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Bailer Shell Necklaces, Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. Left :TB-807 Right TB-805
Size TB-807 (27x21cm) TB-805 (26x21xcm )
Oceanic Arts Australia buys and sells tribal New Guinea art

These large old Shell Pectoral Ornaments are from the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Shells in general were highly valued as traditional wealth by the people in the interior of New Guinea where they had to travel through trading from the coast where they were collected to hundreds of kilometres through some of the most rugged terrain on the planet. These cut Bailer Shells were used as an ornament during traditional ceremonies as in the photo of the man wearing one in my photos but they were also used as a traditional currency and often used as bridal dowries paid by a young mans family.  These two examples are old, you can see the wear on the holes where it was hung by the rope around the neck and the warm patina from wearing and handling over many years and probably generations. When I first went to the Mendi Valley area of Southern Highlands in 1985 these shells seemed reasonably plentiful but by 1988 people in the villages said they were now harder to find and more expensive.  I have put these two shells on beautifully made custom stands where the shell appears to be floating . they can also be displayed on a table or shell with dramatic effect.

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