Overmodeled Skull

oceania | Vanuatu

Overmodeled Skull

Vanuatu

Ancestor overmodeled skull

Bone, spider web, vegetable fiber, cloth, paint
First part of the 20th century
Height: 9 ¾ in. (25 cm)
Length: 9 ½ in. (24 cm)

Ex private collection, Netherlands
Ex Cornette de Saint-Cyr auction, Drouot,
Paris, June 2001, lot 104
Ex private collection, Paris

Vanuatu Ancestor skull 24 cm / Galerie Flak Price on request
Ancestor skulls were revered in Melanesia. In Vanuatu, the worship of ancestors notably included the use and display of overmodelled skulls. The latter could be part of a rambaramp figure. The rambaramp is a funerary effigy of a high-ranking Vanuatu person. The effigy displayed the signs of the rank and initiation grades of the deceased. It appeared publicly during the funeral rituals, after which the skulls of high-ranking ancestors were preserved and placed in the roof of the men's house.

This cranial deformation shown here was common in Vanuatu. It was a matter of custom and aesthetics. When children were born, the skull was held firmly in place with wooden sticks and strips that compressed and stretched the skull as it grew.
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