If you saw these red, charred bodies hanging on a cliff face in the Menyama region of Papua New Guinea, you would probably think that you just stepped into the middle of a crime scene. That, however, wouldn’t be the case. The gruesome scenes you see below are actually part of an important ritual. The grotesque bodies are known as the Aseki Smoked Bodies. They are preserved on purpose by the locals and then strung up to hang on a cliff face.
“The people in Menyama smoke the bodies of their dead in order to preserve them, and then take the bodies up a very steep incline to a cliff.”
The bodies “are placed in such a way that they look down the mountain and upon the village far below.”
They are protectors of the villagers below.
Only the warriors of the village are smoked and become watchers. Only sons of warriors can become warriors (and so on). The bodies that guard the town are fierce-looking as they were in life. It’s easy to see how the people feel protected.
(H/T Papua New Guinea Journal) Sometimes, the bodies will be brought down from the sides of the cliff for celebrations or other events. Otherwise, the warriors stand guard and watch over their loved ones. It’s difficult to understand this strange and scary custom, especially when we are so used to honoring our dead in a drastically different way.