Iban headhunting sword and scabbard

 

Iban headhunting sword and scabbard

Contributed by Oriental Museum Durham

Iban headhunting sword

 

Iban headhunting sword
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This sword once belonged to the paramount chief of the Iban, Temonggong Koh.

He was an Iban war leader who had risen to power in the second half of the 19th century under the White Rajahs as they brought the peoples of the Borneo interior under their rule and established the boundaries of Sarawak. He acheived fame as the mightiest Iban headhunter of his generation and in his seventies was still active, directing activities against Japanese occupying forces during WWII.

Traditionally the Iban marked the taking of a head with a tattoo on the back of one joint of one finger. Kohâ??s hands were tattooed all over and it is believed that Koh had taken over 100 heads with this sword during a period of time that effectively marked the end of head-hunting in Sarawak.

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