Dugout Canoe, Bird Prow Figurehead

99.50 (in)
32.00 (in)
13.00 (in)
Currently Available
Shop By Era:
20th Century Pre WWII
circa 1930-1960
Country of Manufacture:
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Dugout canoes are one of the oldest boat designs in the world and are still commonly used on every continent, primarily because it can be fabricated from local natural resources, is extremely durable, stabile and reasonably quick. The Sepik River is the longest river on the island of New Guinea and Dugout canoes are the main means of transportation on the river and the many lagoons and swampy regions throughout the country. New Guinea is very rugged and the roads are far and few between. A native tribesman will traverse a long distance up river to purchase a large log and tow it back to his village, where it will be hogged-out with an adz (adz is a cutting tool like an axe, but with the cutting-edge perpendicular to the handle). They will burn out the interior of the dugout to help protect against insects and if you are able to blow up the images large enough, you can see the old cracking marks from the burning. The prow (figurehead on the bow) is shaped according to local tradition. In the region of Irian Jaya, Asmat canoes may have an ancestral figure for a prow, while Dugout canoes from the north coast of Irian Jaya have bird prows. Bird head canoe prows from Irian Jaya, Indonesia are carved as separate pieces only on the smaller dugouts, while on the larger dugout canoes, they are integrated as one piece. When the dugout canoe has a beautiful prow, it raises the canoe to a higher status and is associated with more power. The Asmat tribe reside in West Papua province of Indonesia and their artifacts have been collected by many of the world's great museums, notably the Michael C. Rockefeller collection, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the American Museum of Asmat Art, at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Please note, we are not experts in Southeast Asian art and as we uncover more information, we will update it as it comes in. We were contemplating fabricating a stand out of clear acrylic or some other interesting material and converting the dugout into a console table or indoor planter or? Without any specific history or certified provenance, we are pricing the dugout as though it were decorative art and not a historical artifact. Our best hypothesis is that this dugout canoe was made post 1968, when the United Nations underwrote a project from 1968 to 1974 to once again encourage wood carving.