Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/68

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58
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ties. It is somewhat unfortunate that the only scientific man who has resided alone among these people for more than a year, for the express purpose of studying them exhaustively, should have hit upon a place where the natives are probably not true indigenes but an intruding colony, although perhaps long settled in the country. Dr. Miklucho Maclay will no doubt be quoted as the greatest living authority on the Papuans of New Guinea; and it is therefore very important to call attention to the fact that the people he so carefully studied are not typical of the race, and may not even be Papuans at all in the restricted sense in which it is usually applied to the main body of the aborigines of New Guinea.

The Papuans, as well as all the tribes of dark, frizzly-haired Melanesians, make pottery for cooking, thus differing from all the brown Polynesian tribes of the Pacific, none of whom are acquainted, with this art. Of course the actual seat of manufacture will be dependent on the presence of suitable materials; but those who do not make it themselves obtain it by barter, so that earthenware cooking-vessels appear to be in general use all over the island. Cups and spoons are made out of shells or cocoanuts, while wooden bowls of various sizes, wooden mortars for husking maize or rice, wooden stools used as pillows, and many other articles, are cut out and ornamented with great skill. A variety of boxes are made of the split leaf-stalks of the sago palm, pegged together and covered with pandanus-leaves, often neatly plaited and stained of different colors, so as to form elegant patterns. A variety of mats, bags, and cordage, are made with the usual skill of savage people; and their canoes are often of large size and beautifully constructed, with high-peaked ends ornamented with carvings, and adorned with plumes of feathers.

The weapons chiefly used are spears of various kinds, wooden swords and clubs, and bows and arrows; the latter being almost universal among the true Papuans and most of the allied frizzly-haired races, while the Polynesians seem never to possess it as an indigenous weapon. It is very singular that neither the Australians, the Polynesians, nor the Malays should be acquainted with this weapon, while in all the great continents it is of unknown antiquity, and is still largely used in America, Asia, and Africa. Peschel, indeed, attempts to show that the Polynesians have only ceased to use it on account of the absence of game in their islands; but mammalia are almost equally scarce in the New Hebrides, where it is in constant use even in the smallest islands; while in Australia, where they abound, and where it would be a most useful weapon, it is totally unknown. We must therefore hold that the use of the bow and arrow by the Papuans is an important ethnological feature, distinguishing them from all the peoples by whom they are immediately surrounded, and connecting them, as do their physical peculiarities, with an ancient widespread negroid type.

In their knowledge and practice of agriculture the Papuans show