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Papua New Guinea phallus artefacts

6,000-year-old carved phallus artefacts found in Papua New Guinea

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Archaeologists in Papua New Guinea have made a rare discovery – six ceremonial tools carved out of volcanic black glass, which date back around 6,000 years.  However more significantly, the artefacts have been carved into the shape of a phallus which provides an indication as to their ceremonial function. 

The discovery was made by workmen using a bulldozer who happened to notice a black glistening object in the dirt. Dr Robin Torrence, senior principal research scientist at the Australian Museum, was called to the site and a total of six artefacts were recovered.

The relics are about 20 centimetres long, very flat and sharp, and with a very distinctive shape, (although this is not clear from the above photograph): “they look identical to a penis. Mind you it's a flat penis, it's a profile of a penis, it's not a 3D view. And this was done by a very clever way of manufacturing by hitting a blow just across the front of the tool to give this very, very distinctive shape,” said Dr Torrence.

Dr Torrence maintains that they must have had a ceremonial purpose because “they're so thin and flat and sharp, that if you tried to use them for anything they'd break. So right away, you know you're not dealing with a kind of functional utilitarian tool.” He continued: “clearly the manufactured shape is sending some messages out to people.”

Torrence believes the artefacts once belonged to the original ancestors of the Melanesians and could shed new light on the history and origins of the Pacific region's ancient civilisations.

It is known that the Melanesian people used to worship totem poles which evolved from the shape of a phallus and that some forms of phallic worship were performed as rites of fertility.  But the Melanesians are certainly not the only culture to engage in phallic worship.

Numerous phallic symbols have been collected from almost every country around the world and since prehistoric times, many religions have incorporated a devotion to the male organ into their beliefs.  To the Chinese Taoists, “yang” represented male power and the penis was depicted as a stallion, dragon, roster, ram and other horned animals.  In the Indus plain, cone-shaped phalli were uncovered which predated the earliest scriptures. One of the oldest examples can be seen at the Stone Age caves at Forneau de Diable in southern France where a painting shows a phallic dancer wearing the horned skin of an animal.

It is unclear where these traditions began or why, but it is likely that the phallus was seen as something natural and life-creating, a concept far-removed in today’s society.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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