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Arfak Conus Shell Disc Currency Toae

Arfak Conus Shell Disc Currency Toae

Regular price €245,00
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Arfak people, early to mid. 20th century, The Bird's Head Peninsula, Arfak Mountains, West Papua, Indonesia.

Magnificent, aged Conus Shell pendant disc (toea) decorated with circular carving. Toea are the end pieces of conus shell, cut into a flat round shape with bamboo knives. Used as currency (other well-known currencies are pigs, cowrieshells and kina-shell pectorals) and as nose ornament, as well as part of pendant. The modern Papua New Guinea coins were named after these shell toea-discs. The kina coin has a hole like the shell disks, so they may be strung together. 

Shells in general were highly valuated as traditional wealth in all parts of Papua New Guinea but especially in the Highland region. They had to travel through trading from coast to where they were collected to hundreds of kilometers through highly rugged terrains. Because Highland peoples had no concept of the sea and shells were so hard to acquire, they were considered unusual and precious. Most shell ornaments made in New Guinea were used as an adornment during sacred ceremonies, but also an important type of traditional wealth and currency that was used to pay for bridal dowries, land disputes, or given as a sign of respect during funerals of important clan leaders both men and women.

Delicate toea are in good condition. Smoothed from wearing and handling over many years and generations. Age-related light wear. Size approx. 5,9cm x 6,3cm x 0,4cm. 

Provenance: Dutch private collection. According to information, originally from the collections of a closed ethnographic museum & foundation in the Netherlands.

For a similar examples see:

Headband, Pace, Stichting Papua Erfgoed, Accession Number: EA/7/5 (

Headband, Pace, Stichting Papua Erfgoed, Accession Number: EA/279/6 (

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