Agate Mamete Mabel was known as the chieftain who presided over a remote village in Indonesian Papua, home to the Dani tribe. His precise age was never determined, but tribe members claim he ruled approximately 250 years ago. Nine generations later, his descendant, Eli Mabel, is the current chief of the Dani people. Mamete Mabel's mummified body was found in Wogi, an isolated village located outside Wamena, the capital town of Indonesia. He continues to be held there to this day.
The Dani people of Papua had an unusual and distinctive way of mummifying their ancestors. Mamete Mabel was dried in the sun and placed in a cave. Shortly after, he was smoked over a fire from a few weeks to a month, which denoted a symbol of highest respect to their forebears. In order to further preserve him, Mamete Mabel was drained of internal bodily fluids through piercings and covered with lard. Subsequently, he was embalmed with smoke and animal oil, a distinction bespoken only to significant elders and heroes of the Dani community. Mamete Mabel, much like all the other Dani mummies, was mummified curled up in a fetal position in order to symbolize a fetus when in the womb.
By mummifying distinguished members of the Dani community, the tribespeople believed that they would receive a blessing from their ancestors to be prosperous and successful. Although this ancient tradition is no longer practiced, it has allowed for the preservation of few mummies to this day, some aging a few hundred years old. Now, the Dani tribe bury their deceased due to much encouragement from Christian missionaries and Muslim preachers.
Due to the loss of former mummifying traditions within the Dani tribe, Eli Mabel - the current chief -, is determined to retain any ancient practices and customs for future generations. As a result, there have been no studies done on the body of Agate Mamete Mabel. Instead, he is protected by the tribespeople where he rests in a hut, known as a honai, surrounded by few villagers who tend to his corpse by allowing a continuous fire to burn; this ensures preservation of the mummy by keeping it dry. Eli Mabel further ensures the safety of his ancestor by sleeping alongside his corpse in the honai.
Agat Mamete Mabel was the last of his tribe to receive this ancient, traditional funeral. For this reason, he is exhaustively cared for by Eli Mabel. The duty of protecting the corpse will eventually fall on others, and Eli Mabel hopes that all, or some, of his four children will accept this task.
The Dani tribe remained isolated from civilization until 1909, when a group of explorers encountered them during a Dutch expedition they were hosting. The Grand Valley Dani, a sub-tribe of Dani, were undetected until 1938, when the American zoologist, Richard Archbold, observed them from a plane. Due to the recent discovery of this tribe and their unique way of life, many tourists travel from across the world to observe their traditions and culture, as well as come face-to-face with the mummified corpse of Agat Mamete Mabel. Many tribes heavily depend on tourism, as their region is one of the poorest in Indonesia.
Barns, S. (2016, August 14). Villagers mummify their ancestors with SMOKE and keeps their remains for hundreds of years. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/1610806/villagers-mummify-their-ancestors-with-smoke-and-keeps-their-remains-for-hundreds-of-years/
Campbell, S. (2016, August 15). Hidden mountain tribe where dead relatives are mummified using smoke. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/inside-hidden-mountain-tribe-villagers-8634880
Freeman, D. (2016, August 16). Tribal Leader Shows Off 'Smoked' Mummy He Sleeps With. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/tribal-leader-shows-off-scary-smoked-mummy-he-sleeps-with_us_57b1e231e4b069e7e505f2fa
Havis, M. (2016, August 14). Dead strange: Meet the tribe who preserve corpses with smoke for centuries. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/537777/Smoke-mummies-Dani-tribe-New-Guinea-Indonesia-Wogi-dead-bodies-corpses