"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 16, 1926 : Explorators Camp/Tombe Village

September 16

The four soldiers have been busy all day building a new house for the Americans in anticipation of Dick and Stan arriving. Three more men from Agintawa arrived today. Evidently Agintawa is the headquarters of the tribe and I am more curious than ever to visit it. As nearly as I can make out, it is two days journey to the west. They being newcomers, I measured them {p. 254} and rewarded them with a few beads, as usual. They then wanted me to tie these beads in their hair, and would not do it for themselves so I obliged. They like to wear things in their hair which they tie on with little pieces of bark string. In this manner they wear feathers, shells and beads. In addition to the several varieties of demountable feather headdresses which they have they use this method of wearing feathers and also wear them in their hair nets, giving an effect sometimes like a Sioux warrior with his war bonnet. In this manner also they wear bright colored leaves, particularly one variety of large lance shaped leaves which are brilliant red, green and purple in color. Sometimes a large cluster of these are hung in the bag down the back so that they radiate over the head of the wearer, framing it like rays of an Arizona sunset. In the woven arm bands which they all wear they often put flowers or colored leaves. They are particularly fond of fine odors and wear sweet smelling flowers or aromatic leaves which they occasionally sniff. They also use ginger root and an aromatic spice from which they make perfumed bead necklaces. I have two kinds of soap with me, one a rose scented variety of toilet soap, the other a strongly odorous carbolated antiseptic variety. When they wanted to examine these I passed them around. They sniffed the antiseptic soap and wrinkled their faces in distaste, but inhaled great noisy droughts of the Maxine Elliott's special and at once wanted to purchase it. This evening Jordans and I introduced our visitors to some athletic {p. 255} games. They enjoyed immensely our demonstration of leap frog, somersaulting, walking on the hands, etc., but their attempts to emulate our example were invariably completely unsuccessful. They seem unable to do the simplest of gymnastic stunts and cannot jump worthy of the name, either for height or distance. An exhibition of rock throwing by yours truly turned out to be the hit of the evening's entertainment, closely seconded by Jordan's hand stand on a pair of improvised parallel bars when the bars collapsed. He was enthusiastically encored, but failed to oblige. They have evidently done considerable fighting not so long ago with the Borah, a village to the west, a people evidently of their own kind. Of the twenty who were present, about six exhibited scars caused by arrows.

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