We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Anthropomorphic figure

circa 1000 BCE-circa 400 BCE


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Female figure
    Stone figure
    Place where the work was made
    Arop (Long) Island Madang Province Papua New Guinea
    circa 1000 BCE-circa 400 BCE
    Media category
    Materials used
    basalt stone
    29.2 x 12.5 x 7.5 cm
    Gift of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1969
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The volcanic island of Arop, known as Pono by its people, was named Long Island by William Dampier in 1700. A catastrophic eruption destroyed most life there around 400 years ago and created an ash cloud across the region. The 'taim tudak' (time of darkness) even ruined crops in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and led to widespread famine.

    When people returned to Arop during the 19th century, stone figures such as these were unearthed in gardens, the story of their makers and purpose unknown. Anthropomorphic stone figurines found in the highlands of New Guinea were believed to be repositories of powers of fertility and growth. They were used primarily in ritual activities, until Christianity largely replaced indigenous ceremonial practices.

    [entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 2]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 5 publications