Bilas Baler Melomelo, Mero Amphora (Gulf of Carpentaria), Prestigious Male Phallus Ornament: Groin Penile Cover “Gam”, owned by Tribal Highlands Warrior, Also Mendi Exchange Currency, BAL10. Collected in late 20th Century, Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

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The baler shell is called locally “Melomelo”. This one has a belt running thru it, belt created with twisted bark fiber and seed beads and worn on the hips. It was once used as a groin cover as seen on second & 4th photo  which shows one that has been darken with natural pigments worn the same way this one would be.

It could actually be worn as a necklace also, a very large necklace, but that is not what it was intended for.

These Bailer Shells (collected originally in the Gulf of Carpentaria then traded) are the most prestigious male ornaments in the Southern Highlands, valued much above anything else. Such decorative items were only worn by the “Big Men”, the initiated men and the Shamans of Papua New Guinea during special ceremonies & rites, either as a pectoral ornament or as a groin covering. (A similar collector piece was featured at the exhibition "The Art of Papouans" at the Museum” La Charité” in Marseilles – France).

This is a Large & Old Warrior Baler (bailer) shell, called “Gam”: A Prestigious Male ornament with multiple uses as a powerful pectoral display, as a penis groin protective covering, with a currency value (used for bride price or payments after war or feuds) & also to bale water out of canoes because these shells are very large & deep, some of the largest in existence. This one was only used as a phallocrypt and placed on the hips as seen on photo 2.

ITEM BAL10, VERY RARE: Size 6" x 4" for the baler shell alone and the strap is 43" 

As seen in museum collections or exhibitions.

This shell has a whitish patina showing age and use, and is large.

An item of great value to the natives since there are no shells in the highlands of PNG and they had to be acquired through trade with people from the lower regions such as the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Such a valuable ornament was used during Sing-Sing ceremonies and festivals, rites of passage, initiations, either as a pectoral decoration or as a penis cover as seen on the photos or as bride price and feud payments.

Caught in the Gulf of Carpentaria and traded later in the Highlands of PNG, Mendi valley, Papua New Guinea.

You see "Big Men" wearing them on some of my photos.

(Another local name for it is Mero Amfola). It could also sometimes be worn as a powerful chest statement as seen on some of the photos as well. Such rare large pieces were originally found on the beaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

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 used 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 is.

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. If you have any questions or want to see research conducted on this piece and photos of tribes, let us know.