Also known as: Bush Mekeo

The Mekeo are an Austronesian-speaking people living on the mainland of New Guinea, not far from the capital Port Moresby. In terms of indigenous supernatural belief and practices, the emphasis in Mekeo culture was on the magical rather than the religious. Ungaunga (sorcerers) played a major role in maintaining social order.

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Traditional Culture(1850-1875)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 53-54
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 52-57, 54
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 218-288
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 54
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 221-222
Deified ancestor(s) Absent (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 54
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 221-222
God(s) Absent (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 52-57, 54
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 218-288

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 222

Afterlife and Creation

Myth of humanity’s creation Absent (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981)
Stephen (1995)
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 177-
Hau'ofa (1981)
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 3-4, 180
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 222

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 220

Classes of Tapu

Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 159
Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 268-275

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 41-45, 218-288
Costly sacrifices and offerings Absent (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 218-288
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 199
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 153-154
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 215-288, 297
Hau'ofa (1971)

Rites

Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Williamson (1913)
Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Williamson (1913), pp. 269
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Williamson (1913), pp. 269
Social Environment +
Population 15000 (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 197
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 153-154
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 11
Importance of Matrilateral descent Low (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 11
Kinship system Hawaiian (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 199
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 199

Conflict

Conflict within communities Moderate (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 66
Conflict between communities of the culture Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 44
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981)
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 16-17
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 16
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 4703.7 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 29
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991)
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 12
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Williamson (1913), pp. 285-286
Land-based gathering Absent (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Williamson (1913), pp. 285-286

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Williamson (1913), pp. 286-287
Water-based gathering Minor (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Williamson (1913), pp. 286-287
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Williamson (1913), pp. 286-287

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Major (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 16-17
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 12, 29

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -8.5 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 12, 29
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 146.6 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Continental island (Source)
O'Connell & Allen (2004), pp. 835
Island Size (km²) 821400.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (New Guinea) (2014)
Maximum elevation (meters) 4884.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (New Guinea) (2014)
Post Contact History(1875-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 22
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 21-22
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 21
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 57

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Present, but did not survive to the present-day (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 23
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 20-25
Stephen (1995), pp. 28
Bergendorff (2010)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 27, 57

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Bergendorff (2010), pp. 373-374
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 16-20
Stephen (1995), pp. 7

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 7
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 18
Sea port Present (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 7
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009), pp. 168

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Partly voluntary (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 20-25
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 20-25
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Unofficial religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Bergendorff (2010), pp. 373, 375
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Bergendorff (2010), pp. 375
External Links
References
Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Bergendorff, S. (2010). Reconciling Cultural Order and Individual Agency: Complexity Theory and the Mekeo Case. Anthropological Theory, 10 (4), 361-383. DOI: 10.1177/1463499610386661

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (New Guinea). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/411548/New-Guinea

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Hau'ofa, E. (1971). Mekeo Chieftainship. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 80(2), 152-169.

Hau'ofa, E. (1981). Mekeo. Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Mosko, M.S. (1991). "Mekeo". In Hayes, T.E. (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Volume II: Oceania). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009). World Port Index Nineteenth Edition. Bethesda, MD: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

O’Connell, J. F. & Allen, J. (2004). Dating the Colonization of Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea): A Review of Recent Research. Journey of Archaeological Science, 31, 835-853. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2003.11.005.

Stephen, M. (1995). A'aisa's Gifts. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Williamson, R. W. (1913). Some Unrecorded Customs of the Mekeo People of British New Guinea. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 43, 268-290. DOI: 10.2307/2843168