Asmat Ancestor Skull, History, Traditions, and Its Popularity

Asmat Ancestor Skull

The Asmat ancestor skull is popular today – while it was part of ancient traditions. People are willing to pay a hefty price to get one of the artifacts.

This article will elaborate on the tradition in the past so that you know why the artifact is quite a big deal among artifact hunters around the world.

More than anything, the Asmat Tribe in the past had a quite interesting journey – even now they are still interesting, though.

What is the Asmat Tribe?

The Asmat tribe is a Papua origin ethnic group. They have been living in the swampy mangrove forests for decades.

Even though they came from New Guinea, several of them inhabit Indonesia as well – considering they share the island.

Until recently, the Asmat Tribe was one of the biggest tribes on the island. It is estimated that 70,000 people spread across hundreds of villages in Papua.

Getting to Know Asmat Tribe Tradition

The Asmat Tribe religion was animism, before missionaries came to the land and brought Christianity to the tribe.

Today, many of them are Christians and a few are Muslims – even though some Asmat people still use their animism belief.

When it comes to language, each group has different dialects. But today at least there are five well-known languages among Asmat people.

The Asmat ancestor skull is only one of the popular things about this tribe – there are plenty of things you need to know about the Asmat Tribe and why they are such an interesting group of people.

During Pregnancy

When an Asmat woman is pregnant, the family will protect her wholeheartedly – at all costs.

It is not a secret anymore if Asmat people treat pregnant women way better than others so that the delivery is safe and smooth.

Giving Birth Tradition

The Asmat Tribe also has a special tradition to welcome the baby into the world.

Other than throwing a feast ceremony, they also cut the umbilical cord with sharpened bamboo. Later, the baby has to be breastfed by the mother for three years.

Marriage Ceremony

Even the marriage ceremony is quite unique. Generally, the ceremony is only valid for those who’ve been 17 years (and above) of age.

Yet, the ceremony can only be done if both families have agreed to marry their kids.

Mummified Tradition

Another interesting tradition of the Asmat Tribe is mummifying the deceased. However, this ceremony is only prepared for figures of the tribe.

Once the mummy is ready, it will be displayed in front of Asmat’s traditional house.

History of Asmat Ancestor Skull

Back then, Asmat Tribe had a tradition called ‘pengayauan’ – it’s technically cutting their enemy’s head. The head was considered as a prestige for Asmat people, especially among the chieftains during wars.

Those who brought a skull were considered daredevils that took down lots of enemies in the war.

They took good care of the skull and the chieftain would use the skull for a pillow – no one but the chieftain could have this pillow.

Other than for the pillow, the skull was brought everywhere the owner went. They believed that the skull’s spirit might protect them from bad luck.

Nowadays, the tradition and ceremony have stopped. It also makes the Asmat Tribe skull become cultural artifacts.

As the number of the skull decreased, people sold it freely on the market – black market, most of the time.

The Asmat Tribe is one of a kind, for sure – whether in the past or nowadays.

They consist of at least 12 sub-ethnic groups and each group has different characteristics, especially when it comes to art pieces and artifacts.

On the other hand, the Asmat ancestor skull becomes one of the most-wanted items on the market.

Other than the practice itself having been stopped since years ago, those skulls make an interesting and precious item to own.