Ritual Mortar

Mark A. Johnson Tribal Art

The “mortar” is held at each end by two muscular figures, straining with grimacing faces, to carry the weight (like Atlas holding up the globe). These two figures are assisted by two additional smaller figures, also straining and heaving (one, seemingly huffing and puffing from the work) to hold the weight of this ritual object. The mortar itself is hollowed out of the skull of a Janus faced structure, likely representing the decapitated head of an enemy. It is not uncommon to represent your spirit allies as powerful and relatively attractive figures, while the enemy spirit is represented as ugly and deformed. There is an additional motif (probably a stylized double serpent) carved in low relief along the top of one end. Because of its size, with the added figures, it was likely used for crushing ritual substances or medicines. Hardward. 19th to early 20th century.


Artwork details


Ibanic Dayak complex. West Kalimantan, Borneo Island, Indonesia.


H 8IN x W 8IN x L 19IN

H 20.32CM x W 20.32CM x L 48.26CM


Very good.

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