"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

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Journal of Matthew Stirling
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September 11, 1926 : Explorators Camp/Tombe Village

September 11

This morning again we had a number of new visitors from a distant village and as usual when new men come, we had an active day of trading. The newcomers now hand over their goods to the old timers who do the trading for them. They get very critical of the cowries now and usually want to inspect several before accepting one. The most valuable are the ones that approach a [V1/V2: drawing of a cowrie] shape with distinct "shoulders" on the side rather than those which are a smooth oval shape. Some of them do not seem to know how to assess them, but always reject the first one offered as a matter of principle, assuming evidently that I will always offer a poor one first, then accept the 2nd or 3rd without regard to shape or condition. They always inspect the under side and the manner in which they are broken for stringing seems to have considerable weight with the expert assayers. The ones of dull surface are always rejected. The women are quite friendly and about as coy as at Bisano, but for some reason they have the un-feminine trait of objecting to being photographed. It is necessary to get posed pictures to have Igoon order them to stand before the camera; which they then do with a thoroughly woebegone and spiritless countenance which is generally fixed in gaze on the ground at their feet.

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