Watung villagers honour ancient bones

National, Normal


THE preservation of human skeletons remain sacred and is well respected by Melanesian traditional beliefs because it can bring good or provide protection against the enemy.
In Wutung village, along the Vanimo West Coast, Sandaun, the villagers honour human skeletons of their elders dating back five generations.
The skeletons are preserved at a sacred limestone cavern near the PNG/Indonesian border  overlooking the Bismarck Sea.
Wutung villager Dennis Feni says they know little about the skeletons of their ancestors but some elderly villagers say the bones were collected from as far as Wara Tami, which is almost a 20 minute drive west into Indonesia.
Mr Feni says during special occasions they have vigils at the site.
Archaeologists from the United States and Britain have visited the cave to check whether the remains were their war veterans but tests have proven that they belong to the Wutung people.
Anyone can visit the cave but it is prohibited to remove any remains.