The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary five

caption: corpse platforms and carvings
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wanching
date: 3.5.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 1.4.1937-26.6.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: In the Totang morung I ate my lunch consisting of baked beans, so useful for camping purposes, and a tin of herrings. Later I went into the village with the young gaonbura Pongyong and Metlou. On the way to the lower khel one passes a long row of corpse platforms. Apart from the bodies of those who died a bad death which are buried in bamboo coffins, the dead are all put into wooden coffins. (117) Both for the Ang family which comes from Chi and for the indigenous Ang-wan-hu, the coffins have three to five carved ends depending on the social position of the individual or on his rank within the clan. These ends are supposed to represent hornbill bird heads but they are strongly conventionalized. The coffins of all other clans only have a carved off shoot as endpieces. The coffins remain on the platform for only three years then they are all put into the branches of a big tree. But the skulls are soon taken out of the coffins and are placed into stone urns from which they grin out at the beholder.