Akonipuk: The Tradition of Preserving Bodies That Still Lasts


Several regions of the world have traditions of preserving corpses or mummification. If usually, the famous ones are mummies from Egypt, in the Baliem Valley, Papua, Indonesia, there is also a similar tradition called akonipuk.

The Habula and Dani tribes in the Baliem Valley have different preservation methods from the general way, so it is very interesting to follow.

What is Akonipuk?

Akonipuk is a tradition of preserving corpses by Papuan people who usually live in the Baliem Valley area. In the Hubula language, the local community language, akonipuk means mummification or the drying process of a dead human body.

Besides calling this term akonipuk, you must also be curious about what is akonipuk in English or what is akonipuk in Indonesia. Well, for brevity, you can just call it a mummy.

Mummies are corpses that are preserved after getting protection from artificial or natural decomposition so that the original shape of the corpse is still preserved.

The natural way is to place the body in a very cold or dry location or without oxygen. While the artificial way is to use chemicals, especially balms.

Meanwhile, the akonipuk process of the West Papuan people is very different and natural, namely by using the smoking technique. The bodies that received the fumigation process were not ordinary people but figures who, during their lifetime, were highly respected by the local community or other tribes.

Some of the positions of these figures include tribal chiefs, religious leaders, warlords, and important tribal figures.

Akonipuk Values

Akonipuk Values

As one of the traditional traditions, akonipuk must also have a special meaning for the people of the Hubula and Dani tribes. The main value in this procession is religiosity and spirituality.

This is inseparable from the belief system they profess, namely animism. This term comes from the Latin, namely anima which means spirit.

Animist belief means that its adherents believe that all living and dead creatures have spirits. So they must always be respected so they do not disturb humans.

The next value relates to the social aspect. This means to maintain community relations for each tribe living in the Baliem Valley. This is because the dead figures also have good relations with other tribal figures.

In addition to religious and social values, there is another purpose for this procession. That purpose is a way to physically maintain the “immortality” of the character. People also believe that the mummy can protect the village and nature.

Akonipuk Process

Several requirements must be met before carrying out the fumigation process. First, people who are allowed to carry out preservation are only adult men.

Second, the location of preservation is the traditional house of the community, namely the honai house for men. During the procession, the men are not allowed to clean themselves, bathe, or be exposed to water. This is to prevent the body from being damaged.

While the first step of the mummification procession is to bend the corpse’s body as if he was squatting. The adult men then tied the body to a stick.

The purpose of bending the corpse’s body is to make it easier to drain blood, fluids, and the stomach contents. The process of expelling the contents of this body through the rectum, then bleeding in other parts of the way, is to slice the elbows, armpits, and thighs.

After the expulsion of the body is complete, the next step is smoking using coals. It comes from the local forest acacia wood for three months. During these three months, body fat can be released so that the corpse is completely dry,

After complete fumigation, the mummy is placed in a high place or a honai house. While the treatment is to dry the mummy and smear pork oil once in two or three days.


Akonipuk is a Papuan tradition that is unique and different from other places. With perseverance and the spirit of preserving culture, until now, this procession is still maintained.