Bird-shaped pestle


British Museum

British Museum

It was found in Papua New Guinea, in the Pacific Ocean, which has one of the oldest food cultivation traditions in the world. Around 10,000 years ago, humans in this part of the world began to move away from living as roaming bands of hunter-gatherers. They learnt to grow crops, which meant new tools had to be invented, both for farming and for food storage and preparation.

In Papua New Guinea, the staple crop was taro. Taro was one of the earliest crops to be cultivated by humans, and is still grown in Papua New Guinea today. It has an edible root, as well as leaves that are eaten as a green vegetable.

The pestle’s long neck meant it was probably too delicate to be used regularly and its bird-shape suggests it may have been used for pounding food on special occasions.

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  • Title: Bird-shaped pestle
  • Date Created: -6000/-2000
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 36.20cm (approx); Width: 7.30cm (approx); Depth: 9.10cm (approx)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Subject: bird
  • Registration number: Oc1908,0423.1
  • Production place: Made in Papua New Guinea
  • Place: Found/Acquired Aikora River
  • Period/culture: Prehistoric
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: stone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Barton, Francis Rickman