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Large, Ceremonial ‘Prestige’ Axe with Greenstone Blade
New Guinea Highlands, probably Wahgi People
early 1900s

length: 56cm x 55cm

This ceremonial axe most probably is from the Wahgi People of the New Guinea central highlands and dates to the early 20th century. It comprises a polished
wooden shaft or handle, a greenstone axe head and a wooden counterbalance with these elements held in place by tightly wound cloth.

Such an axe was not intended for actual use but was a 'prestige' item -  a store of wealth and an item to be seen with as a symbol of power and means.

A related example is illustrated in Wilson (2014, p. 88).

The example here has ample signs of age. The handle particularly has been worn smooth by handling and has developed a lustrous, honeyed patina. The
greenstone axe head is without any significant chips. It has a natural inclusion that runs across it.

Wilson, N. (ed.),
Plumes and Pearlshells: Art of the New Guinea Highlands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2014.

Provenance: UK art market; most probably has been in the UK since colonial times

Inventory no.: 4647

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