Fieldphotos - Baliem Valley

The Baliem Valley

The land of the Dani is the Grand Valley of the Baliem River. At least 50.000 Dani live in the densely settled valley floor and another 50.000 inhabit
the steep-sided valleys around the Grand Valley. They live in scattered settlements which are collections of compounds enclosed by a common
fence or stockade. In most settlements the dominant structure is the circular domed men's house. On both sides are long rectangular family or
cooking houses and smaller circular houses in which each woman sleeps with smaller children. Also there are houses where pigs are kept.

Dani life is vigorous and crowded with heavy work. Men are busy bilding a house or clearing garden land. Women cultivate the garden, raise the
pigs and rear the children. At times men and women work together in the production of salt by soaking banana strips in a salt pool and burning
them to salty ash. There are also great events such as victory celebrations, funerals, wedding ceremonies,etc. The Dani's wealth are pigs and shells.
A man who has several wives and many pigs and shells ranks high in the society. The Dani are a belligerent people and a certain kind of
violence is the rule in the Dani way of life.

Dani material culture is rather simple. The men's dress consists of a penis sheath of gourd shell and netted caps or caps made from spider web.
Feathers of many different birds as well as nassa, cowrie and bailer shells are the indispensable elements of ornamentation. Women wear a string
skirt and a net down their back and a rain cape made from reeds. Spears, bows and arrows are the usual weapons of the Dani warriers. Stone adzes,
and big stone axes are the main tools. The Dani have a number of festivals and ceremonies. One of the most important ceremonies is the funeral
of a man who died in battle. The funeral guests bring a number of pigs which are are killed with bow and arrow, butchered and cooked along with
vegetables in a cooking pit with stones heated in a large fire. During certain parts of the ceremony valuable sacred stones decorated with braided
fibres, furs and feathers are laid out on folded nets. Valuable cowrie shell bands draped around the corpse are removed just before cremation and
distributed among the funeral guests.