Bilas Melomelo Tribal Baler Cymbium Shell & Currency belt, Called Gam by the Primitive Mendi Tribe’s “Big Men” that wear them as Imposing Pectoral Adornments, also Currency, Bride Price, Collected in late 1900’s, Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea BAL9

  • $480.00
    Unit price per 
  • Save $320

Bilas, baler, bailer, Gam, melo melo, melomelo.

These Bailer Shells are the most prestigious ornaments in the Southern Highlands - valued much above anything else.

Rare Older Baler Shell called “Gam”, a Prestigious Male Pectoral Ornament, also used as bride price, exchanges, currency etc…

This is a large old and rare bailer (baler) shell or Melomelo bailer with an around-the-neck band created with twisted fiber and decorated  with seed beads, cowrie shells and small nassa shells, the piece was once used as a chest ornament during festivals  but also as a trade item, the band that it is attached to was considered money-currency and had trade value as well as the shell itself. Such rare pieces were originally found on the beaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria. : BAL9.

This shell necklace has a whitish patina and is extremely large and old.

Compare at $800.00 to $1,200.00.

I have sold money belts, alone, for $500.00 in the past.

 Measures:  8" X 5" X 2 1/2" (for the baler alone).

Collected on the premises

Mendi Tribe, Primitive Culture of Papua New Guinea Southern Highlands

This South Pacific Authentic Bailer or Baler Body ornament is also called Melo melo (melomelo) or Cymbium, it is a genus of sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Volutidae. One of the largest shells in existence.

 Some of the photos show such ornaments worn around the neck or as a phallus cover.

When this volute is not worn as a decoration, it is often collected for food by local fishermen, to use as scoops for powdery substances in local markets and also traditionally still utilized by the native fishermen to bail out their leaking boats, and where the common name “baler” , the tool, came from.

In traditional times, Such an item likely made its way from the Papuan Gulf into the interior of the Peninsula through trade. Such shells are very important in the traditional tribal industry, if you can call it such. The relatively flat surface near the lip of the shell can be cut into a woomera. It has many uses besides being worn as a body ornament or penis protection, some being: as currency (in certain areas of New Guinea, bailer shells were as bride price), as a general container, similar to a cup or coolamon, for carrying water or sugarbag honey (Water can be boiled in the shell by placing it directly on the hot coals in the fire and in the coastal villages and along the rivers, to bail water out of canoes as some of those shells are very large, as this one.

Artistic expression in the Highlands is conveyed largely through body art. Diverse in both media and application, the major components of Highlands body ornamentation include bird of paradise plumes, body paint, and an enormous variety of decorative objects made from shell, teeth, beetles, orchid stem, fur, bone, bark, wood, and fiber. (Moriarty recognized the importance of this art and its central position in the broader context of Highlands art. A visionary in any age, he not only developed a unique collection of body decoration from the Highlands of New Guinea, but saw to it that this collection remained intact by donating it to the AGNSW. Today it is part of what is possibly the world's most important accumulation of this art.)

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.