Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Asmat – the most dreaded cannibals


 Asmat. A word that long scared people. Asmat is a word that became a synonym for cannibals. Asmat is a tribe whose members in the time of war ate brains of their enemies mixed with sago worms from their halved skulls. A son of New York governor disappeared in the territory of the Asmat tribe. Asmat used to use human skulls instead of a pillow. Asmat, is a word which evokes more than respect…

papuattrekking.com

We can finish the expedition to Korowai and Kombai tree people by visiting the Asmat tribe.

Asmat is the most famous cannibalistic tribe on Papua. They would put human skulls under their heads instead of a pillow. They would eat brains of their animals mixed with sago worms straight from their halved skulls. They live on small islands in mangrove vegetation nearby the sea, on the south side of the western part of the New Guinea Island. The Asmat build long houses, where they live together. Every family has its own reserved fireplace. In the long house about six or even ten of the group members live.

Besides the fact that the Asmat were head-hunters, they also “hunted for names”. Every person was named after someone deceased, or after a killed enemy. A child was sometimes given a name only ten years after it was born, and after its village set out to kill a man from an enemy village nearby. They had to learn the name of the man they killed, and then bring his skull to their village. Only in this way could a person get a name.

Asmat did not only hunt for skulls, they also worshipped them. The skulls of the deceased were stripped of the brain and the eyes and nasal parts were closed up in order to prevent evil spirits to enter or exit the body. Skulls that were modified and decorated in this way, were displayed by the Asmat in a honorable place in their long homes. Fortunately, the evil reputation of Asmat has become history. The missionaries have done a lot of work in changing this. Thanks to it, we can now go to the Asmats for a “visit”.

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