Ancient New Guinea Warriors Perfected Sharp Blades by Using Human Bones
Sure, archaeologists have found the remains of a Lombard warrior with a prosthetic knife hand, but he died over a thousand years ago. Meanwhile, tribes in New Guinea were crafting deadly daggers from the thigh bones of their fathers up until the 20th century, in spite of the fact that cassowaries (giant, flightless birds native to New Guinea and Australia) can provide bones that are just as good.
They just don't carry the same symbolic meaning as human thigh bones, which, for these tribes, are strongly connected to an ancient tradition of cannibalism.
The daggers were apparently used to stab foes in the neck or finish them off after they were wounded with spears or arrows, but they were also used to subdue enemies that were going to be consumed later in a "cannibal feast."
In the latter case, the enemies were stabbed in the hip, knees, or ankles. However, these daggers could also be used to kill allies that were wounded and could not be brought back with the party.
The daggers themselves were intricately carved and usually kept in an armband worn by the owner. It was believed that the owner gained the strength of whoever the bone was taken from, whether it was their father or a prominent community member.
Through painstaking processes, researchers found, these daggers were curved to make sure they could stand up to the stress of combat and heavy use.
According to Nathaniel Dominy, a co-author on a new paper exploring these daggers, "The human bone dagger is stronger because men gave it a slightly different shape-it has greater curvature. We believe that such a shape was done deliberately to minimize the chance of the dagger breaking during fighting. And the reason that men engineered human bone daggers to resist breaking is because human bone daggers carried a lot of social prestige."
For most people, cannibalism is a sensational remnant of the past, but according to VICE, cannibal tribes are still operating in New Guinea.