Original 19th Century Borneo Dayak Headhunters Mandau with British North Borneo Co. Coin on Bone Hilt

Item Description

Original Items: Only One Set Available. The Mandau is the traditional weapon of the Dayak people of Borneo. It is also known as Parang Ilang among the Bidayuh, Iban and Penan people, Malat by the Kayan people or Baieng by the Kenyah people or Bandau by Lun Bawang or Pelepet/Felepet by Lundayeh. The design is even used by the Moro people of the Philippines, where it is called the Kampilan. The Mandau is mostly ceremonial, however a less elaborate version called Ambang is used as an everyday practical tool.

Associated with the Headhunting Ceremony, where people would gather to attack other tribes, and gather heads to be used in various festivities, Mandau is both a work of art in itself and a weapon.

Characteristics for the Mandau is that the blade is shaped convexly on one side and somewhat concavely on the other side. The blade is mostly made of tempered metals, with exquisite vine-works and inlaid brass. The hilt is made from animal horns, such as deer's horns, although some variations with human bones and fragrant wood also have been found. Both the hilt and scabbard are elaborately carved and plumed. Details of carvings vary from tribe to tribe, but mostly depict creatures or, if human bones were used, anthropomorphic deities. A Mandau is often accompanied with a whittling knife, generally referred to as Pisau raut, though this example does not have one, nor does it have a scabbard.

Ambang is a term used for Mandau that is made from common steel. Often it is also made as souvenir. For the untrained eye and those who are not familiar with the Mandau, will not be able to distinguish the difference between a Mandau and an Ambang because of the outlook appearance that looks almost similar. However the two are actually very different. If one examines in detail, the differences are very obvious that the engravings can be found on the blade and it is embedded with gold, copper or silver. The Mandau holds a stronger edge and with flexibility, as it is said that the Mandau is made from iron ore obtained from rocky mountains forged by skilled blacksmiths. Whereas the Ambang is made from ordinary steel.

We believe that this example is Mandau and not the souvenir Ambang, as this blade has the proper flex and bend seen with Mandau. We can also see variations in the color and grain of the blade, indicating that it was traditionally made from iron ore via a crucible process. The handle is made from bone, with the grip made from a large animal, while the crossguard is made from hollowed out bone with wood inserted inside. This was then wrapped in leather to aid in gripping the handle, and there is a plume or tassel attached in a ring around the grip.

Attached to the handle is a BRITISH NORTH BORNEO Co. marked coin, about 1 1/8" in diameter. This company was founded in the late 19th century to administer Borneo, but it was only in full control until 1888, when Borneo became a protectorate of the British Empire. We have not been able to determine how long the coins were minted for.

This is truly a wonderful, yet morbid item from the famous headhunters of Borneo. Comes more than ready for display!

Blade length: 30 1/2”
Blade Style: Mandau Single Edge
Overall length: 40 1/2”

Headhunting is the practice of hunting a human and collecting the severed head after killing the victim, although sometimes more portable body parts (such as ear, nose or scalp) are taken instead as trophies. Headhunting was practiced in historic times in parts of Europe, East Asia, Oceania, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Mesoamerica, West and Central Africa.

The headhunting practice has been the subject of intense study within the anthropological community, where scholars try to assess and interpret its social roles, functions, and motivations. Anthropological writings explore themes in headhunting that include mortification of the rival, ritual violence, cosmological balance, the display of manhood, cannibalism, dominance over the body and soul of his enemies in life and afterlife, as a trophy and proof of killing (achievement in hunting), show of greatness, prestige by taking on a rival's spirit and power, and as a means of securing the services of the victim as a slave in the afterlife.

Today's scholars generally agree that headhunting's primary function was ritual and ceremonial. It was part of the process of structuring, reinforcing, and defending hierarchical relationships between communities and individuals. Some experts theorize that the practice stemmed from the belief that the head contained "soul matter" or life force, which could be harnessed through its capture.

  • This product is available for international shipping.
  • Eligible for all payments - Visa, Mastercard, Discover, AMEX, Paypal & Sezzle


Cash For Collectibles