Papuan tribe cares for 250-year-old mummy to preserve ancient rite

 

Papuan tribe cares for 250-year-old mummy to preserve ancient rite

Papuan tribe cares for 250-year-old mummy to preserve ancient rite

Papuan tribe cares for 250-year-old mummy to preserve ancient rite

The mummy, decorated with pig tusks slung around the torso, a feathered headpiece and traditional Koteka, rests in a hut known as a “honai”. This wide domed thatched hut is tended year round by a select few villagers who keep a fire burning to ensure the corpse remains dry and preserved.

Mr Mabel said the duty of caring for the mummy often falls to him. He has spent many nights sleeping alone in the honai, ensuring no harm befalls his ancestor.

Eventually, the duty of caring for the mummy will be passed to others. Mr Mabel hopes his four children will bear some responsibility for keeping their customs alive, but some of them live in far-off provinces in Indonesia’s more populated centres.

The ancient Dani tribes in Indonesia’s half of the island of New Guinea were cut off from the outside world until well into the 20th century. Their homeland in the Baliem Valley was isolated by steep, rugged valleys and dense highland forest.

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