Friday mystery object #44 answer


On Friday I gave you an Anthropological mystery object for a bit of a change:

I asked what it was, what the head is made from and where is it from and I got some great answers, including the (more or less) correct one. The fact that this is a projectile weapon was quickly identified, although there was some wavering between spear and arrow.

The locality was harder to pin down and the composition of the head was a real challenge. In the end, Neil managed to get it right (apart from the spear vs arrow issue) – it’s an arrow from New Guinea, with a bamboo shaft and a Cassowary  claw head. So well done to Neil and good work to Matt King for supporting the correct suggestion.

Cassowaries have a bad reputation for being dangerous, apparently being able to eviscerate a human with one kick from their powerful legs which are armed with these long straight (and sharp) claws on their second toe.

Of course, this reputation is as overblown as one might expect. Cassowaries can be pretty aggressive towards people, particularly if they are used to being fed by humans (don’t feed the animals, kids) or if they are defending themselves.

However, despite being big, strong and armed there has only been one confirmed human death from a cassowary attack and that was the result of a neck wound rather than an evisceration. Far more people have probably been killed by Cassowary claws fashioned into arrows like this one and used in the long running inter-tribal warfare that has long been part of Papua New Guinean culture, but which has seen a resurgence and increasing modernisation since the 1970’s.

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