Characteristics of the Dory Papuans (Biak-Numfor) Part 1 - Manfasramdi
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Characteristics of the Dory Papuans (Biak-Numfor) Part 1

In the period of the 1800's

The Papoeers of Dory are of the caste ' Myfory,' having their origin in the island of that name (called Long Island in the English charts), which lies about ten (forty English) miles to the east of Dory. In general they are small in stature (klein van gestaalte), mostly five and a quarter, and only a few as much as five and a half feet in height. With the exception of a hunchback (een gebogchelden), we saw no deformed people, nor any particularly stout or lean men. Their colour is dark brown, that of some people inclining to black. I saw here two Albino children (of the same mother) with white skins, approaching to yellow, with some brown spots on the back, and with white crisp hair, and blue or green eyes.

The natives are generally affected with diseases of the skin ; with some of them the skin looks as if it was covered with scales (ichthyosis). The hair is black and crisp. Some of them have it tinted red at the outer ends, which, I think, must be attributed to its being dried by the intense heat. They usually wear the hair at the full length to which it is inclined to grow, which makes the head, when seen from a distance, appear to be nearly twice its real size. In general they bestow little care upon it, whereby it has a disorderly appearance, and gives them a wild aspect. There are some, however, whose hair, either by art or nature, is smooth and even as if it had been clipped. 

The men wear in their hair a comb, consisting of a stick of bamboo, one end of which is split into three or four long points, like a fork, while the other end is shaped off to a point, and is generally carved. This comb is stuck obliquely into the hair of the head, and a strip of coloured calico is fastened to the upper end, which hangs from it like a flag. The women do not wear this ornament. The beard is strongly crisped, but short. I believe the hair of the beard is sometimes plucked out. Most of the Papuans have a high but narrow forehead (een hoog, dock smal voorhoofd); large, dark brown or black eyes; flat, broad noses, large mouths, with thick lips, and good teeth.

Many of them, however, have narrow, arched (gebogen) noses, and thin lips, which gives them an European cast of countenance. They pierce the ears, and insert in the orifice, ornaments, or segars of tobacco rolled in pandan-leaf, of which they are great consumers. The expression of the Papoeers is dull and stupid; most of them are very ugly; only a few of them have regular features and a lively aspect."

The occurrence of European or Caucasian features among the Papuans of New Guinea and the neighbouring islands has been frequently noticed by visitors, and the same peculiarity is often met with among the comparatively fair tribes of Timor-Laut and the eastern islands of the Serwatty group, between whom and the Papuans so remarkable an affinity exists on nearly every other particular excepting complexion, that a close investigation is necessary before any satisfactory conclusion can be arrived at respecting the origin of these races. But no tribe has yet been met with in these eastern countries in which the Caucasian features prevail, so that they must be considered as individual peculiarities.

Costume and Ornaments.—The dresses of the chiefs among the natives of Dory consist of the saluer, or short drawers of the Malays, and the kabya, or loose coat of calico, with a handkerchief tied round the head. The common men, and the chiefs themselves when not in the presence of strangers, wear only a chawat, or waist-cloth of the hark of the fig, or of the paper-mulberry-tree, beaten out like the bark-cloth of the Polynesians. The women wear a short petticoat of blue calico, or short, loose drawers, and very rarely any other clothing. The ears of both sexes are bored, but the septum of the nose is never mutilated. Neither do they adopt the practice of raising the flesh of their limbs and bodies by scarifications, as is common among the natives of the south and south-west coasts of New Guinea ; this practice having apparently been superseded among the Dory natives by the Polynesian custom of tattooing, which is adopted both by males and females, the operation being performed by young girls, with the aid of sharp fish-bones and soot. 

Mr. Bruijn Kops observed that the skins of many of the natives were marked with scars, which have been produced by applications of fire ; and from the number of these marks which he saw on single individuals, some times as many as ten, he was led to suppose that they had " been made from some particular motive, probably as a mode of cure, or perhaps as ornaments."

Actual cautery is in common use among the more savage tribes of this part of the world as a cure for many diseases, more especially rheumatism, to which they are very liable from constant exposure to the weather; and among the Australians, burning the skin with lighted sticks is a common mode of displaying, grief on the death of a chief or relative. From a number of inquiries the writer has made among Papuans who were marked with the raised cicatrices, he has been led to the conclusion that those on the arm and breast, which are the largest and most prominent, were made in order to qualify them for admission to the privileges of manhood, by showing their capability of bearing pain.

In addition to the tattooed figures of crossed swords and kriss-blades with which the skins of the men are marked, the chief ornaments of the Dory natives consist in armlets of fish-bone, strings of shells, copper or silver wire, and sometimes of rattan or pandanus-leaf plaited into bands about two inches wide. A similar band is also worn to protect the wrist from the recoil of the bow string, which might otherwise inflict considerable injury.

Occupations.—Hunting and fishing are the chief outof-door occupations of the men. When at home, they employ themselves in making canoes, building houses, or shaping weapons. The plantations, which lie on the uplands, are cultivated chiefly by the women and children, who, during the planting or cropping season, go to the plantations in a body, under the protection of two or three of the men, leaving home early in the morning and returning in the evening. The women also perform all the domestic work, carrying wood and water, and husking the rice and millet. They also make earthen pots, and weave mats for household use. Natives of both sexes and all ages are expert in the management of the canoes, and they learn to swim and dive at a very early age. War is also an occasional occupation, and is carried on in the desultory manner usual with uncivilized people, each party retiring to rejoice over its success whenever it has succeeded in killing or capturing an enemy. Unfortunately, the capture of slaves is some times the chief object of war excursions, and then whole villages are sometimes surprised, and the women and children crrried away into captivity.

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