Nine generations on and his descendant Eli Mabel is the current chieftain in Wogi village -- an isolated hamlet outside Wamena that can be reached only by hiking and canoe.
He said the exact age of Agat Mamete Mabel was not known, but told AFP this ancestor was the last of the village to receive such a funeral. Once common among his forebears, the ritual method of smoke embalming was no longer practiced, he explained.
Christian missionaries and Muslim preachers encouraged the tribespeople to bury the corpses, and the tradition has faded as the centuries drifted by.
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But Mabel is determined to retain the ancient rites and rituals for future generations.
"We must protect our culture, including the ceremonies for the mummy, the way we treat it, and maintain and fire for it," the Dani tribesman told AFP.
The mummy, decorated with pig tusks slung around the torso, a feathered headpiece, and traditional penis gourd rests in a hut known as a "honai."
This wide domed, thatch-roofed hut is tended year round by a select few villagers who keep a fire burning to ensure the corpse remains dry and preserved.
The duty of caring for the mummy often falls to Mabel, he said. He spends many nights sleeping alone in the honai, ensuring no harm befalls his ancestor.
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