Solomon Islands Wealth Axes from Bougainville Island Papua New Guinea
|Collection No.||Larger TB-2191 & Shorter TB-2509|
|Size||Larger 34cm & Shorter 25.5cm|
These old and beautiful shape Wealth Stone Axes are only found in Bougainville or Buka Islands in now semi autonomous area of Papua New Guinea. They are purely a object of traditional wealth that can be used to pay bridal dowries or compensation over disputes over land or resources. Sometimes theses stones will have a twisted bamboo handle that is only to better show the stone. As far as I know this shape is unique in Papua New Guinea or the nearby Solomon Islands. Made from hard stone of elongated form and tapered to a slightly flaring end on both ends of the stones. They have that refined aesthetic like a the Micronesian outlier bowls from Wuvulu Island. These two Stone Wealth Axes are 19th Century or earlier but they could also easily be 200 to 300 years old. One thing for sure is they are rare, in my 38 years as a collector and oceanic art dealer I have had three examples, these two plus one that had the twisted bamboo handle.
Though Bougainville and Buka Islands are now an semi autonomous area of Papua New Guinea, culturally they are more related to the people of the Western Solomon Islands which is just a short boat ride away. In previous times people moved back & forth freely between the Western Solomon’s & Bougainville and Buka Islands. Bougainville and Buka Islands just like the Solomon Islands have many indigenous forms of wealth, made from shell, porpoise and dog’s teeth, feathers and stone, used for mortuary and bride exchanges, compensations, and sometimes commodity exchanges. They equate with European definitions of ‘currency’ or ‘money’ to widely varying degrees (sometimes ‘valuables’ or ‘wealth’ are more accurate terms). Each island, and sometimes different groups on the same island, had their own valuables. Some rare forms were sacred and kept only by chiefs and priest. Little is known about these rare Wealth Stones Axes, if you know any more about them I would be very happy to hear from you.
Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art and Artefacts and Ornaments
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