New Guinea has no iron ore deposits and therefore no metal working technology so weapons utilise stone, bone and fire-hardened wood. Bowsand arrows were extremely popularweapons for war and hunting and the arrows werefired from rigid blackpalm bows that required strength to string and to shoot, and thus propelled the arrows with great force. Each of these six old arrows has a different head, made for a specific use. They are old and well used and some have suffered a minor damage as a result. From top to bottom:
1. A large, heavy, arrow head used for knocking down birds of paradise at close range, Kalam people, Jimi Valley, Western Highlands. The bird hunters would climb into hides in trees adjacent to the display perches of groups of birds of paradise and shoot these special three-pointed, funnel-shaped arrows to stun the birds without damaging the plumes. The birds fall to the ground and are collected by an assistant. The method is still used to this day as guns simply drive the birds away. 116 cm / 45 ½ inches.
2. A war or hunting arrow with a long, sharp bamboo head with a thin hardwood shaft at the centre. Bamboo is extremely sharp and was used by Papuan Gulf headhunters a knife blade to sever the heads of victims. Tribe unknown. 141cm / 45 ½ inches.
3. An extremely fine, thin and well carved head used to hunting birds, small mammals and reptiles. PNG Highlands, tribe unknown. 138cm / 44 inches
4. A war or hunting arrow with a head made of bone, possibly from a tree kangaroo or possum, and was made by the Bena Bena people ( once called the Kukukuku), fierce and feared fighters who live on the lower slopes of the Western Highlands. It has the spikes of the echidna or spiny anteater inserted as barbs below the point. (some lower barbs missing). 141cm / 45 ½ inches.
5. A second Bea Bena arrow with a point shaped form the tough and horny claw of the flightless cassowary bird, which would have been eagerly hunted in spite of its ability to deliver a potentially deadly kick in self defence. 141cm / 45 ½ inches.
6. A small four point split bamboo arrow made for hunting small birds or reptiles, one damaged and slightly smaller prong. Tribe unknown. 116 cm / 45 ½ inches.
Reference: Arrows of Melanesia, A Neglected Art Form, by David Skinner, page 80, Tribal arts Magazine, Summer 2000.