Record Detail

Catalogue Number DBN 5993
Artefact DescriptionThe 'sacred' flute is highly significant in Papua New Guinean culture. This side-blown or transverse flute is made of a single hollow tube of bamboo with a blow hole in the side towards the end. These flutes always come in pairs and are played almost exclusively in ceremonial contexts, primarily initiation rites for men and at pig festivals. Though the flutes are often attributed a male or female gender, they are a symbol of male solidarity and power. Women and children are forbidden to see, touch and play the sacred flute however, in some ethnic groups it has been documented that the wives of prestigious man have become guardians in their later years. The sound is believed to represent male spirits, ancestral voices and/or supernatural birds. The particular melodies played are owned or associated with descent groups. As the tunes are passed from one generation to the next they act as a badge of identity and a groups continuity over time.

The musicians are reported to play in pairs, facing eachother. Different pitches are played by covering the end with a finger or entire palm of the hand. The geometric designs are carved or burned onto the surface of the flute.
TaxonPOACEAE
TDWG ContinentAsia-Tropical
TDWG RegionPapuasia
TDWG Botanical CountryPapua New Guinea
LocationMorobe Province, Lae
TDWG UseMaterials - Cane
DonorJebb, Matthew
Date Collected1983
Date Donated2009
NotesFor more information see: Hays, E. T. 1986 'Sacred Flutes, Fertility and Growth in the Papua New Guinea Highlands' Anthropos Bd. 81, H.4/6 pp435-453