Fine old Kina shell pectoral with traditional neckband, PNG Highlands.
The crescent shaped kina shell pectoral is the traditional shell valuable that lends its name to the modern PNG currency. It is cut in a crescent shape from a large pearl oyster shell. In the1930s, kina shells were so rare and valuable that the early white explorers could finance and feed a party of 80 – 100 bearers and police for weeks simply by carrying in a sack or two of waste oyster shell from the pearlers in Torres Straits. It also led to its own special magic, a wooden kina called a “somp”. The somp had a tiny fragment of oyster shell glued onto it, and was meant to attract a full size kina by magic. Most Highlands kina are stained red with cheap water colour powder paint, which is regarded as a precious luxury and purchased at trade stores by the spoonful!
This old 1940s example has a good patina and an original hand knotted kneck strap decorated with a cowrie shell at each end. Note the holes for the attachment of the neckband that have been drilled the old fashioned way with a friction drill with a stone point, so that the holes are conical at both sides, a sure sign of true age.
Dimensions: Across the holes 19 cm / 7 ˝ inches . Maximum depth (shell only) 9 cm / 3˝ inches