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An Original Dayak Headhunter's Sword

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Subject :An Original Dayak Headhunter's Sword
Published By :
Location :
Estimated Year : 1920
Media Type : Artifact
Source : Guan Hoe Company, Ipoh
Remark :

The Mandau is the traditional weapon of the Iban Dayak, the people of Malaya and Indonesia who traditionally practiced headhunting. Based on the design and additional features of the hilt, one can thus determine the origin of the mandau; as there are several different characteristics of the weapon from various different groups of Dayak people, such as the Dayak Maanyan, Dayak Mbalan, Dayak Bahau, and the Dayak Ngaju.

This sword in our collection originated from Sarawak and it is estimated as dating from the 19th century

Not only is the use of the sword, but also the manufacture is very traditional. Sacred kinds of wood from specific forest trees were used for carving the stylized animals/bird head hilt with decorative engraving. Usually the hilt is fitted with human hairs (emanating from the mouth and/or back of the head of the carved hilt) taken from the decapitated victims, but these are missing due to the age of the item.

Like the hilt, the sheath is made from wood of rare forest trees which are considered sacred, too. The sheath is often also decorated with beads and bird’s feathers. There is no evidence to indicate such decorations were ever present here.

The length of the blade is approximately 20 inches, and it has a sharp edge and a very distinct point. Most Mandau blades tilted backward/upward but ours has a slightly curved blade which makes it a rare specimen. However there are rarer are the ones which have a straight blade.

Some of these swords have a small knife fitted in the back of the sheath but this was never part of this particular weapon.

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