Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Hidden Mountain Tribe in Papua Where Villagers Mummified Their Ancestors with Smoke for Hundreds of Years

smoking mummification
ADEK BERRY via Getty Images

Preserved Remains of Ancestor – Village of Wogi, Women – West Papua

Unusual images of a tribe chief with the impeccably preserved remains of one of the ancestors have appeared in a remote Indonesian village. Eli Mabel, Dani tribe chief has been visualized holding the remains of Agat Mamete Mabel in the village of Wogi, Wamena in West Papua which is an island in the midst of Papua New Guinea. The ancient Dani tribes in half of the island of New Guinea, Indonesia had been cut off from the outside world till around the 20th century and their homeland had been in the Baliem Valley which was isolated by steep rugged valley together with dense highland forest.

 The native tribe which tends to inhabit the remote area of the Papuan central highlands would preserve their ancestors by smoking their bodies that kept them in an almost perfect condition for hundreds of years. Part of the mummification procedure comprised of smoking the mummy for almost 30 days.

 The smoking mummification is not practiced any longer though the people of the Dani tribe continue to still preserve several of the mummies as a symbol of their highest respect of their ancestors. The Dani tribe in recent years had drawn tourist from across the world with some villages even displaying their original customs as well as holding mock wars.

Tribe Discovered by American Zoologist/Philanthropist - 1938

They tend to hold mock battles with the neighbouring tribes namely the Lani and Yali people, every August, to celebrate the fertility as well as the welfare of the province of Papua and also to uphold the ancient traditions. The tribes of Baliem Valley, the Dani, Lani and Yali had been discovered by accident by Richard Archbold, an American zoologist and philanthropist, in 1938 while he was on a zoological voyage to New Guinea and had spotted the Dani people from his aircraft.

The men in the Dani tribe seemed to wear typical clothing comprising of face paint, feathers, animal bones and complicated penis sheaths known as Koteka while the women would wear skirts which were made from woven orchid fibres and decorated with straw and woven bags that were worn from the head known as noken.The Dani tribe is also said to be notorious in following the custom that if someone tends to die in the village like the mummified tribe leader then each of his female relative would have a section of their finger cut off.

Support as a Probable Tourist Opportunity

The performance at the 27th Baliem Valley Festival took place from August 8 to 19 that featured mock battles of highland tribes of Dani, Yali and the Lani. The performances at the festival symbolised the high spirit and the power which had been practiced by the tribes for many generations. Keeping up the traditions as well as the customs was important to the tribes’ way of living. Mummification seems to have disappeared after the missionaries had discouraged the practice in the 1950s.

The different generations in Papua New Guinea tend to reflect various attitudes to the practice and the spirit world. While the grandparents tend to believe in the tradition, middle-aged people seem to be uncertain regarding the spirit world and the practice of mummification. However, it tends to support as a probable tourist opportunity.

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