This stone talisman enclosed in a plant fibre net is from the New Guinea Highlands. The stone is an unmodified water-rolled river cobble. The object was made in the recent past.
Unmodified pebbles are placed in net bags to promote the fertility and well-being of pigs and families. They are also hung from trees to ensure the productivity of gardens.
Unusual stones—including fossils, crystals, colourful minerals, and water-worn pebbles—were believed by many cultures world-wide to be supernaturally empowered. As such, they were used as sacred stones, amulets, talismans, and offerings to promote the well-being of individuals or groups. Similar practices continue in most cultures to the present day. For instance, in modern Western cultures, this can be seen in the New Age subculture and the use of crystals in healing. These beliefs combine British, South Asian, and Native American traditional practices. The traffic in these crystals and related healing stones is serious business, with an estimated US$ 1 billion spent on stones and crystals in 2019 alone.
The author O.W. Hampton says that these stones ‘…might be thought of as sacred tool kits with sacred power tools, to be used to handle the kinds of personal, social, political, and natural problems that any cultural system has but for which there are no profane tools in the technological tool kits that can be helpful.’ In the Highlands of New Guinea, the power is installed into the stone by ritual or by absorption by contact with the supernatural power of other objects. The power in the stone must be periodically rejuvenated through ritual directed by men with the appropriate knowledge.