Exposure - Solomon Islands

In the Solomon Islands, society is organised along clan and kinship lines. Pre-Christian religion focused on the ancestors and spirits, and the importance of treating ancestors with appropriate respect, in life as well as death. Deceased Islanders could be interred, cremated, exposed or thrown into the sea, or a combination of these methods.

Solomon Islands - Skull shrines

 © Australian Museum Archives

"When a person died, the body was taken a few yards away from the house and was placed in a net in a sitting position ... it was kept for a few weeks before the skull was removed, thoroughly washed in the sea and later taken to the burial site"

Lawrence Foanaota, Director, Solomon Islands National Museum.

In the Solomon Islands, society is organised along clan and kinship lines. Pre-Christian religion focused on the ancestors and spirits, and the importance of treating ancestors with appropriate respect, in life as well as death. The ancestor spirits inhabit both places and things, and can be invoked for protection or assistance with agriculture, hunting, fishing and relationships. Death was regarded with suspicion and was never seen as accidental, but the result of angry or evil spirits.

Pre-Christian funerary rituals were complex and varied throughout the Islands. Deceased Islanders could be interred, cremated, exposed or thrown into the sea, or a combination of these methods. Exposure involving leaving the body to decompose, either placed on the rocks, or in a canoe, string bag or tied to a post was very common. In some areas, bodies were weighted with bags of sand or stones, and thrown into the sea.

The skulls of important people, such as chiefs or priests, were collected after initial disposal and stored in wooden effigies, model canoes or in mortuary huts or on stone altars. These then became sites of worship and sacrifice. Relics of commoners could also be stored in wooden figures in a private house.


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Tags Death Online, disposing of the dead, disposal of bodies, exposure, Solomon Islands,