Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/341

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327
NEW GUINEA AND ITS PEOPLE.

beards, and at times shave off their eyebrows and the hair from their temples; and most wear ornaments in their noses and tightly plaited armlets, which they make to serve them as pockets. The women wear a decent girdle or petticoat, reaching from the hips to the knees, are tattooed very closely, pierce their ears with many holes, load them down with ornaments, and shave their heads when they are married. All their muscles and limbs have free action, they are stately and graceful in all their movements, and their use of colored leaves and flowers no rules of art could improve. The position of the women is not so low and degraded as it often is among barbarous races.

The houses are built on piles, and we are everywhere reminded of the prehistoric lake villages of Europe. Port Moresby consists of two villages standing on the beach just below high-water mark. The houses are not built on a platform, as they are often represented, but the piles also form the posts of the houses. The natives live, as we should say, in the roof. The huts are made of thatch and wood, and floored with the sides of old canoes, which are adzed down to some approach to flatness. In the interior the floor is made of the mid-rib of the sago-palm fronds. It is light and springy, but not good to sleep on, as I can testify from experience. There is always a square fire-place, made with earth, in the center of the house. You are a fortunate visitor if you go when the fire is out, and thus escape being blinded by the smoke. All along the coast the houses are built in the same way, with slight variations in the shape of the roofs. Some look like a whale-boat, depressed in the center, while others resemble the keel of a boat turned upside down. In many cases the village stands a good way out to sea, and is surrounded by water even at low tide. We could steam down the street of many of them in our little mission steamer, and in several cases we used to anchor alongside the houses. The boys and girls can sit in the door-way and fish. The houses are detached, but are generally connected by a pole laid from one veranda to another. The shoeless feet of the people enable them to run along these, and they laugh at our objection to so round and slippery a bridge.

The canoes of the Papuans furnish an interesting illustration of the earliest styles of naval architecture. As the people are largely dependent on the sea for means of subsistence and transport, every village has its fleet of canoes, of all sizes. Those at Port Moresby consist simply of a hollowed log, pointed at each end, and attached to an outrigger. All are propelled by paddles, or by mat-sails whenever there is any wind. When longer voyages are undertaken, four or five, and even ten, canoes are lashed together. These are decked over with poles, houses are built at each end, covered with thatch, and a sort of bulwarks made of the same material all round the side<. A mast is raised, consisting of the stem of a small tree with its principal roots, which latter are lashed to the deck, and then a huge mat-sail, crab-claw