burned mussel shells and is the symbol for the upper world. Red is made from the earth’s mud and is the symbol for "middle world where man lives". Black symbolizing the underworld and body hair and is made from crushed charcoal.

This piece commemorates Head hunting

All carved from one piece of  mangrove wood

Some of the most dramatic sculptures created by Asmat artists are these totem poles with figures, often also representing their ancestors. Usually the totem is a lattice of clambering figures such as this piece, a most powerful carving, historically associated with a ritual cycle connecting warfare, death, youth initiation and headhunting. A tribal member who is killed in an untimely death either physically or by black magic needs their spirit exhumed from limbo. The spirits inhabits trees, earth, and water.

Through the use of wooden carvings, that spirit will be released into the spirit world.

Thus the figures represented were clansmen crying out of revenge or returning victorious from a battle,

This carving, produced in the coastal region of Irian Jaya, was part of a ceremonial cycle requiring months of preparation and beginning with the selection of a mangrove tree. The tree is harvested, and brought in to the jeu to be carved. After a ceremony, the poles, created for it, were taken to the sago fields, broken up, and allowed to rot. In this way the spirit in the carving would pass to the sago trees, promoting a good harvest. After a headhunting raid and many ceremonies, balance is re-established and the souls of the dead can move to Safan, the spirit world. Headhunting ended in the 1970's sort of speak, but the ceremonies are still held to help maintain harmony with the spirit world.

Check Dominique Rice Oceania Store in Sun Sentinel Newspaper, Fort Lauderdale, for information on our collection and authentic art.

If you have any questions, contact us or call for documents on pieces.

All our collector and rare items come with pages and pages of research about provenance, and with history of the tribes and photos as well, depending on item and whenever possible. When shipping internationally, we group ship multiple purchases to save you money, and find the best rates available. If you have any questions or want to see research conducted on this piece and photos of tribes, tell us.

We have artifacts and architectural accents up to 10 ft tall that we will put on upon request because shipping has to be calculated accordingly with trucking company