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Thread: Sea dayak sword! Sarawak area.

  1. #1
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    Sea dayak sword! Sarawak area.

    Here my first one.
    An old sword I'd like to discuss.
    Deerhorn handle with tufts of hair.
    Blade has copper inlaid dots and is notched.
    Wooden scabbard consisting out of 2 slabs of wood, hold together with ratan and horn windings, decorated with dyed tufts of hair.

    Maurice
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  2. #2
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    Hi Maurice!

    Can I ask a question?

    Do the tufts of hair and the shape of the pommel have any significance, or are they for decoration only?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bennison N View Post
    Do the tufts of hair and the shape of the pommel have any significance, or are they for decoration only?
    Hi Bennison,

    The deerhorn (and wooden) handles often are decorated (however there are also mandaus with very plain uncarved handles, for example at the Negara area). You often can see clear faces, several antropomorphic figures, aso figures, leeches, or other decorations that are returning from one handle to another.
    Often it is very difficult, but most of the time you can see at the carvings on the handle at what period it was made (fashion at a certain age), and what area or tribe made it and used the sword.
    The hair often consists of goat hair, human hair, and even sometimes urang utang hair.

    But it is sometimes very hard to trace origin, because dayaks traveled the jungle to visit friendly tribes, were they also exchanged swordhandles, blades and other artifacts.....

    At the sword I posted, you see some kind of figure with tenuous face, when you look from above on the handle. I attached a picture of an Iban who carries a similar mandau as the one I posted.
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    Last edited by Maurice B.; 10-19-2009 at 03:14 PM.

  4. #4
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    Is there an organised system of technique for using these? What I mean is would most dayaks use these in roughly the same kind of way?

    Some of the hair tufts are quite long. Do the serve a purpose other than purely decoration?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bennison N View Post
    Is there an organised system of technique for using these? What I mean is would most dayaks use these in roughly the same kind of way?
    Ofcourse there are some guidelines which every dayak should follow. But also every handlecarver has a higher of lower skill in carving the handles. Also they could have different styles, what is allowed keeping between the lines of what is permitted and what not according dayak adat.
    And than there are guidelines about the carver itself. In kayan tribes only a man who had several travels is allowed to carve deerhorn handles. (according in Central Borneo from Nieuwenhuis 1896-1897).


    Quote Originally Posted by Bennison N View Post
    Some of the hair tufts are quite long. Do the serve a purpose other than purely decoration?
    I think it is purely decoration most of the time, but it had to be attached within the dayak standard.
    By the way a mandau with urang utang hair at the handle, is that powerfull in the eyes of a dayak, that only a very fierce headhunter, which severed several heads allready, is allowed and able to carry a mandau with urang utang hair at the handle.
    Last edited by Maurice B.; 10-20-2009 at 12:18 AM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Maurice B. View Post
    I think it is purely decoration most of the time, but it had to be attached within the dayak standard.
    By the way a mandau with urang utang hair at the handle, is that powerfull in the eyes of a dayak, that only a very fierce headhunter, which severed several heads allready, is allowed and able to carry a mandau with urang utang hair at the handle.
    I think the answer here is that of course it is not "purely" decoration. It is a deep part of the cultural symbolism of the various dayak tribes. It serves as an indicator of status as you clearly state here. This is not what we might refer to as a "practical" purpose, but it is purpose non-the-less.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Sorcher View Post
    I think the answer here is that of course it is not "purely" decoration. It is a deep part of the cultural symbolism of the various dayak tribes. It serves as an indicator of status as you clearly state here. This is not what we might refer to as a "practical" purpose, but it is purpose non-the-less.
    I do agree that it is a deep part of the cultural symbolism.
    But I disagree about the indicator of status thing, as every dayak, also the one without status, is allowed to have hair attached at the handle and scabbard(...except for the urangutang hair, as mentioned before.)
    Last edited by Maurice B.; 10-21-2009 at 11:13 PM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Maurice B. View Post
    I do agree that it is a deep part of the cultural symbolism.
    But I disagree about the indicator of status thing, as every dayak, also the one without status, is allowed to have hair attached at the handle and scabbard(...except for the urangutang hair, as mentioned before.)
    Yes Maurice, exactly. Every dayak can attach hair, but not everyone attaches orangutan hair. This type of hair says something specific about it's owner. And what does it say about the owner if the hair is human? This appears to be a status thing to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Sorcher View Post
    And what does it say about the owner if the hair is human? This appears to be a status thing to me.
    In time when headhunting still was practiced in Borneo, they used human hair from defeated enemies or headtrophies to decorate the mandaus and shields.
    But already around the year 1895 there was not much hair from beaten enemies, but it was still forbidden to use human hair from the own tribe to decorate swords and shields.
    Tribes were selling their hair at that time to other tribes for that purpose.

    By the way they used many imported, dyed animal hair...

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