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Nature volume 134, pages 220221 (11 August 1934) | Download Citation



Head-Hunters of New Guinea, Dr. H. H. Sharp describes in Man of July the Gumakari people of the Suki Creek, New Guinea, in whose lives head-hunting plays an important part, and is in fact a religion. The Gumakari people inhabit villages in the lagoons and marshes drained by the 2reek to which the name Suki, a foreign name, has been applied. Dancing, head-hunt ing and hunting are their principal occupations. The chief tainship is hereditary, and exists in a virile form. The chief controls the cultural life of the people, and his power is remarkable. When the people go head hunting they are accompanied by the women, who go to make sago and keep the party in food; but in a recent raid the women are said to have killed some Weredai who escaped into the water. The reason for a recent raid against the Weredai is said to have been that there were five widows in the village who could not have sexual intercourse or eat the flesh of kangaroos until heads had been taken. Since the raid the women have joined certain men of the tribe, but these were not men who were necessarily the ‘big men’ of the raid. The Gumakari are said normally to have taken their heads from a tribe of nomads, who live in a tract of bamboo-forest land on the banks of the Fly River. When a head is taken the victim is killed, if possible, by blows on the body; in some instances, the head is removed while the victim is alive. Old experienced hunters never break a head. The heads are carried back in a natural state, and after a ceremonial dance are preserved, the skin being retained over the skull. After two or three years, when they cease to be in good condition, they are buried without ceremony.

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