The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

letters from J.P. Mills to Henry Balfour

caption: Stone celts and origin of farming; primitive communication device; evolution of trophy heads
medium: letters
person: Balfour/ HenryLambertNgaku
ethnicgroup: KonyakChangAoAngami
location: Kohima
date: 8.3.1934
person: Mills/ J.P.
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Mills Ms.
text: Kohima,
text: Naga Hills.
text: Camp Khari.
text: March 8th 1934
text: My dear Balfour,
text: ...I wonder if anyone is going to talk about "jhuming before metals". The more I think about those stone celts the less I feel we know about them. Assuming they were the points of digging stick or hoes how was the ground cleared for the crops unless metal "daos" were used for felling, and if metal was used for "daos" why not for digging stick? You see my difficulty. Even if we assume a hunting community with garden patches a garden patch in this jungle takes a lot of clearing without metal, for trees and brushwood won't burn till felled and dried. I'd rather like to ask these questions if there is any suitable paper.
text: I am due back in Kohima in three days and leave a month today.
text: Besides my Konyak stuff I have a new toy for you. Lambert found it for me. It is a perfectly genuine "telephone" of the kind English children used to make. You cover the ends of two bamboo cylinders with membrane and run a long string from a hole in the centre of one men's house to a hole in the centre of the other. If the string is pulled taut and you speak into a cylinder at one end the sound carries to the other. I don't know what the extreme distance is, but Ngaku puts it at not less than 400 yards. The toy seems to be obsolete, but middle-aged men of today used it as children and I was able to get it made without difficulty. The Changs, Aos and Western Angamis know it, and probably other tribes too, but I haven't been able to find out yet.
text: I'm sending you more material for your series of carved-head Konyak breast ornaments. Things are getting complicated. As you know the original was a carved wooden head. Then came brass heads of Vishnu used as substitutes. Now I find wooden heads deliberately carved to imitate the Vishnu heads. An aberration is the monkey-skull substitute. In some cases the scalp is left on, and in other rare cases an imitation scalp of coloured hair is put on. A side development is the conch shell, later imitated in brass. These imitations then became "king crow" with forked tails, and then the tail got elaborated!! I'm getting giddy. I'd better stop. I shall be very glad when I hear all this new stuff is safely in your hands. I'm never happy till it is...
text: Yours ever,
text: Philip Mills