counter Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art

Availability: Ready to download

The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story. Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd bee The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story. Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd been killed and ceremonially eaten by the local Asmat—a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, head hunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. Yet doubts lingered. Sensational rumors and stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told—until now. Retracing Rockefeller's steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publically after fifty years. In Savage Harvest he finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, Savage Harvest is a mesmerizing whodunit, and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.


Compare

The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story. Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd bee The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story. Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd been killed and ceremonially eaten by the local Asmat—a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, head hunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. Yet doubts lingered. Sensational rumors and stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told—until now. Retracing Rockefeller's steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publically after fifty years. In Savage Harvest he finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, Savage Harvest is a mesmerizing whodunit, and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.

30 review for Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This is a fascinating read on so many levels. First is the story of the Rockefeller’s and their wealth along with their commitment to philanthropy and the arts. Second is Michaels journey to acquire artifacts that leads to his demise. Brilliant job by the author to recreate Michael’s journey to try and solve the mystery into Michaels death. Another one sit reads.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    From one island to another; ten thousand miles away, but tens of thousands of years apart...'Safe Return Doubtful' I had a mental image at the start of Hoffman's novel: the privileged Rockefeller, a poster boy for REI, standing ankle deep in the swamp mud, surrounded by his equipment bearing entourage; pockets bulging with credit cards and currency, a million dollar smile, and those ubiquitous thick framed black glasses. Gazing back at him, the stone age Asmat people, smeared with ash and mud, bo From one island to another; ten thousand miles away, but tens of thousands of years apart...'Safe Return Doubtful' I had a mental image at the start of Hoffman's novel: the privileged Rockefeller, a poster boy for REI, standing ankle deep in the swamp mud, surrounded by his equipment bearing entourage; pockets bulging with credit cards and currency, a million dollar smile, and those ubiquitous thick framed black glasses. Gazing back at him, the stone age Asmat people, smeared with ash and mud, bone-pierced septums, bare bodies bejeweld with the skulls and bones of small animals. Progressing from that freeze frame image, a gigantic round boulder suddenly rolling in Rockefeller's direction, the sounds of phhfftt, phhfftt, phhfftt, would have seemed perfectly in order, I was tensed for the attack. No one, including Spielberg himself, could have told this outrageous tale more vibrantly; so eloquently orchestrating the facts and myths to shed some light on the human condition, as well as the mystery. Hoffman, a travel journalist and contributing author/editor for National Geographic and Smithsonian, said in an interview that his goal in writing this book was not to solve the mystery of Michael Rockefeller. He wrote: “I [the author] hungered to see a humanity before the Bible, before the Koran, before Christian guilt and shame, before clothes and knives and forks.” By immersing himself in the Asmat culture, Hoffman came to understand far beyond clues, mythology, and hoaxes, what might have happened to Rockefeller, and fundamentally, why. The book has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. I've tried to figure out from which angle to approach a review. It's so much more than *just* the tale of Michael Rockefeller's disappearance -- which alone could rank among Into Thin Air, Kon Tiki, The Right Stuff, The Perfect Storm. Savage Harvest is back-stage access to an amazing story, a travel pass to trek along with a great story teller/ traveler and a public figure that was an avid adventurer on a quest. It is a revealing excursion through a political history, and an education of an ancient people with a complex spiritual system based on the conception of a dualistic, balanced cosmos...whose village was currently feeling very unbalanced and at odds with the modern concepts imposed on them. "The last great unexplored land," a remote island -- that was until as late as 1953, still practicing the ritual of head-hunting and cannibalism. Hoffman gives his readers a multi-faceted gem that has been crafted with skill and intelligence. Most impactful for me: The beginning of the book gives a sequence of Michael's demise, from the capsizing of the boat, to the horrific step-by-step ritual of preparing the body for consumption. But, it is Hoffman's wrap up. He concludes with an enigmatic look at another possibility -- which I will not reveal. In a few places, the book reads more like an educational piece than an adventure novel, restating facts, careful alignment with objectivity, but the story itself is unimaginably fascinating and drives you forward smoothly over any little bumps. ***Perhaps you've gone to the Michael C. Rockefeller wing and seen the art of the Asmat people procured by Rockefeller (he was on his way to pick up a piece on his fatal expedition). The canoes, platters, shields carved from mangrove trees are impressive. The bisj (or bis) poles are hypnotic and eerie. The Asmat believe spirits of deceased ancestors inhabit the sacred wooden poles until their death is avenged. The symbols of the Asmat cosmology, indigenous birds, animals and insects, as well as symbolic references to headhunting, and the crowning phallic symbol, are intricately carved into the trees in cyclic rituals which accompany the death of a great warrior, headhunting raids, and as appeasement of evil spirits. You can also listen to Michael's twin sister and father talk about the pieces, their provenance: *Michael C. Rockefeller Expedition, collected 1961; Indonesia, Monu village, Unir (Undir) River region (upper); Culture: Asmat people. And, you can hear twin sister Mary explain the thick black framed glasses her brother wore; Michael was dyslexic. All the Rockefeller money couldn't buy for Michael the artifacts, the Asmat had no need for money; they cost him chunks of tobacco, metal axes, ramen noodles, and possibly his life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    The redeeming parts of this book were too few and far between to warrant more than two stars. And two is generous, believe me. I'm upset for the poor Rockefeller family (bet that's the only time you'll hear that). Just because they're huge doesn't mean their personal sorrows can be made public in such a sensational way, for the profit of another. They indicated they wanted nothing to do with this project and that they preferred to focus on the official cause of disappearance and death of Michael The redeeming parts of this book were too few and far between to warrant more than two stars. And two is generous, believe me. I'm upset for the poor Rockefeller family (bet that's the only time you'll hear that). Just because they're huge doesn't mean their personal sorrows can be made public in such a sensational way, for the profit of another. They indicated they wanted nothing to do with this project and that they preferred to focus on the official cause of disappearance and death of Michael Rockefeller. Those wishes were not respected and had this been done in a more sensitive way, I wouldn't agree with them. However, when the very first chapter is a dramatization of the murder, butchering and consumption of Michael, it seems that being sensitive to the feelings of the surviving family was not even a thought or concern in the writing of this book. There was a lot of putting thoughts and feelings onto Michael that drew me out of the story. Unless it was a direct quote from a journal or letter, how can anyone know what he was thinking? I rather read the actual letters and journals than read this book, which had too little input from Michael's own words and too many from someone who suffered from a lot of the arrogance and superiority that he attributed to Michael. This book angered and upset me most of the time. The best parts were when the present state of Agats was discussed. The bugs, the lack of clean running water and electricity. The travel information was told in a strong and image invoking manner. The attempt to re-build the past and talk to the natives about the past, repetitive and boring. I had put in to win this via Firstreads because I knew nothing about a Rockefeller going missing in 1961. It sounded like an interesting book. I think I would have learned more and been less pissed off and bored by Wiki-ing it. My sympathies to the Rockefellers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman is an interesting book. I enjoyed the parts about Rockefeller but there is a lot that is not about him and just about other things and seems to ramble. Parts of that was interesting but some was boring. I thought the very opening about how Michael "might" have died was a bit disrespectful because no one knows how he died and to speculate in such a gruesome detail was unneces Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman is an interesting book. I enjoyed the parts about Rockefeller but there is a lot that is not about him and just about other things and seems to ramble. Parts of that was interesting but some was boring. I thought the very opening about how Michael "might" have died was a bit disrespectful because no one knows how he died and to speculate in such a gruesome detail was unnecessary.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    Hoffman's book tells not only of Michael Rockefeller's disappearance in Netherlands New Guinea (now Irian Jaya, or West Papua, a part of Indonesia), but also the authors two visits to the same area in his research. Michael Rockefeller had spent a lot of time in the Asmat area of Dutch New Guinea, with a guide / translator attempting to purchase 'stone age artifacts' from the towns in the region. Those items he succeeded in purchasing are part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as a pa Hoffman's book tells not only of Michael Rockefeller's disappearance in Netherlands New Guinea (now Irian Jaya, or West Papua, a part of Indonesia), but also the authors two visits to the same area in his research. Michael Rockefeller had spent a lot of time in the Asmat area of Dutch New Guinea, with a guide / translator attempting to purchase 'stone age artifacts' from the towns in the region. Those items he succeeded in purchasing are part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as a part of the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection. It was in 1961 that Rockefeller and Dutch anthropologist Rene Wassing and two native guides were making their way along the coast in the 40 foot canoe Rockefeller had bought from the natives, when it capsized. Both men were unharmed, and the guides immediately swam for shore to raise help. Almost two days later, Rockefeller determined that he could swim to shore, as they began to doubt a rescue was underway. Wassing argued against this action, and remained with the capsized boat to be rescued some time shortly after. Rockefeller was not seen again. The political situation at the time was messy. The Dutch were under pressure for Dutch New Guinea to become a part of Indonesia. The Dutch had commenced a propaganda drive to emphasise how much the natives benefited from Dutch rule - that they were steadily becoming Christian, that headhunting had ceased, and education and health were improving. America had a neutral stance, and the disappearance of a high profile American was considered by Dutch leaders as an opportunity to gain good international press if things were to work out positively. They suppressed as much as possible any rumours and stories about Rockefeller reaching shore. They promoted the view that he was drowned or taken by sharks or crocodiles. As so anyone who stepped out of line with the official report, such as Father Hurbertus van Peij and Father Cornelius van Kessel were removed from Dutch New Guinea, and their reports to their superiors were also suppressed. In this book the chapter titles are dates (month and year), and do jump around a little, but generally maintain their two timelines - Rockefeller's 1957 - 1961, and Hoffmans in 2012. Hoffman gives a good account of the facts known and is pretty clear where he speculates. My only criticism of the book is it does become quite repetitive - because Hoffman is continually hearing stories all along the same lines - and continues to tell us them from each source. The other aspect which makes it a little confusing is something beyond the authors control, but many of the place names, and peoples names are similar and this creates a little confusion. Asmat is the region and the tribe, and Agat (a town), Amates ( a guides name), and a bunch of other places and people. Starting with B, were are not much better off, towns named Baiyuan, Biwar Lautv & Betjew, tribesemen named Bif, Ber, Bere and Bese! So, is there an outcome, solid evidence, a confession? That would be telling, but if you are not troubled by spoilers, the Wikipedia entry for Michael Rockefeller describes the outcome of Hoffmans book. Enjoyable at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is definitely an interesting story of Michael Rockefeller, son of the very wealthy Nelson Rockefeller. It tells how Michael, like his father, became interested in primitive art. But he wanted to go one step further – to go to the source. In this case the source was New Guinea – at that time (1961) a Dutch colony, but it was soon to become part of Indonesia. The complexity of this territorial transfer, and how it was to impact the search for Michael Rockefeller, is well explained in the book This is definitely an interesting story of Michael Rockefeller, son of the very wealthy Nelson Rockefeller. It tells how Michael, like his father, became interested in primitive art. But he wanted to go one step further – to go to the source. In this case the source was New Guinea – at that time (1961) a Dutch colony, but it was soon to become part of Indonesia. The complexity of this territorial transfer, and how it was to impact the search for Michael Rockefeller, is well explained in the book. So Michael went there – to a place about as far removed from 5th Avenue, Manhattan as can be imagined. He bought piles of stuff and took loads of photos. I wish the author would have speculated more as to how much Michael was “going native” – or wanted to go native. How much was he attracted to a people who took absolutely no notice of his wealth – and how much did he notice of them – the Asmat tribe was a warrior group with violence and death lurking in the darkness of the jungle. Did he feel immune to them? The author himself spent considerable time with the Asmat in New Guinea. Even though this was fifty years after the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller we are provided with insights into the Asmat people and details of their cannibalistic practices – which existed at the time of Michael Rockefeller’s visit. I did find the chronology of the book confusing. There are constant shifts from chapter to chapter between different time periods – before 1961, during 1961(Michael Rockefeller) and the current day, during the author’s visits. All this interspersing of time sequences disconnected the flow of the story. Also there is some embellishment, particularly in the first two chapters. For example how would the author know what Michael was thinking and feeling after deciding to swim to shore from the capsized boat. How would he know what the Asmat people said who found, or allegedly found him, when he came to shore? This is speculation. Aside from the fact that Michael Rockefeller disappeared – we are unsure of what really happened in 1961. There are strong suspicions of what may have happened (view spoiler)[(killed and eaten, with the remaining bones distributed among tribal members) (hide spoiler)] , but no solid evidence. I also felt the story long-winded, it should have been shortened. Nevertheless it is compelling to read of one of the most wealthy members of a family, venturing entirely out of his domain, to encounter a tribal group so unlike his own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    The World's Literature, a group in Goodreads, is reading books from Southeast Asia and Oceania in 2015. This book isn't on the official list but after reading Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak, I didn't want that to be my only experience with New Guinea. I made a long list of potential reads and this book seemed to be the most recent. I expected a sensationalized account of Michael Rockefeller, who died on a trip back to New Guinea in 1961. Instead I found a The World's Literature, a group in Goodreads, is reading books from Southeast Asia and Oceania in 2015. This book isn't on the official list but after reading Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak, I didn't want that to be my only experience with New Guinea. I made a long list of potential reads and this book seemed to be the most recent. I expected a sensationalized account of Michael Rockefeller, who died on a trip back to New Guinea in 1961. Instead I found an impeccably researched account, shedding light on questions that have been unanswered for decades. While Carl Hoffman can't claim he knows the answer for absolute certain, he makes a good case for the possibility that Michael was killed and probably eaten by cannibals. Many of the pieces of information were part of the Dutch government record, which were uncovered and translated by a research assistant. From that work came connections to people related to the events in New Guinea in the 1960s, or their widows and descendents, people both native to the area or people working there as priests. Interviewing these people was illuminating, and revealed some details that had been deliberately kept silent so many years ago. Carl Hoffman also took two trips to visit the Asmat. One trip was frustrating and didn't yield the information he was hoping, and he feared he had been too forceful, too demanding, too Western. He returned to spend a week sleeping in the open wooden house in the center of a village, a guest of a man who was likely at the events that could have surrounded Michael Rockefeller's death. Hoffman tries to push down his own assumptions, his own culture, and to see events from the perspective of the Asmat warriors, with their circular sense of time, warrior identities, and reactions to outsiders. For a journalist, he does a pretty decent job at forging the beginnings of an insider perspective more common for longer term researchers. This book is intrinsically linked to most of the rest of the books I intend to read before my month of New Guinea is out. I have already looked through the volume of Michael Rockefeller photographs of the Dani people, which he took to support the work of Robert Gardner and Peter Matthiessen, both who also wrote books about this time, sometimes utilizing Rockefeller's photographs. Robert Gardner also made a film during that time. I also have The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, which is a more recent look at the Dani people. This is long enough already but I have so many pages marked in this book! I guess New Guinea, both sides of it, hasn't quite left me since sinking its teeth into me in 1995. Perhaps I will come back and incorporate more thoughts at a future date. ETA: "In a world without photographs or television or recorded anything, the Asmat are wonderful storytellers, expressive and dramatic with their voices and bodies, their stories full of the chopping of heads and the shooting of arrows and the driving home of spears. When Kokai talked about canoes or paddling, he'd bend forward and spread his arms wide, become a canoe gliding over the sea, a canoe I could see. Once he imitated a fruit bat: he scrunched up and made a creepy face, exposing his teeth, screeching holding his hands like he was clinging, and he was the bat - I could see it hanging upside down in a tree." (248)

  8. 4 out of 5

    JD

    The positives of this book is it's good historical detail of the former Dutch New Guinea region and the Asmat tribes that lives there, and of young Michael Rockerfeller's missions to collect primitive art from them during the early 1960's and his subsequent disappearance. The negatives are that it gets very repetitive after less than half of the book, the author gives himself into a lot of speculation as to how Rockefeller met his end with no hard evidence and that he gets very critical of how t The positives of this book is it's good historical detail of the former Dutch New Guinea region and the Asmat tribes that lives there, and of young Michael Rockerfeller's missions to collect primitive art from them during the early 1960's and his subsequent disappearance. The negatives are that it gets very repetitive after less than half of the book, the author gives himself into a lot of speculation as to how Rockefeller met his end with no hard evidence and that he gets very critical of how the Rockefeller's went about their business and reactions in the region. More than half the book is also about the authors own journey to the region and then the story of Michael Rockefeller get's a bit lost in the pages. The author quotes Michael's twin-sister's memoir 'Beginning With The End', where she wrote, "Even today, those rumors fuel the imagination and help line the pockets of storytellers, playwrights, filmmakers, and the high-adventure tourist trade." And I cannot help but think that this book falls into that category.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joy D

    Part memoir, part biography, this non-fiction delves into the mystery of the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, son of Nelson Rockefeller, in 1961. At age 23, Michael had just graduated from Harvard. He traveled to what was then Netherlands New Guinea (now part of Indonesian Papua) to film a documentary and collect artifacts for his father’s Museum of Primitive Art. Michael and his colleague, René Wassing, were crossing the mouth of a turbulent river in a catamaran on the Arafura sea off the Part memoir, part biography, this non-fiction delves into the mystery of the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, son of Nelson Rockefeller, in 1961. At age 23, Michael had just graduated from Harvard. He traveled to what was then Netherlands New Guinea (now part of Indonesian Papua) to film a documentary and collect artifacts for his father’s Museum of Primitive Art. Michael and his colleague, René Wassing, were crossing the mouth of a turbulent river in a catamaran on the Arafura sea off the southwest coast of New Guinea when the boat capsized. Michael thought he could make it to shore to get help, so he swam away and was never seen again. His companion stayed with the boat and was rescued the next day. An extensive search was conducted by the authorities, but nothing substantial was found, and eventually they declared Michael had drowned. Rumors began to spread that he made it to shore but was killed by the men from the nearby village of Otsjanep. The Asmat had practiced headhunting and cannibalism, which was thought to have been eradicated due to the influence of Catholic missionaries and colonial authorities. The author decided to retrace Michael’s steps and search for evidence to solve the mystery surrounding his death. This book touches on a fascinating combination of anthropology, art, spiritual beliefs, cultural dissonance, history, political coverups, the dynamics of power, and the gruesome specter of cannibalism. It shifts narratives between Michael’s trip in 1961 and the author’s trip in 2012. It relates the history of the territorial dispute regarding Netherlands New Guinea and the political tensions between the Dutch and Indonesian governments, which impacted Rockefeller’s disappearance. The greatest strength of this book may also be its greatest weakness. Hoffman is a journalist, and his research is based on solid reporting techniques, and an analysis of interviews, historical documents, letters, and journals. He seeks out the “big picture,” but as a journalist, it seems he could not resist the temptation to insert a sensationalistic and graphic depiction of what “could” have happened to Michael. The writing style is uneven, at times choppy and other times eloquent. The author traveled twice to the region, once with an American journalist’s approach of asking direct questions and expecting direct answers, and the second time with a more nuanced perspective of gaining an understanding of the Asmat people by living among them and recognizing their complexities. The book brings up thought-provoking questions about the accumulation of artifacts without understanding of the meaning behind them, and of attempting to judge the past based on modern viewpoints. Hoffman makes a good case for his interpretation of events. He sheds light on the culture of the Asmat people and puts it in context of the time and place and leaves it to the reader to render a verdict. This book will appeal to those that enjoy unsolved mysteries, world history, or cultural anthropology.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. Don't mess with cannibals, even supposedly reformed ones, especially if they have a particularly bloody creation myth that they insist on reenacting in real life. “DESOIPITSJ WAS OLDER and unable to hunt, so Biwiripitsj had to do all the work. One day the boy brought home a wild pig. He cut off the head and thrust a cassowary bone dagger into its throat, pinning the head to the floor. “Bah, a pig’s head is but a pig’s head,” said Desoipit What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. Don't mess with cannibals, even supposedly reformed ones, especially if they have a particularly bloody creation myth that they insist on reenacting in real life. “DESOIPITSJ WAS OLDER and unable to hunt, so Biwiripitsj had to do all the work. One day the boy brought home a wild pig. He cut off the head and thrust a cassowary bone dagger into its throat, pinning the head to the floor. “Bah, a pig’s head is but a pig’s head,” said Desoipitsj, watching. “Why not replace it with a human head? That would be something, I think.” Biwiripitsj didn’t agree, and anyway, where was he to get a human head? Desoipitsj was fixated on the idea and said, “Well, you can have my head.” After a lot of cajoling, he convinced Biwiripitsj to kill him with a spear, cut into his throat with a bamboo knife, and press the head forward until the vertebrae cracked. Even as Biwiripitsj removed his brother’s head, Desoipitsj continued to speak, describing the correct technique of butchering humans and initiating boys into manhood, instructions that had to be followed to the letter. Time and space shift in this story, for it is also a charter, a set of instructions on how all Asmat men and women were to act in the future, even though there weren’t yet any other people in the world” 2. Colonial authorities are not to be trusted, especially if they are only concerned with window dressing in their colonies. Claiming that cannibalism is eradicated is not the same as actually eradicating it. Ditto the church. “It was a stunning moment of geopolitical maneuvering. The world’s eyes were now on New Guinea, including Nelson Rockefeller’s, and it was the Netherlands’ chance to show that its colony wasn’t just some backwater full of headhunters, as President Kennedy’s advisers were arguing, but a nation in the making, with a well-oiled government that could make things happen. For Dutch officials, the search for Michael had become part of a larger strategy: to leave no canoe unturned and no patch of ocean unexamined, and to have Nelson Rockefeller return home, if not singing the praises of the Luns Plan directly, at least saying how great the Dutch in New Guinea were. And the same for the international press—whether Michael turned up dead or alive.” 3. Appropriating other people's ritualistic art without properly understanding their culture may have unintended, fatal consequences. “Village ambushes were associated with ceremonies meant to restore order in a world of opposites, including the creation of elaborate wooden poles carved from a single piece of mangrove that could be as tall as twenty feet, known as bisj. Each pole depicted a column of stacked ancestors; the pole carried the name of its topmost person. Canoes, snakes, and crocodiles were carved into the base of the pole, and symbols of headhunting extended out in a three-foot-long protrusion from its top. The poles were haunting, alive, often sexually suggestive. For the Asmat, ancestors are involved in every aspect of their existence. The carvings are memorial signs to those ancestors, and to the living, that their deaths have not been forgotten, that the living’s responsibility to avenge them is still alive and strong, and that the living should not be punished if those deaths haven’t yet been avenged.” 4. Being a member of the white tribe in the colonies might confer certain advantages, but also may bring unforeseen dangers, especially if you are treated as 'the other white meat'. “The men from Otsjanep who would have been there at about the same time were related—though I wasn’t yet sure exactly how—to the men killed by Max Lapré in 1958, just three years before, and those deaths had never been reciprocated. Seventeen men, women, and children had been killed in the past decade, eight by crocodile-hunting Chinese Indonesians (considered white by the Asmat) and five by Lapré, and Michael had found seventeen bisj poles still in the jeus The Asmat were known to be opportunists, preferring victims to be alone and unprotected, and Michael would have been exhausted, vulnerable in a way they’d never encountered in a white before. And he’d been to the village already; they would have known him and may have remembered his name, an important factor in choosing a headhunting victim.” 5. Having the toilet in the kitchen is an unhygienic arrangement, not to mention an extremely repellent one. “The air reeked of human shit—the moldy, always wet outhouse was in the kitchen and the hole dropped straight to the ground beneath the kitchen, with those widely spaced boards. There were houses next to Kokai’s, behind it, and in front of it across a small creek, the houses were everywhere, and each one was filled with people shitting onto the ground. The rich, pungent smell pervaded the village, and I never quite grew used to it.” 6. You can create art worth millions of dollars, be paid in worthless trinkets and remain dirt poor. “They had begun the legal steps necessary to declare him dead within months of his disappearance. Through the Museum of Primitive Art, they’d moved quickly to ship everything he’d collected back to New York—some five hundred objects in total, valued by insurance appraisers in August 1962 at $285,520. It was a stunning sum, a quarter of a million dollars in value created via a few fishhooks, fishing line, axes, and lumps of tobacco, off the talents of men who were illiterate and penniless. As the centerpieces today of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their value in attracting visitors and funding is incalculable, not to mention the priceless cache (and hefty tax deductions) their donation to the museum must have brought Nelson Rockefeller and his family. In 2012 the Met hosted six million visitors, with a recommended voluntary entry fee of $25; if the average visitor paid $15, the Met brought in $90 million in entry fees alone, while the grandson of the man Michael regarded as one of the best artists in all of Asmat, Chinasapitch, the man who carved the lovely canoe that holds prominence in the Met, sweeps the floor in bare feet. “Until I told him, he had no idea what had ever happened to that canoe. Had priceless land or millions of dollars’ worth of mineral rights been acquired from illiterate villagers via a few lumps of brown weed and bent wire, cries of injustice might have rung out, with demands that a people unable to understand the deal they’d agreed to be fairly compensated.” Without physical evidence, say, a skull that had been pierced to allow the brain to drain out or a gnawed tibia, what happened to Michael Rockefeller after his swim in the Arafura Sea would probably remain a mystery forever, but Carl Hoffman builds a persuasive case that he was indeed murdered and eaten by Asmat warriors from the village of Otsjanep. Why? Because he had unwittingly trespassed into tribal territory where natives had been murdered by heavy-handed colonial authorities and had been compelled by their deep-rooted belief to avenge them on a member of the white tribe. He might have sealed his fate when he bought those magnificent bisj poles that now stood in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art --- these were erected for tribe members who had been killed and must be avenged --- something that Rockefeller Jr. was aware of, Hoffman surmised, in a sort of a clinical way. The missionary fathers who intimately knew the Asmats and their culture were convinced that this was what happened, but their reports were suppressed by Dutch authorities who would like to present their half of New Guinea as a civilized, cannibal-free colony. The Indonesians who later took over the territory were also not keen to conclude that their new fellow citizens ate an American. Even Michael's twin sister and father, who came to the swamps of Asmat to futilely search for him, ultimately convinced themselves that he drowned. After more than fifty years, Hoffman unearthed the suppressed reports, long buried in the Dutch colonial archives, and interviewed the remaining witnesses. The book ends, rather abruptly, just after a tribal elder dramatically revealed a long-buried secret to the men of his village: “After we’d eaten, Marco, a man I guessed to be in his late sixties or early seventies, began telling a story in the Asmat language. Everyone listened, some lying down and even falling asleep. I lay down too, noticing a soot-blackened rattan bag at the top of Ber’s roof, round, covered in cobwebs, like it was holding a ball. A skull? I wondered. Although I couldn’t understand the words, and the story wasn’t for me, I watched the drama unfold as dogs scraped around in the swamp below the house. There was the firing of arrows, the powerful side-arm stabbing of someone with a spear. I heard the words Otsjanep and Dombai. Marco walked. Stalked. Stabbed again. Pulled his pants legs up tight, thrust his hips forward, not like he was having sex, but as if he were peeing or having his penis sucked. Men grunted. Nodded. “Uh! Uh!” Finally, an hour into it, I picked up my camera and switched it to video and began filming. But the theatrics were over; he just talked and talked, and after eight minutes, running low on power with no way to recharge, I stopped.” And that's how the trail ended, cold, in a tale told in an incomprehensible language in a smoky men's house on the coast of the Arafura Sea.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    It was late at night when an Asmat man came to our shelter. He carried a sack and proudly opened it to show us his greatest treasure; a human enemy skull which he claimed to have inherited it from his father. It was in 1996, exactly 15 years to the day since Michael Rockefeller disappeared in the same area which added to the creepy atmosphere. Michael was in the Asmat region to collect wood carvings for the Museum of Primitive Art, which his father, Nelson Rockefeller had opened in New York. The It was late at night when an Asmat man came to our shelter. He carried a sack and proudly opened it to show us his greatest treasure; a human enemy skull which he claimed to have inherited it from his father. It was in 1996, exactly 15 years to the day since Michael Rockefeller disappeared in the same area which added to the creepy atmosphere. Michael was in the Asmat region to collect wood carvings for the Museum of Primitive Art, which his father, Nelson Rockefeller had opened in New York. The Asmat art work is symbolic of warfare, headhunting and ancestor worship, producing superbly designed shields, canoes, and sculpted figures. The former head hunters and cannibals lived in constant fear of spirits and ghosts were known to have slept with human skulls for pillows to protect them from evil spirits. It was widely believed that Michael drowned during a 6.5 to 10 mile swim. The boat he was on was swept out from a river to open sea and capsized. It was also noted that the Asmat had never killed a white man, although they waged frequent wars between villages, and those killed in battle were beheaded and cannibalized. A huge search found no trace of him and it seemed the mystery would never be solved. The conclusion was death by drowning. Carl Hoffman is an award winning travel journalist. He has travelled on assignment to more than 70 countries for National Geographic, Smithsonian, Outside and many other magazines. This is a terrific book. Hoffman visited the Asmat several times in 2012, learned the Indonesian language in order to communicate. He examined hundreds of pages of documents, letters, telegrams and photos from the time around Michael's disappearance, many of which were not known to exist, especially after so many years. Remarkably he was able to interview a priest and a patrol officer who were still alive 50 years after the event. He also befriended and lived with a sullen tribesman who remembered what led up to the disappearance. Hoffman includes pages of footnotes and bibliography. What his research reveals is a massive coverup by the Dutch government, and the Catholic Church. The Asmat kept secrets, fearing the wrath of their gods, the Christian church and the police and military. Hoffman's description of the region is extremely well done and vividly written.. He describes the difficulty in getting there and how hard it is to journey between settlements. There are no roads, motorized vehicles or even bicycles because the area is so muddy and swampy. This is the largest alluvial swamp in the world. When he met the man who was supposed to be his first guide and asked how many tourists go there, he replied 'Many'......'Maybe 4'. Hoffman describes tramping through deep mud, and in villages it was necessary to use wooden walkways above the marsh, sometimes with broken or missing planks.Paths were often a slippery log placed over the mud. I think it is indisputable that the 50 year old mystery has finally been solved, and people involved in the event named. A remarkable piece of journalism, involving travel to a remote region and little known tribal people, exhausting research, history and the solution to a mystery. Very readable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annie Witt

    "Savage Harvest" is about much more than Michael Rockerfeller's disappearance in 1961. This book is brilliant and contains elements of exploration, self-analyzing, anthropology, and politics. From the beginning I could not put the book down. The book begins with a graphic account of a man being killed and ritually eaten by other men captivates the reader to know more. I was drawn into wanting to know more about the Asmat and how they live in a world profoundly different from the one occupied by a "Savage Harvest" is about much more than Michael Rockerfeller's disappearance in 1961. This book is brilliant and contains elements of exploration, self-analyzing, anthropology, and politics. From the beginning I could not put the book down. The book begins with a graphic account of a man being killed and ritually eaten by other men captivates the reader to know more. I was drawn into wanting to know more about the Asmat and how they live in a world profoundly different from the one occupied by a more advanced western civilization. I applaud the author who in this book avoided reducing the Asmat to simple stereotypes such as Savages or Oppressed Victims, or Uncivilized Heathens. Hoffman describes the Asmat and their culture with brutal honesty. And he does so using redolent prose that is often poetic.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    The official pronouncement was: Missing. Presumed drowned. That's how the general public might remember Michael Rockefeller, who vanished off the coast of Dutch New Guinea on November 19, 1961. Why should we care about an event that happened over 50 years ago? There's a sensational element, of course. Michael was the son of Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York. There was also a disturbing element, that there were still places in the latter half of the 20th century that could swallow up a The official pronouncement was: Missing. Presumed drowned. That's how the general public might remember Michael Rockefeller, who vanished off the coast of Dutch New Guinea on November 19, 1961. Why should we care about an event that happened over 50 years ago? There's a sensational element, of course. Michael was the son of Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York. There was also a disturbing element, that there were still places in the latter half of the 20th century that could swallow up a man of such social prominence, an American no less. And finally, there were the disturbing rumors that seemed to surface periodically. Carl Hoffman personalizes that story by examining the aborted potential of a 23 year old who had just discovered his passion, was in the act of growing, and lost the chance for that passion to shape the world around him. An appreciation for art, especially primitive art, wealth, and connections brought Michael Rockefeller to New Guinea as a sound assistant on Robert Gardner's ground-breaking ethnographic film, “Dead Birds.” It's a powerful film depicting the culture of the Dani in highland New Guinea. While there he discovered an aptitude for photography, and his restless mind began to explore new projects with these interests in mind. After working on “Dead Birds,” he turned to the southwestern coast of New Guinea, a network of rivers and mangrove swamps peopled by the Asmat. It was a remote and hostile area thought to be relatively isolated from outside contact. It was exactly what Rockefeller was looking for in his quest for unadulterated primitive art. His collections can be seen today in the Michael Rockefeller wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then, he vanished. Michael Rockefeller arrived at a pivotal point in time. Theoretical frameworks were shifting; there was a hunger for uncovering universal concepts: Primitive art could be appreciated for its purely aesthetic qualities, and not as merely ethnographic artifacts. There was a sense or urgency to Rockefeller's expedition. The Sepik River area where “Dead Birds” was filmed had already been affected extensively by western civilization. In the Asmat area, the Dutch had established their first official outpost 50 years previously, but the area was still relatively untouched. Warfare accompanied by rituals of cannibalism and head-hunting were still in evidence, contrary to Dutch claims. In 1957 the violence reached unacceptable levels with an event that came to be known as the Sylvester Massacre. Eager to rebuff Indonesia's annexation ambitions, the Dutch accelerated their official presence. Part of their claim to the world audience was that New Guinea had been pacified thanks to Dutch administration, and could be shepherded into self-governance under the same enlightened Dutch tutelage. Their policing action in the wake of the Sylvester Massacre left five people from the village of Otsjanep dead. Hoffman assembles compelling evidence that the subsequent carved memorial poles (bisj poles) that the Otsjanep people carved were among the pieces collected by Rockefeller. Ironically, the extraordinary quality of the pieces reflected the vitality of the cannibalism and head-hunting rituals the Dutch were claiming to have eradicated. It's easy to see how Rockefeller became attracted to these bisj poles. They were monumental, some as high as 20 feet, and carved from a single mangrove tree. The stacked figures (potent representatives of ancestors with the slain man carved at the very top) are mingled with cultural symbols such as the crocodile or a canoe. A three foot extension of lattice-work is carved at the top. It's easy to project our own emotions on to these pieces. The figures are incised in a way that suggests an armature of bone and scar tissue. The bent stance emphasizing the curve of hips and thigh suggest a frozen animation. The frontal positioning, the sightless eyes and the detached demeanor of the gaunt figures seem sullen and defiant. The curvilinear carving forms a rhythmic unity like a chain of beings shackled together, connected from the beginning of time. Hoffman describes in detail the dualistic structure of Asmat beliefs. Male / female; the People / the Other; land / water; living / dead; virility / fertility. He uses this template to create his own duality. This is a story about Hoffman's own desire to connect with the primal world that provoked Rockefeller's passion, as well as a story about Rockefeller. Chapters describing his own travels are interspersed with Rockefeller's experiences 50 years ago. “...[T]he quest becomes the only thing that matters – and the deeper I went into Asmat myself and read Michael's journals the more I understood that, identified with it. Hunting art and chasing a story, they are the same. Rain, heat, cold, danger – out there in the wild everything becomes subordinate to the task, and the closer you get to the treasure the more you're willing to do to get it.” He visits the same villages, and talks to people that are the sons and grandsons of men that Rockefeller met. He interviews people who met Rockefeller, including Fr. Hubertus von Peij who also worked closely with Fr. Cornelius van Kessel who was posted to the Asmat area in 1955. Both men were fluent in Asmat and knowledgeable about the people and their culture. He dispatches a Dutch researcher, Erik Thijssen, to sift through original documents in the Netherlands. He analyzes tide charts, weather reports and rates of boat travel for the evening Rockefeller disappeared. Most important of all, he experiences the people with their fears and secrets embedded in a world both pristine and dark: “The Famborep [River] was barely twenty feet wide, a drowned world of hanging vines and epiphytes and moss-covered mangroves. The dark water mirrored the trees and sky above it as shafts of sunlight streamed through the overgrowth, the river flooding the land as far inland as I could see. Birds called. It was beautiful and ethereal, removed....it looked the same as it had at the dawn of time.” The result is far more than a true-crime story, documenting motive, means and opportunity. In the end, Hoffman finds closure both for himself and for Rockefeller's story. Of Rockefeller he states: “Something had happened here that had roots deep in Asmat culture, and I was starting to see that every day I spent in Asmat the story was coalescing into a touchable narrative. The more I understood about Asmat culture, the more I began to think of the mystery of Michael's disappearance in an Asmat way, as if he were one of those spirits who'd never been pushed on to Safan [the realm of the dead]. The Asmat had closed every loop through their rituals -- and through violence -- but Michael was still floating around out there. Perhaps my journey...[would] lay his spirit to rest once and for all.” Hoffman's conclusions are convincing, but what connects with the reader most intimately is the warmth he experiences as the Asmat welcome him back to their village during his second visit. “The Asmat are the strangest people I've ever seen, their secrets deep, their cultural boundaries seemingly rigid. But they are men, and I saw those elemental human feelings in every one of them, feelings that were the stuff of literature and poetry, not logic and reason.” NOTES: A map is essential to understanding the locations and distances traversed in this book. These are two sites that I found useful. http://www.asmat.de//download/artikel... ​http://www.indonesiatraveling.com/ima... The M.A. Thesis of Lee Dobratz, “The Changing Asmat World, A survey of Cultural and Artistic Change from 1950-2001,” also includes a map, and more important, photos of a wide assortment of bisj poles. Jump to the end of the paper and scroll back to the photo section. Not only are the photos dated, but they can be enlarged to capture a sense of the details of the carvings. http://www.papuaweb.org/dlib/s123/dob... I read SAVAGE HARVEST on the Kindle, and, inexplicably, the end notes are NOT marked out in the text. The only way to connect the notes with the text is to read each of the notes, and then search for some key word in order to jump back to the antecedent text. In choosing to intercut narrative from the present and from the past, a certain amount of chronology and clarity is lost. The decision enhances the dramatic impact of the story. However, the wealth of place names and personal names can get confusing. In addition there is a numerical inconsistency. On the ill-fated trip to Wagin, 5 men from Otsjanep are killed: Dombai, Su, Kokai, Wawar, and Pakai. (Location 1046). Pip escapes and returns to Otsjanep to report what happened. However, later, Hoffman states that after Wagin, Faniptas gave one of his daughters to Dombai and that Faniptas and his men had murdered 6 from Otsjanep (Location 3760). Moreover, the name 'Dombai' obviously refers to more than one person. Another confusing discrepancy is that the men killed in the Lapré raid are identified as: Faratsjam, Osom,, Akon, Samut and Ipi (Loc. 1734). Later, however, he identifies the dead as: Foretsjbai (kepala perang of Kajerpis), Osom (kepala perang of Otsjanep), Akon (kepala perang of Bakyer), and Samut (kepala perang of Jisar), and Ipi (mentioned in the notes as a woman). (Loc. 3805). The reader is left to infer that Faratsjam is the same person as Foretsjbai. This link goes to a summarizing article in Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history... Thanks, Will Byrnes!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Superb detail. Ethnography? More a fantastic and clearly noted progression to "try" and I say "try" in parentheses purposely, to seat the reader in a Asmat jeu worldview of reality. For any human with electricity or farmed food, that probably is not possible. Although it doesn't hold the level of studied definition parley as a "Blackberry Winter" or definitions of more current Anthropology, it does start to bridge the gap between hunter-gatherer awareness and human post-farming /domesticated ani Superb detail. Ethnography? More a fantastic and clearly noted progression to "try" and I say "try" in parentheses purposely, to seat the reader in a Asmat jeu worldview of reality. For any human with electricity or farmed food, that probably is not possible. Although it doesn't hold the level of studied definition parley as a "Blackberry Winter" or definitions of more current Anthropology, it does start to bridge the gap between hunter-gatherer awareness and human post-farming /domesticated animal history. Somehow too it carries the sense of the emotional side of that change more accurately in the methods of time flip and group meeting that the author does use here. This is not just about Michael Rockefeller's outcome at all. And I do hope that the aspect of celeb interest pulls readers to pick this one up. As this book pries open, just a crack, the door to another way of being homo sapiens- one based in the "we" and the tribe. And how ironic that the same brand of hubris still reigns throughout and regardless- in every interpretation of what "happened" to Michael. And in every age of the 50 plus years in between, as well. In the interpreted observer, as well as in the observed- it isn't just the words that have more than two or three meanings. And how those assumptions of "the other" are based upon such complex cultural perceptions and some of those most powerful are experienced only in the wordless. This could be a powerful discussion book too. Fodder galore for the argument that all taboos can be rationalized as good or even needed under specific or commonly shared cultural norms of acceptance. Seventeen tenses in their language, sago every meal, and changing your name to your enemy's and becoming him! Complex issues tied within each glance- and mystic secrets far beyond mere appearance. This book raises base questions upon the human condition and for me it was such a page turner that I could not put it down. I am sure that other readers that are not fans of or students within Anthropology or Cognitive Psychology interests may find the book less enthralling than I did. It's far more than a tale of Michael Rockefeller or proof of his fate.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    How exactly does one delineate the merits of a book where the general theme is one which is so steeped in the issues of cannibalism and savagery at the same time? Herein lies the crux of describing "Savage Harvest." I don't really know where to begin but suffice to say not only did the story draw me in, but it fascinated and greatly disturbed me at the same time. As sickened as I felt by parts of it, it made me just press on further - I HAD to find out just what the full story behind the disappe How exactly does one delineate the merits of a book where the general theme is one which is so steeped in the issues of cannibalism and savagery at the same time? Herein lies the crux of describing "Savage Harvest." I don't really know where to begin but suffice to say not only did the story draw me in, but it fascinated and greatly disturbed me at the same time. As sickened as I felt by parts of it, it made me just press on further - I HAD to find out just what the full story behind the disappearance of Michael C. Rockefeller - an American mystery for so many years as it turned out - was. No one knows for sure just how the actual events of Michael's disappearance occurred, however Hoffman has him dying by the second chapter! This leaves the rest of the book to give the reader a TON of backstory, primarily on the Asmat tribe. This was/is a South Seas group of uncultured savages that were/are so notoriously primitive that Michael felt so compelled as to visit the area in order to procure rare artwork to display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the venerable American cultural institution that the Rockefeller family founded and Michael's father Nelson was heavily involved with. Details are so intricately plotted to set up the individual events that led to the infamous disappearance/murder of November, 1961. Michael Rockefeller was somebody that as I read more on I cared about. I was greatly pained at the fact that his life was taken so senselessly and yet all too soon; denying the world the opportunity and great privilege of knowing in one way or another a young man who had the potential to give us all so much more with his life than just leaving a legacy of wondering just how his last moments on Earth played themselves out. If anything, I'd like to return to the Met sometime myself to see the actual Asmat artifacts that in one way or another are now forever perpetually linked to Michael Rockefeller. By doing this, I believe I can have sort off a communion with one who appeared to be an extraordinary unique individual who left us much, much too soon. ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2014.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I've been listening to a lot of nonfiction while commuting in 2014. I find that nonfiction isn't distracting while driving. Surprisingly, I have gotten a lot of joy out of listening to audiobooks which I didn't expect. Disappointing, however, I couldn't get engaged in Savage Harvest till the last of the CD's. Then the cultural story and Michael Rockefeller all came together. Here are some exceptional nonfiction I have listened to this year that I would highly recommend: 5 Days at Memorial A House i I've been listening to a lot of nonfiction while commuting in 2014. I find that nonfiction isn't distracting while driving. Surprisingly, I have gotten a lot of joy out of listening to audiobooks which I didn't expect. Disappointing, however, I couldn't get engaged in Savage Harvest till the last of the CD's. Then the cultural story and Michael Rockefeller all came together. Here are some exceptional nonfiction I have listened to this year that I would highly recommend: 5 Days at Memorial A House in the Sky Going Clear: Scientology... The Insurgents: David Petraeus... Unbroken Thank you for your Service The 6th Extinction Get some audiobooks from your library if you haven't before. It's a terrific experience.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris Witkowski

    I was drawn to this book, the author's attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the son of Nelson Rockefeller, then governor of New York State, because of the close connection the events recounted in the book had to my family. It was at my youngest brother's Christening party, on November 19, 1961, that my father, who was press secretary to Rockefeller, received a phone call summoning him to Rocky's side, to begin a journey to Papua, New Guinea, to searc I was drawn to this book, the author's attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the son of Nelson Rockefeller, then governor of New York State, because of the close connection the events recounted in the book had to my family. It was at my youngest brother's Christening party, on November 19, 1961, that my father, who was press secretary to Rockefeller, received a phone call summoning him to Rocky's side, to begin a journey to Papua, New Guinea, to search for the missing 23 year old. I plunged into the non-fiction account, holding my breath in hopes of a mention, or a photo, of my father. Instead, I got just " Rockefeller's trusted aides" as the author pieces together the intriguing, sad, disturbing and ultimately deadly tale of young Michael's dreams of acquiring the art of the Asmat, a savage, almost prehistoric clan, who practiced headhunting on a regular basis. It is clear that Hoffman did his homework here, tracking down scores of documents, letters, photos, and conducting face to face interviews with the New Guinea natives, even living for several weeks among them. He never got conclusive evidence, however, of the facts that most people assume regarding Michael's death, namely that he was savagely murdered and cannibalized. In fact, it seemed clear from the start, that this was the fate of Rockefeller, but due to intricate political maneuverings between the Dutch and the Indonesians regarding the ownership and control of New Guinea, the story was kept a closely guarded secret. And certainly the Rockefeller family would have a ghastly time comprehending that their young son and sibling could have met such a fate. The book is interesting, for sure, but was quite repetitive, and in the beginning I became quickly weary of hearing just how privileged young Michael was, and that his quest was most likely that of a young man in search of his father's approval. That may very well have been the case, but how many times did the author have to say it? And so much of the story of Michael's final journey is gone over again and again, that I felt my mind becoming numb to it. And still, I am somewhat confused by the political ramification of it all. But this much I'm sure of - Carl Hoffman gets huge credits for perseverance - he wanted to crack this "cold case" and he went to drastic lengths to do it. That it isn't 100% certain is frustrating, but then again, how much of life is certain?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    FINALLY!!! One of the greatest unsolved mysteries explored and analyzed. And it turns out, one of the most widely held beliefs is most likely true; Michael was most likely killed by the natives.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leah Polcar

    The story is amazing, the telling of it is not. I felt as if Hoffman just could not decide on a thesis: is this about Asmat culture? Primitive art? Hoffman's travelogue? Michael Rockefeller's death? Colonial rule? There is a little bit about all these things and with the exception of presenting a compelling case to explain Rockefeller's disappearance in 1961 and the exposition of his feelings about "the primitive" (i.e. indigenous peoples) and how off-putting it is to swim in a river with poop f The story is amazing, the telling of it is not. I felt as if Hoffman just could not decide on a thesis: is this about Asmat culture? Primitive art? Hoffman's travelogue? Michael Rockefeller's death? Colonial rule? There is a little bit about all these things and with the exception of presenting a compelling case to explain Rockefeller's disappearance in 1961 and the exposition of his feelings about "the primitive" (i.e. indigenous peoples) and how off-putting it is to swim in a river with poop floating by, the other threads are not supported adequately. Well, that is really only true in the case of politics (Netherlands v. Indonesia, Part III: Screw You) and primitive art, he does cover the Asmat culture quite extensively though I found it so repetitive that I wanted to hunt his head at times. There just didn't seem to be a lot of substance for the 300 pages: Rockefeller's disappearance is truly handled in about 50 (and that is counting the historical run-down in addition to examining plausible theories of which there really only seem to be two: the Asmat ate him or he drowned) and without delving more deeply into the issues discussed above, it sort of meandered occasionally circling back on itself to cover the same content again. Savage Harvest drinking game: take one drink every time Hoffman says something about the recency of headhunting (e.g. "while the Dutch denied that the Asmat were headhunters, headhunting widely still took place until at least the 1970s") or every time he mentions the Asmat like axes, fishing lures, or tobacco. For a travelogue and discussion of "the primitive", I suggest Into the Heart of Borneo . Yeah, it isn't New Guinea, but it is close. Not that this was a bad book, but I can't as wholeheartedly recommend it as Amazon does.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I wanted to like this book. I really did. The book seemed interesting on first glance: Searching for Michael Rockefeller, grandson of famous Rockefeller, who was lost in New Guinea. However, the book read much more like a thesis and/or dissertation than actual novel. The author was very heavy handed in his assumptions and conclusions of how Michael met his end. After reading the book and Hoffman's hypotheses, I am not convinced that Michael did not drown (which would favor the Rockefeller's conc I wanted to like this book. I really did. The book seemed interesting on first glance: Searching for Michael Rockefeller, grandson of famous Rockefeller, who was lost in New Guinea. However, the book read much more like a thesis and/or dissertation than actual novel. The author was very heavy handed in his assumptions and conclusions of how Michael met his end. After reading the book and Hoffman's hypotheses, I am not convinced that Michael did not drown (which would favor the Rockefeller's conclusions rather than Hoffman's). Therefore, the book as a thesis and/or dissertation was not compelling, nor innovative. None of the information gleaned from this book was new, nor made any conclusions more definite. It left more unanswered questions, than answered. Hoffman's fatal error was asserting his opinion about Michael's character, without even knowing him. Not only was the book repetitive in the assertions of Michael's fatal ending, but it was also repetitive in the assertions of Michael being "too young," "naive," and only cared about collecting artifacts. The author criticizes Michael for not being that involved in the culture, which ultimately led to demise. However, the author also made that error as well, which is why the author was unable to glean any new information from the native people about Micheal's death. And thus, we have a book, that only summarizes previous findings than shares new information or insight.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andie

    I was in Junior High when the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller on an expedition for primitive art in New Guinea splashed all over the national media. One night at dinner my dad, who had been stationed there during World War II said, "I bet the headhunters ate him." We all laughed & my mom swatted him with a dish cloth because it was so ridiculous. Such things did not happen in 1961. However, that apparently is exactly what did happen as Carl Hoffman describes in detail in this extraordinary I was in Junior High when the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller on an expedition for primitive art in New Guinea splashed all over the national media. One night at dinner my dad, who had been stationed there during World War II said, "I bet the headhunters ate him." We all laughed & my mom swatted him with a dish cloth because it was so ridiculous. Such things did not happen in 1961. However, that apparently is exactly what did happen as Carl Hoffman describes in detail in this extraordinary book. In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, the 23-year-old son of Nelson Rockefeller (then Governor of New York) and freshly graduated from Harvard launched an expedition to Dutch New Guinea to collect primitive art for his father's new museum. He had been there several months earlier on a Harvard Peabody Expedition that included the noted writer Peter Matthiessen, but this time he was basically on his own. As the child of extreme privilege, Rockefeller was used to everything pretty much going his way, but on this trip he, unfortunately learned otherwise. In 1961 the area where Rockefeller was searching for artifacts was a dangerous place. Although, the Dutch put out the story for their own political reasons that headhunting and cannibalism had ended in the southern Asmat region of the country, nothing could have been further from the truth. All during the 1950's the region had been the scene of bloody internecine warfare among the Asmat with each killing leading to revenge killings in a cycle that seemingly could not be unbroken. Rockefeller, who did not speak the language proceeded with a hubris that would lead to his grisly downfall. On November 19, 1961 he and Dutch anthropologist Renee Wasing, along with two young Asmat guides set out on an expedition to collect primitive art, moat especially the ceremonial bisj poles. They soon ran into trouble in rough seas and their catamaran capsized. The young guides went for help, but Rockefeller grew impatient & after several hours decided to swing to shore himself in defiance of every known precept of how to survive a shipwreck. Unbelievably he survived the 14-hour, 10-mile swim to shore, but once there was met by a group of Asmat warriors looking to avenge killings in their village several years before, who took their opportunity. The young guides, had, of course made it to shore, and notified the Dutch authorities who, given the importance of the man on board, launched a full-scale military rescue mission. Rene Wassing was quickly found, but Michael Rockefeller seemed to have disappeared into thin air Now the Dutch government's worst nightmare began. They had to notify Rockefeller's family and given the fact that they were petitioning the United Nations to hold onto their colony, they also had to cover-up the more unsavory aspects of the native population. Already rumors were swirling about that Rockefeller fils had been killed and eaten by the Asmat. The Dutch had to suppress these rumors at all costs. Nelson Rockefeller and Michael's twin sister, Mary arrived in New Guinea several days later accompanied by an entourage of press and political aides. The Dutch government officials told them a probable story about an exhaustive search reaching the conclusion that Michael had died by drowning. This story was accepted by the Rockefeller family and they returned to the United States full of praise and thanks to the Dutch officials for all their help in trying to find Michael. Flash forward fifty years and the author, a self-professed outsider who has made his living writing about adventure is now pursuing the story. He travels to New Guinea (now part of Indonesia), immerses himself in the Asmat culture and does exhaustive work in the Dutch colonial archives to arrive at the story of what really happened. What he finds is incredible documentary proof that Rockefeller was, indeed, killed, beheaded, butchered and eaten by a group of Asmat warriors on that fateful day. These facts were specifically covered-up by the Dutch Colonial officials to further their own political ends. The Asmat, however, are not so willing to give up their secrets. Although he comes very close, no one will admit to him directly what happened on that fateful morning. But that detail hardly matters. The story is all there: the clash of the last vestiges of a prehistoric people meeting the modern world so sure of themselves and their superior culture. This is a cautionary tale.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Audiobook read by Joel Barrett. In November 1961, Michael Rockefeller went missing in New Guinea while visiting there to bring back primitive art to his family's museum in New York. His boat capsized in the rough waters off the coast and he decided he could swim to shore. His boatmates stayed with the boat and they attached two gas cans around his waist to act as flotation devices. The boatmates were rescued within 24 hours. Michael was never seen again. Despite the Rockefeller wealth and the det Audiobook read by Joel Barrett. In November 1961, Michael Rockefeller went missing in New Guinea while visiting there to bring back primitive art to his family's museum in New York. His boat capsized in the rough waters off the coast and he decided he could swim to shore. His boatmates stayed with the boat and they attached two gas cans around his waist to act as flotation devices. The boatmates were rescued within 24 hours. Michael was never seen again. Despite the Rockefeller wealth and the detailed search launched by the Rockefeller family in the days after Michael's disappearance, no body was ever found. Not even the gas cans that were attached to him. Many theories emerged including death by drowning, sharks, and alligators. The most disturbing was that he had actually made it to shore and had been killed and eaten by a cannibalistic Asmat tribe. In an area rife with conflict between the Dutch and the natives in recent years, many felt Michael was killed because he was a white man and his death avenged the death of some of their tribe who were killed a few years ago during a Dutch attack. In 2012, Carl Hoffman followed in the steps of Michael Rockefeller to see if he could discover what really happened to him. Hoffman went to the jungles of New Guinea and immersed himself in the Asmat culture, a world of former headhunters and secret spirits and customs. He also did much archival research and uncovered hundreds of pages of never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publicly for the first time in 50 years. While the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller is fascinating, some of this book was and some of it wasn't. And that really is not the fault of the author. He gives a vary detailed history of the New Guinea and the tribes and the Dutch who brought Christianity to the island. If you are interested in this topic, then you might find it interesting. I liked having a historical foundation presented about the area and events that could have had a role in Rockefeller's death and disappearance, however, I think they could have been edited down. And we really don't end up with definitive proof as to what happened to Michael. Yes, Carl Hoffman gives us an answer, but it is still not a 100%-without-any-doubt answer. I still recommend this book for those of you who are curious about what happened to Michael. I recommend the audiobook as well. The many hard-to-pronounce names are taken care of for you. And for those of you who have Netflix- I highly, highly recommend that you watch the documentary 'The Search for Michael Rockefeller' after you read this book. It was released in 2011, before this book was written. I wonder if Hoffman watched it. In the last few minutes of the documentary, there is some very compelling video footage of an Asmat tribe a few years after Michael's disappearance. It makes you scratch your head. 3 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    This book fits neatly onto the same bookshelf as Robert Lyman's Among the Headhunters: An Extraordinary World War II Story of Survival in the Burmese Jungle and Mitchell Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-la, with the added bonus of a genuine unsolved mystery. Plus, it provided endless backstory to the Michael Rockefeller permanent exhibit at the Met, which I remember visiting not long after it opened in the early 80's. I'm usually leery whenever a book (or TV documentary) promises "new evidence that fina This book fits neatly onto the same bookshelf as Robert Lyman's Among the Headhunters: An Extraordinary World War II Story of Survival in the Burmese Jungle and Mitchell Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-la, with the added bonus of a genuine unsolved mystery. Plus, it provided endless backstory to the Michael Rockefeller permanent exhibit at the Met, which I remember visiting not long after it opened in the early 80's. I'm usually leery whenever a book (or TV documentary) promises "new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story," and despite some of the press blurbs, Hoffman here does NOT in fact solve the mystery of Rockefeller's disappearance, although he ultimately presents a very compelling scenario. I also agree with some other reviewers that the book was overly long, and more than a bit confusing in it's bouncing back and forth between mid-20th Century Asmat history, Rockefeller's own time in Papua (ca 1960), and the present day, (a problem I also had with Lyman's Among the Headhunters). But once I got everything and everyone (see below) straightened out, this was a truly compelling story. Whenever I listen to a book like this, I like to get the print copy as well, so that I can check out any photos (not enough here) and actually see the exotic names spelled out. This was particularly useful with this book, since its based around the competing villages of Omadesep and Otsjanep; deals with mythology based around Biwiripitsj and Desoipitsj; has Dutch cop Anton van der Wouw working with Dutch priest Wim van der Waal; and is constantly bouncing back and forth between Asmat (both a tribe and a region), Agats (a city); Amates (a guy); Atsj and Ajam (Asmat villages), the Asawets River, and a lot of other things that all begin with "A". EXTRA BONUS POINTS: I also have to thank Hoffman for showing me that the Indonesian carving in my basement that I always thought was an Asmat shield is in fact a very large sago serving platter, (will attach a photo if I ever figure out how...). Who knew? NEXT UP: Also just found out that our library has Hoffman's latest book, The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure, which looks really interesting as well. However, I think I'm all headhunter'ed out for the moment, so will save this for my 2019 "to read" list.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Michael Rockefeller, 23 years old and a recent Harvard grad was New York royalty in 1961. Michael's great grandfather John D. Rockefeller was at one time the richest man in the US and his grandson, Michael's father Nelson, was Governor of New York. It was initially reported that Michael had drowned off the coast of New Guinea while attempting to source primitive art for his families' museum in Manhattan. Rumor had it that Michael actually made it to shore only to be murdered and eaten by the Azm Michael Rockefeller, 23 years old and a recent Harvard grad was New York royalty in 1961. Michael's great grandfather John D. Rockefeller was at one time the richest man in the US and his grandson, Michael's father Nelson, was Governor of New York. It was initially reported that Michael had drowned off the coast of New Guinea while attempting to source primitive art for his families' museum in Manhattan. Rumor had it that Michael actually made it to shore only to be murdered and eaten by the Azmat, a primitive tribe of headhunting cannibals. Carl Hoffman in this exhaustively researched book presents definitive evidence of the crime by actually learning the language of the Azmat and living with and interviewing the tribe for an extended period to find the truth. The Azmat elderly survivors were understandably scared of having their crime uncovered even over 50 years after the event. I was admittedly more interested in the cover up than Hoffman's anthropological study of the Azmat. The cover up about the true cause of Michael's death by the Rockefeller family, the Catholic Church and the Dutch government added complex dimensions to the story. All had reasons to stonewall; the grieving Rockefeller family wanted fast closure with an easily explainable story, the Catholic Church via it's missionaries wanted to deflect blame away from the Azmat, their recent converts and the Dutch government for geopolitical reasons. The Rockefeller fortune indirectly fueled the sanitized drowning story for over 50 years until this book revealed the evidence of Michael's gruesome murder. The history of the Azmat during the Japanese occupation during World War 2 and Dutch colonial period are also discussed in detail by Hoffman. Michael Rockefeller could have pursued any much safer activity he wanted but with the courage of youth, he accepted the awesome challenge of sourcing primitive art for his families Manhattan collection in one of the most dangerous places in the world and ultimately I think, to impress his father Nelson. I greatly admire his guts and determination. His too short, heroic life deserves the truth be told about his untimely murder and for that reason alone, I thank Carl Hoffman for this masterpiece in investigative journalism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jan C

    What happened to Michael Rockefeller and why? A big story in 1961 was the disappearance of Nelson Rockefeller's son, Michael. After college, he wanted to do something on his own to make his father proud. Nelson had recently opened a Primitive Art Museum (from the book it sounds as though it has been absorbed into the Museum of Modern Art) and Michael had been placed on the Board. He heads off to New Guinea (not directly, the book goes into detail) and he is returning to a particularly savage are What happened to Michael Rockefeller and why? A big story in 1961 was the disappearance of Nelson Rockefeller's son, Michael. After college, he wanted to do something on his own to make his father proud. Nelson had recently opened a Primitive Art Museum (from the book it sounds as though it has been absorbed into the Museum of Modern Art) and Michael had been placed on the Board. He heads off to New Guinea (not directly, the book goes into detail) and he is returning to a particularly savage area when his catamaran flips over in rough water. He elects to swim ashore while his partner stays with the craft. The book posits that he was cannibalized (this is the opening of the book!) but he could have just drowned. The author believes the Rockefellers accepted the drowning theory. That's the explanation the government preferred. Big surprise. I found it interesting how the author kept returning to this same area, asking the same questions. Finally, for his last trip he actually learned some Indonesian so that he could talk to people without having to rely on an interpreter. You'd think this would have occurred to him before his (at least) third trip. This time he also decided to immerse himself in their culture and lived with a family for a month. Why was he killed (if he was)? He came from big money. He may well have believed he could buy anything. He may have bought the wrong thing - from another society where the rules and mores are different. He bought sacrificial poles, masks, etc. They ascribed spiritual vales to these things. It reminded me how native Americans from the 19th and early 20th centuries often felt that people taking their photographs were stealing their spirits. I found this book fascinating.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    I like books about unsolved and unsolvable mysteries. There aren't enough unknowns left in this world anymore. You can pull out your phone and figure out almost anything at any time. But you'll never know for sure what happened to Michael Rockefeller. He was the great-grandson of that Rockefeller, the robber baron, and he travelled around the world, buying up "primitive" art from artisans in tribal societies. Much of the art he collected is now displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New Y I like books about unsolved and unsolvable mysteries. There aren't enough unknowns left in this world anymore. You can pull out your phone and figure out almost anything at any time. But you'll never know for sure what happened to Michael Rockefeller. He was the great-grandson of that Rockefeller, the robber baron, and he travelled around the world, buying up "primitive" art from artisans in tribal societies. Much of the art he collected is now displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. During one collecting trip in Papua New Guinea, his boat broke down, he jumped off to swim to shore, and he was never seen again. There's a lot of speculation about what happened to him. There are lots of saltwater crocs in the area, so maybe he was killed by one of them. He may have simply drowned. Or, there's some evidence that he may have been killed and even eaten by members of the Asmat tribe, a group of people distinguished by an intense cycle of headhunting, revenge, and cannibalism. Whatever the real answer is, no one knows and we'll probably never know. But this is a pretty nice book that does it's best gathering all the information around the disappearance and it lets you come away with your own conclusions. For an even more compelling and far-out mystery, see Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    I just plowed through this book. It was an incredible page turner. I learned a lot about the history of New Guinea, an area that I knew nearly nothing about. Four stars because I was left with more questions than answers. What happened to the ladies? Carl Hoffman wrote nearly nothing about the women in the Asmat tribe, while giving us an incredibly detailed picture of the life of the men and their incredible spiritual world. I wish there were more pictures. Apparently Michael Rockefeller took ma I just plowed through this book. It was an incredible page turner. I learned a lot about the history of New Guinea, an area that I knew nearly nothing about. Four stars because I was left with more questions than answers. What happened to the ladies? Carl Hoffman wrote nearly nothing about the women in the Asmat tribe, while giving us an incredibly detailed picture of the life of the men and their incredible spiritual world. I wish there were more pictures. Apparently Michael Rockefeller took many pictures of life on the island and I would've liked to seen more (and a better map). I had to look up pictures of the Bisj poles and shields on Google images and they were mind blowing. I get how collectors were going crazy to get their hands on them. The portrait of Western hubris was so complete and distasteful, I was rooting for the Asmat in the end. I was also delighted by the portraits of Van Kassel and Von Peij, the sympathetic priests. This book was educational and fascinating and I absolutely recommend it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    I won this book from Goodreads. This is not a book I would normally choose to read. Mostly because it's non fiction, but also because it's not a story that on its face seemed particularly compelling. But I entered the giveaway on a last minute whim, won the book and was happily surprised. The first three quarters were interesting -- providing historical background to a part of the world I know very little about. But the last quarter was particularly interesting and compelling as it got into the I won this book from Goodreads. This is not a book I would normally choose to read. Mostly because it's non fiction, but also because it's not a story that on its face seemed particularly compelling. But I entered the giveaway on a last minute whim, won the book and was happily surprised. The first three quarters were interesting -- providing historical background to a part of the world I know very little about. But the last quarter was particularly interesting and compelling as it got into the author's attempt to really live there, get to know the people and figure out what happened. It's hard to imagine how someone can paint a sympathetic picture of cannibalism, but somehow Hoffman pulls it off. He gives depth to the people and their history without being condescending.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tex

    The very idea of cannibalism is truly foreign to most first world people. This book shares a true example that pits ultimate power and wealth (the Rockefellers ) against a primitive community in Indonesia. There were actually a couple of factors that I had never considered in why and how this practice took place. The most intriguing one is of survival and not from positioning for strength, but in having humans be a source of fat and protein where there is little more than fruits and small fish a The very idea of cannibalism is truly foreign to most first world people. This book shares a true example that pits ultimate power and wealth (the Rockefellers ) against a primitive community in Indonesia. There were actually a couple of factors that I had never considered in why and how this practice took place. The most intriguing one is of survival and not from positioning for strength, but in having humans be a source of fat and protein where there is little more than fruits and small fish and crustaceans to eat. The brain is one source from a large animal that, even when taboo, might need to be considered as sustenance. I do now need to see the art pieces collected by the man who was eaten that are housed in a museum in New York, some of which practically foretell this murder.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    Michael Rockefeller went missing in 1961 while on a trip to New Guinea to collect primitive art from its original sources. Speculation is that he drowned or was a victim of cannibalism. The author goes on a journey in Rockefeller's footsteps to find out the truth but the remaining members of the tribe aren't talking. An anthropological look at the region and a Dutch and Indonesian history lesson as well as young Rockefeller' s story. Michael Rockefeller went missing in 1961 while on a trip to New Guinea to collect primitive art from its original sources. Speculation is that he drowned or was a victim of cannibalism. The author goes on a journey in Rockefeller's footsteps to find out the truth but the remaining members of the tribe aren't talking. An anthropological look at the region and a Dutch and Indonesian history lesson as well as young Rockefeller' s story.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.