Guide to Lords of the Garden, 1991

Collection ID:
Smithsonian Institution
Physical Description:
1 Video recording
53 minutes
color sound

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Edited film produced by the Smithsonian Institution documents anthropologist Paul Taylor's expedition into previously unexplored and undocumented rainforest on the island of New Guinea. Featured are the Korowai, a people who live above ground in tree house clusters in the midst of dense rainforest. Footage depicts the process of building a tree house, including site selection, erection, and roof and floor formation; forehead bands worn by women; geometric scars burned into girls' skin for aesthetic purposes; paddling upriver in dugout canoes; and trekking through rainforest. Animal footage includes shots of grasshoppers, bats, boa constrictors, beetles, arthropods and insects. Second part of the expedition documents the journey upriver beyond the pacification land into an area of tribal warfare where cannibalism is said to be practiced. Taylor explores the myth of cannibalism and theorizes it functioned not only as a means of intertribal warfare, but as a highly effective criminal justice system as well. The structural contrast between the placid domesticity of treehouse life and the darker side of cannibalism is a theme explored throughout. Various rituals examined are preparing the sago flour from the sago palm tree, post funeral practices where distant relatives come to claim material posessions of the deceased to compensate for their emotional losses, and moving in process upon completion of a new treehouse.
Legacy keywords: Funerary New Guinea ; Adornment headbands New Guinea ; Cannibalism New Guinea ; Headhunting New Guinea ; Carving New Guinea ; Dwellings treehouse New Guinea ; Sorcery New Guinea ; Warfare intertribal New Guinea ; Law New Guinea ; Canoes New Guinea ; Body marking Oceania ; Indonesia ; New Guinea ; Korowai ; Rueben Aaronson, Co-director, Cinematographer ; Richard Kane, Sound Recordist ; Sam Green, Editor ; Paul Taylor, Anthropologist
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

Local Numbers
Local Numbers
HSFA 2021.2.1

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Preferred Citation
Lords of the Garden, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution

More Information

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Oceania Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Indonesia Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Korowai (Indonesian people) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video recordings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Taylor, Paul Michael, 1953- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Human Studies Film Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland 20746