Ancestral figure

Registration number
Item name
Ancestral figure 
Indigenous name
Associated cultural group
Pacific > Papua New Guinea > Gulf Province > Unknown
Acquisition date
January 01, 1950 
Acquisition method
by Mr Cox 
H: W: L: D: Circum:


Wood carving of ancestor.

Research notes

Ancestral figures, called Bioma, are made by the Gopi people of the Wapo and Era River areas and by the Naman of the Purari Delta, both in the Papuan Gulf. They are two dimensional wooden figures with relief carving and earth paints following the incised design. The arms and legs are clearly cut out and the legs are apart so that they may be placed in the eye sockets of wild pig skulls. The figures play an important role in the pig skull ceremony, where pigs are honoured as important trophies, second only to the human skull. The skulls and the figures are displayed in the ceremonial house, which is an important social, religous, ceremonial and artistic centre. The ceremonial house serves as a meeting place between the human world and the ancestral or spirit world. It houses sacred objects which are not to be seen by women and uninitiated men. In these societies, art, motif, and objects may be associated with ancestral spirits and closely related to ancestor worship. Each ancestral figure has its own name and represents a specific clan ancestor. There is a belief that individuals may attain prosperity through their ancestors. The figures are meant to look after the well being of the people, give strength to the initiated, and promote the growth of crops. They play an important part in rituals and as such, the ancestrral figures are ceremonial items with significant religious content.

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