Savage Harvest

Savage Harvest

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

eBook - 2014
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The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in remote New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world, and even Michael's powerful, influential family, guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story. On November 21, 1961, Michael C. Rockefeller, the twenty-three-year-old son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, vanished off the coast of southwest New Guinea when his catamaran capsized while crossing a turbulent river mouth. He was on an expedition to collect art for the Museum of Primitive Art, which his father had founded in 1957, and his expedition partner--who stayed with the boat and was later rescued--shared Michael's final words as he swam for help: "I think I can make it."Despite exhaustive searches by air, ground, and sea, no trace of Michael was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd made it to shore, where he was then killed and eaten by the local Asmat--a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, headhunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family vehemently denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. While the cause of death was accepted publicly, doubts lingered and sensational stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told--until now.Retracing Michael's steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of former headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered hundreds of pages of never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publicly for the first time in fifty years. In Savage HarvestSavage Harvest is at once 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.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : HarperCollins, 2014
ISBN: 9780062116185
Branch Call Number: Overdrive eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource (336 pages)


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AL_ANNA Feb 18, 2017

Michael Rockefeller disappeared in New Guinea in 1961 on an art collecting expedition. When his boat capsized in rough seas, death by drowning was the official finding, but rumors of a far more horrific fate persisted. Hoffman discovers what really happened and why.

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Jun 24, 2016

I agree overall with the comments of irzabata below, although not concerned with the Rockefeller family other than if anyone deserves to have their heads chopped off [shrinking is optional] it's the Rockefellers. The utter audacity of the not only assassinating MLK, but then paying for his funeral as if it was a grand gesture [along with the murders of the Kennedy brothers] ensures them to eternal damnation, if there be such a thing. From the Ludlow Massacre, to the horrors of the Pinochet regime and beyond, the Rockefellers constitute some of the devils among us. [Trust a Rockefeller to go to a culture where head hunting has finally been ended, and instigate its resurgence!]

Jun 24, 2016

This book is much deeper and thought-provoking than the sensationalist title suggests. True, it is about solving the mystery of what happened to Michael Rockefeller, the wealthy scion who disappeared in remote Dutch New Guinea in the early 60s. The rumors are that he was killed and eaten by native tribespeople and known cannibals. While I personally think we will never know 100 percent for sure without concrete evidence and DNA tests, he makes a compelling and plausible case using circumstantial evidence.

The book is about more than Michael Rockefeller though. It’s about the colonial and village events that possibly led to his death. Nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s also about the Asmat indigenous themselves, their culture and the spiritual beliefs that gave rise to cannibalism. I think he raises important questions about the obtaining of “primitive” art by wealthy collectors and the impact of white colonialism on remote villages. Very thought-provoking.

I do think he stepped overboard when it came to censuring the Rockefeller family. He doesn’t understand why they didn’t want to pursue the truth in Asmat itself and discover what really happened to Michael. He claims that they left Michael’s spirit to roam untethered and restless in the world. He is the one setting Michael free. I found that presumptuous. I don’t think the family should be criticized for not wanting to dwell on and conjecture about the last moments of Michael’s life. Whatever happened, I think we can be fairly certain he died. If the people who loved him want to shield themselves and remember his life rather than torture themselves with the manner of his death, who is the author to criticize them for that?

Apr 23, 2016

A very interesting story involving a very public american figure of the 60s. The author has researched the topic and his narrative is believable. Having said that, he engages in a lot of unnecessary repetition. Overall entertaining and instructive.

Jul 16, 2014

Great read seeped in history and anthropology. Michael Rockefeller's disappearance and death happened when I was in grade school, and I'm still fascinated by "ancient" tribes and customs that inhabit our modern world. Perhaps it was Mr. Hoffman's writing style, but I found the ending somewhat wanting--like the dessert that didn't materialize--my reason for four stars. Irregardless, this is a story of modern adventure worth reading.

ChristchurchLib Apr 13, 2014

"In 1961, a scion of the powerful Rockefeller family, 23-year-old Michael, disappeared during an expedition to Dutch New Guinea where he'd planned to study a primitive tribe and gather art for a museum that his father -- the governor of New York -- had founded. Michael's body was never found, and officials ruled that he had drowned... but rumours swirled that he was actually killed and eaten by natives. In search of the truth, avid traveller and author Carl Hoffman recently retraced Michael’s path, immersing himself in the world of former headhunters and cannibals to solve this historical whodunit. If you enjoy this "riveting, multilayered tale." (Publishers Weekly), pick up Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff, which takes place in the same area." Armchair Travel April 2014 newsletter


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