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New Guinea Warriors Harvested Dead Fathers’ Thigh Skeletons To Make Human Bone Daggers

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Ancient warriors on the South Pacific Island meticulously crafted human bone daggers made from their fathers' thighs over blades made from bones of the cassowary.

These human bone daggers were the weapon of choice to stab the enemies in the neck for immediate killing. For the enemies that they rather eat, these daggers were stabbed into the hip joints, knees, or ankles. This way, they would only be subdued and could stay alive until the cannibal feast.

In some unfortunate instances, the warriors also used these bone daggers to kill their own kind when they were already wounded and could no longer come back home with them.

The New Guinea warriors also adorned these weapons with sophisticated hand carvings made painstakingly. They also wore them like pieces of jewelry to embellish their bodies and as armbands to conveniently access them during fights.

These findings are published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Symbol Of Prestige

Interestingly, these human bone daggers were equally fatal, with the variant made from the bones of the cassowary or the birds similar to small dinosaurs. Both variants are made with similar bone composition. It would also be easier for the New Guinea warriors to catch the cassowary and kill them for their bones.

The warriors, however, had their eyes set on the human bone daggers because they bring social prestige, according to Nathaniel Dominy of Dartmouth College in the United States, who coauthored the study.

Human bone daggers also carry much weight metaphorically because they need to come from thigh bones of the warrior's father or from bones of the highly respected community member, Dominy explained.

The ancient people also believed that the strength of the person who owns the bones will be bestowed upon the warrior who used it.

Curvature Of Human Bone Daggers

With much respect given to the human bone daggers, the New Guinea warriors specially designed them to last longer. They spent more time and more skills in making them as compared to the effort they exerted when making weapons from the bones of the cassowary.

Specifically, the warriors had intended for their favorite weapon to have greater curvature, whereas they designed cassowary bones to be relatively flat, according to the study.

The Engineering Of Human Bone Daggers

To arrive at their conclusion, Dominy and his team investigated the structural mechanics of the daggers made from different bones. They used a computerized tomography scanner and examine the density and geometry of the bones and a tension machine to test the weapons' strength.

The researchers found that the curvature made the human bone daggers more capable of withstanding 31 percent more force than the weapons made from cassowary bones despite having similar compositions.

The study therefore concludes that the ancient warriors meticulously engineered the human thigh bone daggers to make them more durable to serve them longer on the battlefield and, most importantly, to preserve the symbolic value the weapons gave them. 

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