It is hard to believe how isolated the PNG Highlands were before gold was discovered by foreign prospectors in the 1930s. Until this time, metal was very scarce inland and there was a thriving stone axe industry with many blanks quarried and roughly shaped for trade to Papua and other coastal areas each year- each axehead was worth one kina shell, so it was good business.
These are the two main types of Hihglands stone axes fouind today, one for working and one for display.
The display axe was carried when the owner was in full costume and decorated with feathers and paint for a big singsing such as the famous Garoka Show. These were once fighting axes, but since knives and guns are now used for serious tribal fighting, they are carried as a status and cultural symbol only these days. Length of handle 50 cm/ 19 1/2 inches, length of blade and mount 67 cm / 26 1/2 inches.
Work axes are still made and used in the Highlands for heavy work such and chopping furewood, breaking stones, etc. This example has an old stone head re-hafted to a newer handle with woven cane and grass rope. Length of blade and mount 40 cm / 16 inches, handle 52 cm / 20 1/2 inches.