Mountain Arapesh - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The mainstays of Mountain Arapesh subsistence were yams and taro, cultivated separately by slash-and-burn horticulture, and a feasting dependence on sago. Supplements included bananas, greens, sugarcane, bamboo sprouts, breadfruit, coconuts, and a wide variety of game, including pigs, cassowaries, a range of smaller ground and arboreal mammals, birds, grubs, and fish. Pigs and dogs were the main domestic animals.

Industrial Arts. Mountain Arapesh manufactures included tools, weapons, cooking and eating utensils, net bags, basketry, clothing, and body ornaments.

Trade. Self-sufficient in subsistence items, the Mountain Arapesh nonetheless were active participants in the Sepik Basin's extensive ritual, artistic, and ceremonial trade. Their principal traffic was in stone tools, bows, net bags, pottery, carved plates, masks, shell valuables, dogs' teeth, musical instruments, magic, songs, and dance complexes. Their own productions for this trade were rather meager, prompting Mead to label them an "importing culture," but they occasionally exported pigs, puppies, net bags, carved plates, sago, bird feathers, tobacco, and hospitality.

Division of Labor. There was a distinct division of labor. Men were responsible for fighting, hunting, clearing and fencing gardens, planting and harvesting the yams and sago, cooking ceremonial food, carving, and building houses. Women reared pigs, did the daily cooking and most of the portering, planted and harvested taro, bananas, and greens, fetched water, and foraged for firewood, bush foods, caterpillars, and grubs. Both sexes participated in child care, fishing, and the manufacture of ornaments, clothing, and twine.

Land Tenure. The living conceived of themselves not as owning the land but rather as belonging to it. The land, the trees growing on it, and the game supported by it belonged to the shades and walin (spirit of the lineage), and in this sense land was associated with the lineage. In theory, a man could dispose of the lands he inherited as he wished; in practice, he favored his sons, though sometimes he conferred land on his brothers' or on his sisters' husbands and sons. Fishing and transit rights were vested in the settlement as a whole.

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