The Last Stone Axe Makers
Commentary by Benjamin Raven Pressley
This is a report on an article called The Last Stone Ax Makers by Nicholas Toth, Desmond Clark and Giancarlo Ligabue and appeared in Scientific American, July 1992
This is an article worth reading. It describes a chance encounter with a people living in New Guinea’s highlands that still make and trade stone axes in almost complete isolation from the outside world until 1984 when a German doctor met them while on an expedition in the area. These people, who call themselves the Kim-Yal, are horticulturalists who live in Langda village in the central mountains of Irian Jaya, western New Guinea. Their language belongs to one of the many Papuan families, they call Uni. The average Kim-Yal man stands about 4 feet 6 inches tall which is much shorter than populations who live in the central highlands and the southwest coast.