Movie: Fighting Picks of Tari, PNG

Here Trevor tells us about several fighting picks he collected from the Tari area, PNG.

Trevor Shearston made a significant donation of artefacts from the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in 2009. Here Trevor tells us about several fighting picks he collected from the Tari area, how they were made and how they were used.

©  Australian Museum and Trevor Shearston
Finton Mahony
Trevor Shearston


These three weapons are Fighting Picks from the Tari area of the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea collected in approximately 1970.

They have a long light timber shaft, they have a black palm shaft at the top - the striking section of the axe or the pick - and a groove is cut in the top of the handle. The black palm is inserted into the groove and the binding is made. The tip is a cassowary claw and the timber is inserted into the cassowary claw and then the cassowary claw is bound with fine cane. This is also fine cane.

This one’s been finished with resin - there’s a blob of resin on the end - which then can make it used as a weapon to strike backwards as well.

This one’s been carved and a little bit of ochre placed on it. It’s also been scorched over a fire. That’s one’s not particularly old. These two are reasonably old. These probably pre-contact. This one I suspect is not. This one has bone and not a claw as a tip - a cassowary bone that would be the claw.

These were carried as I said earlier. Huli men didn’t carry fighting axes, they all carried these picks. That was carried in the belt and the main use of that weapon as it was described to me was you pulled it out when the enemy started to run and you could strike someone from behind because of the angle of the weapon. Because of the angle of the top to the handle it was perfect for striking somebody who’s running away. It would come over the shoulder and strike someone in the chest or you can come around the belly and hit them hard in the guts with the tip of that weapon.

So as it was explained to me that’s a weapon you use when the enemy’s turned and is running and you can hit them from behind with - you can hit in the front by swinging that in front of them and around so that it’s striking them in the chest or in the guts.

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