National Geographic : 1953 Apr
480 The National Geographic Magazine limits to her bondage, and compen sations. Since the courtship period is often lon g, the girl has some opportunity to see to it that the right man chooses her. If she is not happy after marriage, she can flee her husband and return to her old home, forfeiting only the original bride payment. And polygamy , while it forces her to share her husband , also forces her fellow wives to share the work. Climax of the dance comes on the last day with a great feast. Pigs, corralled in a special stockade, admired and ogled with much smack- ing of lips, are now slaughtered by crashing blows on the forehead. Teams of men bleed them, store the inedible fat in gourds for adornment, cut the meat into chunks, and prepare the ground ovens (page 466). Pork, a Ia Kubor These ovens are hollowed from the earth itself or from tree trunks. Stones heated on cribs of burning logs are placed at the bottom and interspersed with meat, vegetables, and fragrant leaves. Then water from a bamboo tube, doused on the stones , sends up a head of steam. This is quickly and solidly capped by wet grass, broad leaves, and reeds , con- verting the oven into a primitive fireless cooker (pages 482, 483). In about an hour and a half the succulent feast is ready. Distribution of the piec e de resistance is far from casual. Where many chiefs have gathered, and hundreds or even thousands of pigs have been barbecued, the first chunks go to the headmen. These pass pieces to their lieutenants, often on the tip of an outthrust spear, and they in turn whip out unbelievably efficient bamboo knives and carve morsels for their serfs. The gastronomic orgy may last for days. It sometimes proves fatally wasteful of the tribe 's meat reserves. But at least no part of a pig goes unappreciated. Even the en- trails are carefully braided and cooked , and the tusks , hoofs , and bones are preserved for decoration. Men keep the scrotums to wear, skewered, from ear and neck , in the curious faith that they act as aphrodisiacs. Women and old men string varicolored pigtails to- gether for necklaces. Hemmed in by the uninhibited hospitality of these Kubor tribesmen , we soon began to feel as if we were attending a college re- union held on a subway at the rush hour. But I made a point of learning as much as I could of the manufac ture and the employ- ment of the tool which gives this culture its historic stamp, the stone ax. I had been impressed before with the speed and ease with which a good stone-axman can split casuarina logs , even those a foot or more in diameter (page 468). The thickness of the blade, I could see , made it possible to strike the lo g very forcefully without getting it stuck in the wood. But I was unprepared for its sharpness. The blade is razor-keen- and it holds its edge. Stone for the best of the work axes is quarried from the Jimmi River and at a spot halfway up the Wahgi Valley toward Mount Hagen. But only the old people seem to know how to fashion them into blades. Day after day , one of these old-time crafts- men will sit by a puddle of water , grinding the stone upon a big, well-worn sandstone. The blade scrapes forward , turns slightly in the grinder 's hand, clacks against the stone , then scrapes back upon its other edge with a hollow, grating sound. It takes almost three months of constant toil to make a good stone ax , and another week to complete a woven stock and handle for it (page 486). Other stone implements are not common in the Kubors, but they can still be found - clubs , knives, emblems, " money, " pestles, mortars , even carved birds. They are clearly the work of another age. Say the natives, " Em belong before; me fellow no savvy. " It is easier for the natives to make the elaborate ceremonial axes , with their flat , slatelike blades of softer, volcanic chert (page 48 7). It will become easier still for them to acquire the steel ax of the white man as he visits them with increasing frequency. The Hollow Echo of Prehistory I thought often of that as we turned back toward Kup for our outward flight to civiliza- tion. Following steep , narrow trails, we oc- casionally crossed a little valley, and from some remote pocket in the hills there would drift down the old, ancestral sound of stone upon stone, the clack and scrape, endlessly repeated , of the axmaker. I hear it yet in my imagination. But it will not be many years before the source of this frail , fugitive echo will itself be stilled. Then, perhaps, over the whole inhabited globe a music that has been played by primitive man since the dawn of time will resound no more, and in those few of us who heard it last, the memory will fade. © National Geographic Socie ty K odachrome by E . T homas Gill iard. American M useum-Armand Denis Expedition Dancers Flourish a Sacred Shield + to Repel the Evil Power of Pigs Tribal lo re associates the ghosts of pigs with the souls of departed r elatives _ To placate slaughter ed porkers , the p eople make ge ruas, sy mbolic wooden shields, and carry them during butcherings in g rave- yards. Once used, the shields are left to rot in a forest . There the sorcerers' t aboos guard them against further use. People belie v e that if this ritual is not faithfully carried out, their ances tors will return to haunt them.