JP Title

The Una

THE LAST STONE AXE MAKERS
Irian-Jaya, Indonesia

*Displayed in First World Exhibition*

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There is only one place on Earth where man still makes tools from polished stone: in New Guinea, the world's second largest island, found North of Australia. Until the 1960's, this region was entirely unknown to the rest of mankind.

Una Axe

Una Axe

The Una still have the secret of making basalt stone axes (adzes). Each village of Una stone-cutters owns a plot of quarry, which is placed under the protection of the elders. The prestige enjoyed by stone-cutters is equal to that of great shamans. Their know-how is highly valued as it is the source of the community's welfare.

The stone-cutters believe that the shape of the ax preexists in the mother rock. They work in a state of deep concentration in order to get a mental picture of the tool and make it as it was meant to be. Training to become a stone-cutter takes three to four years. Aspiring stone-cutters may begin sculpting at age 15, but they need to wait until they turn 35 to make axes that are symmetrical and in keeping with the cultural model, without the master's supervision. These axes are remarkably effective tools. The blades range from 125 to 600 grams in weight and are designed for different uses according to their length and strength. The workmanship of the different handles and of the wickerwork fastening the stones are indications of the region of origin of the axes. Once an adze is finished, it is considered as an extension of the man's arm.

Una Stone

Una Stone

These weapons are highly prized barter pieces. They are regularly exchanged with neighboring tribes for bows, arrows, bird feathers, nets or dog-teeth necklaces which the Una particularly appreciate.

Una Tool

Una Tool

This people of Irian Jaya practices and passes on knowledge and skills dating back to prehistoric times. As such they are the keepers of immemorial times, the guardians of the memory of mankind.

Una Tool

Una Tool