University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Ceremonial Object [Object of the Day #115]


November 23, 2012

Ceremonial Object
Ceremonial Object

Pearl shell disc with incised geometric patterns filled with red ochre. Such discs were worn by Australian Aboriginal men, suspended from belts, as pubic ornaments.  They were also highly valued objects of exchange, traded hundreds of miles into the interior of Australia from the northwest coast, where they were made.  The incised patterns are typical of Western Australia.  In Central Australia these ornaments were used to charm women.  A man sang over his ornament, inviting the lightning to come into it.  At night, as he danced, the woman of his choice saw the lightening flashing on the ornament, and was attracted to him.

Penn Museum Object #P3091A
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