Cults associated with sacred stones were once prevalent throughout the highlands. Sacred stones included oddly shaped river rocks or unearthed objects created by ancient highlands cultures, such as mortars, pestles, club heads and zoomorphic figurines. Ancestral and other spirits resided in these earthly forms, establishing a direct link with the spiritual world. The Enga people believed sacred stones were handed down from the 'sky people' who came to earth and created mankind; others thought they were the petrified bones of the ancestors. Stored in ritual houses or buried at sacred sites, stones were 'fed' the blood or fat of pigs on ritual occasions.
Archaeologists believe prehistoric stone mortars were used to grind seeds and nuts for nourishment, and pigments for ceremonies.
[Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014]
Male stone (rubbed with female stone to give strength)
early 20th century
stone, red ochre pigment
14.5 x 11.6 x 8.5 cm
Gift of Stan Moriarty 1978
Not on display
© Chuave people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
Shown in 1 exhibition
Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 May 2014–10 Aug 2014
Referenced in 2 publications
Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 53. cat.no. H110 [A: male stone]; "Stones, male and female stones rubbed together before men go to fight gives them strength".
Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 70 (colour illus.), 159. cat.no. 12