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20th C. Papua New Guinea Wood Food Hook

Papua New Guinea, Sepik River District, Yambun Valley, ca. mid 20th century. A hand-carved, Janus-headed, wooden hook - sometimes described by anthropologists as a cult hook, a food hook, or a suspension hook. Indigenous artisans carved and decorated such hooks in order to accommodate benevolent spirits and preserve food. By suspending food from a hook, vermin could not reach it. The spirit believed to inhabit the hook could prevent spoilage. This example is carved with a Janus-head at the center, the back-to-back visages in profile with cowrie shell eyes. The head is framed by birds, whose clawed feet perch on the top of the head; below them are fish, while above them is a round feature with an incised butterfly at its center. The hook is at the base, below the fish, as if it is a conjoined, oversize tail. Size: 7.15" W x 32" H (18.2 cm x 81.3 cm)

Condition: Surface wear commensurate with age and wear. Nice rich patina and excellent remaining white pigment.

Provenance: private southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s

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