New Guinea Warriors Made Human Bone Daggers

New Guineans carved human bones into 'formidable, fierce-looking and beautiful' daggers

New Guinea warriors harvested thigh bones from their dead fathers to fashion into ornamental and deadly daggers used to kill - and sometimes eat - their enemies. In the simulations, the human daggers proved to be much stronger than the cassowary versions.

The researchers were studying daggers that were made out of human thigh bones and the bones of the cassowary, which is a flightless bird that's native to New Guinea.

These, according to researchers led by Dartmouth College in the United States, were made from the thigh bones of respected men, and carried with them a special layer of prestige. To avoid damage of the dagger Papuans curving it.

Human bone daggers are also very rare.

In fact, in terms of their mechanical properties, the cassowary bones are "striking similarly to our human femur".

Although most of the daggers were owned by the college's Hood Museum of Art and therefore could not be put under mechanical stress, the team purchased a 1970s cassowary dagger from a private art dealer on which they could perform tests. It was not possible to determine how old this tradition was, Dominy said, because there are few records beyond the contemporary accounts of European colonial observers. New Guinean warriors would use these formidable weapons "to kill outright or finish off victims wounded with arrows or spears, by stabbing them in the neck", the study uncovered.


Apart from their extraordinary symbolism, the human bone daggers made quite an impression because they were so artfully made. The function of the dagger, and the role it played as a melee weapon were described in 1914, "The dagger serves not only to stab into the main arteries but at the same time as a lever with which one twists the punctured neck of the enemy in order to tear the throat and, with sufficient power, break the neck". So, "the veracity of these accounts is hard to assess", the researchers wrote in the new study. Of the 500 or so bone daggers held at the American Museum of Natural History in NY, the Peabody Museum at Yale and the Field Museum in Chicago, only 21 are carved from human parts.

Some people just have the best job. "It has to be your father or someone who was respected in the community".

An anthropologist who studied these bones found them to be intricately carved and beautifully shaped into knives that stood out from the rest of the tools of these people.

Daggers were not only weapons, but also a symbol of prestige. The giant birds do not have pneumatic bones - that is, they are not filled with air sacs like the bones of most flying birds. Each of the cassowary's feet has a dagger-like claw that measures up to 4.7 inches (12 cm) long and can slice open any predator with a swift kick, the researchers said. What's more, the bird can jump nearly 5 feet (1.5 m) high and can run up to 31 miles per hour (50 km/h). He has spent over a decade researching bone daggers.

The daggers were used in hand-to-hand combat. The scans enabled the researchers to determine the density of each dagger. To test the dagger, the researchers stabbed it through urethane and bent it until it eventually broke. They found that it could handle up to 44 lbs.

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