Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/44

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

shells, mother-of-pearl, dogs' teeth, and straw braids finely woven. A peculiar and apparently much-prized decoration for the wrist is the lower jaw of a foe, slain in battle, with tassels or other pendent ornaments. Mussel and cockle shells serve as currency, an advance from bimetallism to bivalvism that ought to be welcome to every advocate of cheap money. The most graceful and symmetrical designs are scratched on bamboo tobacco pipes, gourds, and cocoanuts, and burned in; and all these forms and figures reveal a refinement and a fertility of imagination and a facility of mechanical execution that excite admiration and astonishment. The most charming variety of arrangement is given to the simplest pattern wrought on curved surfaces in the purest style of arabesque. Like the neolithic men of Europe, they use bows and arrows, as well as clubs and spears, which are exceedingly graceful in shape; and compared with their strong and slender oars, ours are heavy and clumsy. The same is true of their sails of matting. They also bore holes in the heads of their stone hatchets for fastening the handles. Unlike the Australians, they have a fine sense of color, which they gratify by painting their shields white, red, and black, adorning their heads with the brilliant feathers of the bird-of -paradise, the parrot, and the cassowary; by variegated stripes in the women's short skirts, woven out of grasses, reeds, and the fibers of the cocoanut, and the "lines of beauty" with which they tattoo their dark-brown skin.

The constitution of the Papuan tribe, like that of the Australian horde, is radically democratic, but differs from it in being much less communistic. Private property, in distinction from tribal possession, begins with the tillage of the soil, and this general principle applies to the fields, houses, and tools of the Papuans; but the greed of gain has not yet been developed; each family cultivates land enough for its own subsistence, in addition to the products of the chase, and there is no distinction of rich and poor. The position of a chieftain confers upon him little authority, and whatever influence he exerts is due solely to his strong personal qualities, as is the case at present with the famous Koapena, of Aroma, a man equally distinguished for his valor in war and his discernment and impartiality in the administration of justice.

The houses are built on piles, like the lake dwellings of the primitive Swiss, and sometimes stand so far out in the sea that they are surrounded by water even at ebb tide. This construction of the villages is designed to protect the inhabitants less against the attacks of wild beasts than against the assaults of the fierce mountain tribes of the interior. A curious institution is the "Marea," or bachelors' clubhouse, as Semon calls it, in which boys, on attaining the age of puberty, take up their abode, and strangers are entertained. The