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(1889)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. 54

Supernatural Punishment

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

Afterlife and Creation

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

Mana

Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008)
Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
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
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 215-288, 297

Rites

Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Williamson (1913)
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Williamson (1913)
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Williamson (1913)
Social Environment +
Population 4000 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 28
Stephen (1974), pp. 45-46
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 27-31, 42-45
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

(No) external warfare Common, at least every five years (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 313-314
Conflict within community Moderate (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 66
(No) internal warfare Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 311
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 44
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 nearest continent 488.0 (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), pp. 198
Hau'ofa (1971), pp. 15
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 15
Williamson (1913)
Land-based gathering Minor (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 8, 25
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Mosko (1991), pp. 198
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 15
Williamson (1913)
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 12
Mosko (1991), pp. 198

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 8-25
Williamson (1913)
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 8-25
Williamson (1913)
Water-based gathering Minor (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 8-25
Williamson (1913)

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Medium (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 16-17
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 8-25
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

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)
'New Guinea' (2019)
Maximum elevation (meters) 4884.0 (Source)
'New Guinea' (2019)

Location

Latitude -8.6 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 29
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 146.6 (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 29
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1889-2014)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
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Stephen (1995), pp. 57
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Hau'ofa (1981), pp. 21

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.

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

New Guinea (2019). Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/New-Guinea.

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.

Seligman, C. G. (1910). The Melanesians of British New Guinea. London: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/melanesiansofbri00seli

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

Stephen, M. J. (1974). Continuity and change in Mekeo society, 1890-1971 (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Retrieved from https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/110283

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