Art Historical Background
Let’s start with geography, the Ambum Stone is from Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean. And it is one of the earliest examples of Pacific artwork; this, however, does not mean that it is the first artwork they made, just the oldest that survived.
It is believed that the elongated nose of the Ambum Stone may resemble a fruit bat, but that the body may depict a long-beaked echidna (spiny anteater), which were commonly eaten. Some go even further to look at the body positioning of the Ambum Stone and say it may even be an embryonic echidna…kinda creepy!
The function of this piece, and many like it, are so completely obscure. The most I could find was “possibly ritualistic.” I read an article that suggested it could have been used in a fertility ritual because of the animal’s rotund belly (and maybe because it depicts a embryo) but I just don’t feel comfortable deciding on that. Let’s just say “ritualistic” and call it a day!
- Art Beyond the West, 2nd edition, by Michael Kampen-O’Riley pg. 210
- Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, 15th edition, pgs. 1105
- The Metropolitan, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Prehistoric Stone Sculpture from New Guinea
- National Gallery of Australia: The Ambum Stone
- Bones of the Ancestors: The Ambum Stone by Brian Egloff (for the record, I have not read this book, only a review)
- Khan Academy: Ambum Stone