Acquired by Ben Birillo in the Keram River region, this piece presents an almost unique structure, found only on one other very closely related sculpture, kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. No. 1981.415-7). Christian Kaufmann describes it as an ancestral figure holding a snake in its hands (Kjellgren, Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, No. 54, p.96.) This interpretation is consistent with the commanding sculpted coiffure found on both figures, which ties the representation to a supernatural being of great importance. The handle, adorned with a representation of a crocodile, extends into a large board, where a human figure appears with its head, arms and phallus detached in relief. Although the use of these sculptures is not documented, their sculptural quality and iconographic richness suggest that they were of great importance within the corpus of sacred works that were preserved in the men’s ceremonial houses. This importance is compounded here by the great archaism of the sculpture, carbon-dated to between 1450 and 1640, also attested to by its fragmentary state and deep patina of use.
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