Axe, Papua New Guinea

The stone axe on the left is an original from the Wahgi valley, dating to the 1930s. The one on the right is a copy made 50 years later. 

Many isolated New Guinea peoples predominately used stone technology until Australian colonists introduced steel tools in the mid-20th century. In 1981, anthropologist John Burton sought out Wahgi elders and learned their rituals and processes of mining, shaping and hafting the old stone axes in order to produce his own version (shown on the right). He used traditional tools like this grindstone. 

Left: Collected by Michael James Leahy before 1937.

Right: Made by John Burton in 1981 and donated in 2011.

Grindstone collected by Beatrice Blackwood before 1938.

Accession numbers: 1937.39.33, 2011.2.1 and 1938.36.523, respectively.