Artifacts of New Guinea | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Artifacts of New Guinea


            The original inhabitants of New Guinea arrived to their island homeland between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago, making them a part of one of the oldest Homo sapiens migrations out of Africa. As time passed, these new inhabitants would eventually diverge into nearly a thousand different tribes, develop over a thousand different languages, and create one of the earliest forms of agriculture. To date, this island hosts over 7 million people, and is the most linguistically diverse place in the world. The island would receive its current moniker from Spanish sailors in the 16th century, whom christened it ‘Nueva Guinea’ (the natives had reminded the Spanish of the inhabitants of Guinea, Africa).

            The various tribes of New Guinea largely subsist on sago palm, sweet potato, taro, and wild pig, as well as fishing by way of dugout canoes that are taken through rivers (such as the world-famous Sepik River). A popular fact concerning the inhabitants is their formerly prevalent practice of head-hunting and cannibalism. These practices were done for various reasons, particularly in the realms of warfare and spiritualism. Religion is wide and complex throughout the tribes of New Guinea, involving the worship of many different spirits, as well as the worship of ancestors. One extremely prevalent spirit comes in the form of a crocodile, which is seen in countless works of New Guinea artwork.