Gope board, 18th century


Wood, pigmentexpand_more

The John R. Van Derlip Fundexpand_more  67.56

Not on Viewexpand_more

Gope boards and shields are protective objects that are named after ancestors important to their owners. Ancestors become connected with the objects and help protect the owner from physical or supernatural harm. The gope board, or special shield, shown here was kept in the men’s house in communities in the Papuan gulf region of New Guinea. It belonged to an individual man whose ancestor is depicted on the board, and who was called upon for protection during battle or times of danger for his village. On those occasions, the gope board was removed from its place in the men’s house and carried like a shield. The striking Asmat shield shown here held similar ancestral power. Its carved elements and symbols—including an abstract depiction of the ancestor’s face at top—added to the power and protective value of the shield.



Gope Board (#590)
Gope board
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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