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]
Fertility (Mother), magic stone
Place where the work was made
early 20th century
stone, incised with diamond (uklimb) pattern, red ochre pigment
6.5 to 8 cm diameter; 21.5 cm length
Gift of Stan Moriarty 1978
Not on display
© Kakoli people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Oct 1974 -
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, 54. cat.no. H156; "Fertility (Mother) Stone. Diamond pattern incised all over, coloured red ochre".
Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 70 (colour illus.), 160. cat.no. 17