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The Iatmul of the Middle Sepik

Listed under Traditional Cultures in Papua New Guinea.

  • Photo of The Iatmul of the Middle Sepik
  • Photo of The Iatmul of the Middle Sepik
Photo of The Iatmul of the Middle Sepik
Photo by flickr user jurvetson
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The Iatmul are an indigenous group of Papua New Guinea residing in stilt huts along the banks of the Sepik, one of the world’s largest rivers.

The Iatmul are known for their carvings, which are created to be inhabited by spirits as well as for rituals and ceremonies. Previously reputed as fierce headhunters, the Iatmul have now replaced the use of real human heads with carved wooden likenesses. A recurring theme of the Iatmul is the transmutation of the human with the crocodile, as creation is attributed to a mythical monster croc. Young men can be initiated into manhood with a ritual razor blade carving of a crocodile pattern, into the skin of their backs.

The outside world has little understanding of the significance of these carvings; many of these cultures contain secret societies, and only the initiated have a full understanding of the true significance. A local tour guide will have the best knowledge and access to the region.

Written by  Amber Due.

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