Harold and Mary Cohen : The Papua New Guinea Slide Collection
Object ID:
Crocodiles on Front of Canoes
Kaminabit, Middle Sepik, Papua New Guinea
Row of four canoes along the shore of the water. First two canoe tips are carved into crocodiles.

The village of Kaminabit's crocanoes are the traditional Sepik River dugout canoe of the 25 Iatmul villages. Each prow is carved to resemble a crocodile head. The purpose of wood carving of the inside and outside of each crocanoe relates to the reverence and fear of the large carnivorous thick—skinned and long—bodied aquatic reptiles of the tropics and sub—tropics. In many of the villages, part of the male—initiation rite requires skin—cutting. The skin is deeply cut. Clay and ashes are rubbed into the cuts to ensure they are raised into keloid scars, resembling crocodile scales. Some believe that the crocodile is the incarnation of the clan ancestor of a group acknowledged as having been the first to settle in the region.
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