Exceptional Dayak Headhunter’s Mandau Sword, Late 19th – early 20th C

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The Mandau is the traditional weapon of the Dayak people of Borneo. The blade has a
unique shape with one edge slightly concave and the other slightly convex. The hilts are
generally of carved animal bone, although sometimes human bones are used. The
swords are usually accompanied by a knife with a short blade and a very long handle
called a pisau raut. According to Stone’s Glossary “This knife is often missing from the
mandaus brought here as the Dayaks are said to be more unwilling to part with it than the
sword itself, possibly because they use it for cleaning up the heads they have taken from
their enemies.” This example the finest we have ever seen with 20″ blade inlaid on one
side with brass waves and dots (minor loss) and piercings on the back edge. Finely
carved grip with tufts of hair, possibly human. Wood scabbard with carved bone
anthropomorphic deity faces on the obverse. Rather than residing in a pocket on the
scabbard as typically found, the pisau raut knife is in its own rattan scabbard attached to
the main scabbard by a woven rattan strap. Overall length of the mandau is 25 3/4″, not
including scabbard. Extremely unique and interesting weapon.