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Old 25th March 2013, 03:10 PM   #1
Royston
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Default Different Borneo sword

Just picked this one up.

I say different as it has a couple of unusual features.
First is the hilt. It is wood but not a type that I have seen before from this area. With the strong grain it looks more like a European wood although I would say that the carving was certainly done locally.
I have not seen the square hole before either - any suggestions on it's pupose ? Presumably for decoration , but what went in there ?

The blade is very thick and heavy ( 914 gram ) for it's length. 21 1/2 inches long but 3/8 of an inch thick near the hilt. This would give a seriously heavy blow.

Large Krowit more like that of a Langai tinggan, but very little curvature to the blade.

The inserts are brass.

All comments welcome.

Regards
Roy
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Old 25th March 2013, 03:30 PM   #2
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Nice catch, Roy!

The square hole is not that unusual (it is used to insert hair tufts), neither is the krowit.

What is very unusual is the tip of this parang and the choice of wood for the hilt.
Do you see any signs of a break or is it originally made like this?
It seems like the blade is flat, is that correct?

From the pictures it seems to me to be an Iban tilan kemarau with a broken tip?
However, the hilt is a bit strange, like you brought up?

Michael
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Old 25th March 2013, 03:44 PM   #3
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I think the blade tip is shortened/cut off, which could have been happened a long time ago.
That handle puzzles me though. Looks like the carvings are right. But the "thicker" part near the blade, where the guta percha ring normally is situated, is very strange now as it's carved in wood.?. I don't get the purpose of that.

What makes me ask this question. Is the blade attached into the handle with resin?
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Old 25th March 2013, 03:59 PM   #4
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Michael, Maurice

That was quick !!

Yes, the blade is flat.

It looks as though it is held in with resin but it is difficult to see. It has been trimmed off close to the blade.

Blade could well be shortened. Not recently though as the edge does not look bright and shiney. I'll try and take a photo.

As you sa a bit unusual, but I like it.

It may be worth mentioning that it came at a price which was way below someone trying to make something out of something else.

Cheers
Roy
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Old 27th March 2013, 06:40 AM   #5
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Hello Roy,

Nice unusual mandau. I like it too. (a lot )
All points are already made my Michael and Maurice :-)
Here an example of a hilt with square holes :

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...inese+influence

I am not sure about the blade being shortened.
This could well be original imho.

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 29th March 2013, 07:47 PM   #6
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Hello Roy,
indeed an odd mandau have to say too. Though it all looks perfectly good old n authentic, to be said first. The thing that I have personally also not seen before is the soft type of wood of the handle. The piece is a bit a puzzle to me too;

To my experience the handle has the carvingstyle of the Bahau-tribe on the upper Barito river as they always tend to use those thin vines almost 'framing' all the details of the handle and often ending in a scroll. Though they usually also carve long beaks with teeth (almost looking like horsemouths) but non on this.

The blade on the other hand looks like those from the Murut area who often have those crossbars engraved near the handle and those sections of engravings near the blunt edge. Also those Murutblades do not have the concave shape as most other mandaublades do (especially from Baritoriverregion).

At last your piece looks like a very old example -seen from the type of iron used n thickness- and I have seen more of these very old examples being puzzling to the Borneo-ëxperts. Perhaps its because some of the Dayak tribes (as the Iban) are or were migrating folks?!?

Enjoy it; those puzzling pieces are always so entertaining I think.

Wouter
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Old 29th March 2013, 08:51 PM   #7
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To keep up the level of terminology it would be preferred if we do not call a parang with a flat blade, as well as when it is coming from NW Borneo, a "mandau".
Why make a blade like this more "puzzling" than it already is by giving it an incorrect (or simplified?) label at a specialized ethnographic forum like this?

Not only the Iban (an externally given name which literary means wanderer/nomad in Kayan language) were migrating, also the blades, hilts and the complete swords migrated all over the region.
When studying the old sources they describe how there was a lot of trading and cross-cultural influences going on between the different tribes in Borneo.

Michael
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Old 31st March 2013, 02:05 PM   #8
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Roy, I happen to stumble upon this piece which has the similar features on the blade and indeed this piece I would also ascribe to the Iban of Sarawak, and than to the North of their region(close to the Murut region). See that this blade also lacks the 'concaveness'.
<<I hope these pics are allowed as my intensions are just of comparative use n it is already sold.>>
Still the style of the gripcarving is quite unlike other grips I've seen n had from this particular area. Although it might explain -as the Kelabit plateau is more elevated- the use of pine?-sort of wood; more growing in higher altitude regions.

Best, Wouter
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Old 31st March 2013, 04:36 PM   #9
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Indiana,

Now it seems to me like you are making this thread even more puzzling and unnecessary confusing than it was before you entered.
I don't see the purpose of bringing this new parang into the discussion?
The new one is an ilang (concave/convex blade) and not any of the flat blade swords from NW Borneo (like Roy's parang).
Also it does not have any protrusions (like Roy's parang), nor does it have a square tip (like Roy's parang).
The main common denominator is that the blade is of Iban origin, and not Murut like you suggested in your first post.
So how does this parang contribute to the original discussion?

Michael

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Old 31st March 2013, 10:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Indianajones
Roy, I happen to stumble upon this piece which has the similar features on the blade and indeed this piece I would also ascribe to the Iban of Sarawak, and than to the North of their region(close to the Murut region). See that this blade also lacks the 'concaveness'.


Best way to note concaveness is seeing both sides of the blade.
But this example from Ashoka arts is clearly concave imho.
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Old 31st March 2013, 10:23 PM   #11
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Sorry to bring in yet another blade, but this one from my collection has quite some similarities imho.

Adding a better picture of the blade and blade tip / 2nd april.
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Old 1st April 2013, 08:47 AM   #12
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Yes Willem, from your comparison it shows that the tip is shortened and how it maybe looked before.

Roy, do you have any more "ordinary" Iban parang in your collection that you could place next to this one in a picture so we easier can judge its proportions?

Michael
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Old 1st April 2013, 04:00 PM   #13
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Wel (Michael!) from both Willems example (and the one I attached) we may derive that the -perhaps somewhat blunt- ending of the blade does NOT mean it was originally longer.

Also Willems example has a handle which shows a bit more the Murut sort of grip and carved symbols as I know them. Many of this type have large tufts of human hair attached under the (metal) bands of the scabbard. The engravings on his are also similar but lack the dividing in different sections. This example also confirms that we are in the right area, namely in the most North East Sarawak corner where the Iban meet the Kelabit and Murut.


Anyone has a mandau/parang which has a similar grip? That would really help!

To be clear; not all Murut used/wore a 'pakayun' (long curved parang with forked grip).
Also with the Bahau-tribe I did not mean the tribes living around the Bahau river (near Apokayan if I recall correctly) but a tribe on the Mahakam river neighboured by Modang, Busang and Kenyah.

I believe the points (knowledge n experience) I make are clear enough to bring us closer to the answer, hopefully?!?.

Best,W

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Old 1st April 2013, 06:27 PM   #14
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Indiana,

I question your claim that the sharply blunt tip is original but I do not mind to be proven wrong.

Can you please post a resembling Iban (or Murut?) reference sword with (at least almost) identical blade features to prove your point? (I am not interested to see any jimpul etc. but blades that actually belong to the same kind of category as this one.)

I prefer the tradition of this forum to back up one's claims with proper references (either scholarly works or reference swords with documented origin), instead of praising one's own "knowledge n experience" as an argument.

Michael
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Old 1st April 2013, 10:20 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
Yes Willem, from your comparison it shows that the tip is shortened and how it maybe looked before.

Roy, do you have any more "ordinary" Iban parang in your collection that you could place next to this one in a picture so we easier can judge its proportions?

Michael


Hello Michael,

Probably it is not very clear on my previous pictures. I made some new / better ones.
My blade is missing one curl on the blade tip.
With my limited skills in paint I have tried to recreate this missing curl.

Based on this picture with the recreated curl I still want to suggest that Roy's blade can be original.

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 1st April 2013, 10:33 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asomotif
Based on this picture with the recreated curl I still want to suggest that Roy's blade can be original.


Ofcourse it could be original, as there is always to be found an exception of the rule.
But looking at the whole feature of Roy's blade, it looks very weird if that would be original, and I've searched my database and can't find any similar blade with such blunt tip.

I found an image though of a blade with similar brass inlaid decoration as on Roy's blade, but can't post it as it's an image from the former museum of Nijmegen and belongs to a friendcollector who made it there, and unfortunately I'm not allowed to post it here.
That one hasn't a blunt tip for what it's worth.

Maurice
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Old 2nd April 2013, 05:46 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maurice
Ofcourse it could be original, as there is always to be found an exception of the rule.
But looking at the whole feature of Roy's blade, it looks very weird if that would be original, and I've searched my database and can't find any similar blade with such blunt tip.


Hello Maurice,

Thanks for stepping in.
Do you have examples of these similar blades with different blade tips ?
I mean parang blade, both sides flat + decorated.

I agree that if you look at the complete blade of Roy's example, you would think that it is too blunt.
But if you compare the tip with mine example, mine is just slightly more pointed, as indicated with my new attempt in paint

Roy's pictures of the entire blade and of the tip of his blade are both under different angles, so they do not give a exact angle, but i guess you get my point based on below comparisson.
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Old 2nd April 2013, 06:34 AM   #18
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Sorry Willem, it seems like we misunderstood each other before.
Having a blunt tip, like your reference sword above and several in my collection, is not that unusual.
What is very rare (unless if it is a jimpul - then it is only quite unusual) is if it is almost square, like Roy's.
What is also quite unusual is that if the tip is blunt it doesn't slowly narrow down (for instance by resembling a stair case, like yours) before it becomes blunt. The abrupt way Roy's blade ends just doesn't follow the esthetics of Borneo parang.
Also, if you compare the proportions of your tilang kemarau with Roy's you will find that they are not the same.
For instance, compare the length of yours with Roy's 21 1/2". Your parang is "normal" in proportions, Roy's is not.

However, if you lengthen the tip of Roy's - either with (1) a "stair case" like yours, (2) an inverted saber point (more round and then pointy), or (3) a mix where it first goes down round like (2) and then stretches out to finish with a blunt (but still not square) point (like the one from Ashoka above which happens to be mine now) - you will find that it suddenly has the same proportions and esthetics like yours.
This is the reason why I (and maybe also why Maurice?) suspected that there once had been a break at the point - the blade proportions/esthetics/design on Roy's does not follow those of all the different categories of Borneo parang.

Willem, please let me know if any part of my explanation is difficult to understand and I will add some pictures? Sorry, sometimes I have the bad habit to take some things I have in my head for granted without making sure that the one I am discussing with also both get the implicit and agrees with it.

Michael

PS To illustrate how the Iban seem to hate square angles at tips I use the most extreme example, the jimpul, which is the only parang getting close to being square. Still they avoid it with either: protrusions rounding off the otherwise squarish tip; elongating the tip so it become more of a slope; rounding it etc.
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Old 2nd April 2013, 08:57 AM   #19
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Willem,

Here is an alternative, and perhaps better, explanation to what I first tried to imply.
Below is one of my parang (unfortunately an ilang but the rest resembles Roy's quite a lot), probably from the Baram river up north of Sarawak, with several similar features as Roy's.
Imagine that you broke the tip after the first "stair step".
To regain the lost blade esthetics you then try to insinuate the other two (now lost) stair steps with small cuts to retrieve the harmony of a stair case of three again.
Due to lack of space between the original stair step and the new tip there is unfortunately only room for an almost insignificant rounding of the tip which make it almost square in appearance - and voilà!

Michael
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Old 2nd April 2013, 02:48 PM   #20
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Hi all,
For me its not so easy to back my statements up with pics as I dont collect Dayak anymore. So I rely -on Dayak items- on pics I find online. I do have this old pic from a few of my mandau's/etc.; see below. With a Murutmandau I mean the MIDDLE example, which is quite similar to the one Willem has brought up (comparason pic). Unfortunately I did not make any pics of the blade, but also this one had the engravings and the copper lines near the narrow end of the blade near the grip. It did not have a blunt end which is now suddenly so much discussed.

At least even Michael is of the (same) opinion that those engraved blades originate from the North-Sarawak; Baram-river region. Although I suspect it originates still a bit more northernly (direction of Murut).

Question; What type of mandau/parang did the Kelabit use actually?
Point I have been making is; the blade and engravings Roy's blade has are from an area which usually displays -to my 'modest' knowledge- a different kind of grip. So the discussion of the blunt ending might just not bring us to the answer that is asked, is it?

It seems to me -as many Dayakcollectors are attending this forum- that noone has a mandau with similar grip??? That would be a rare phenomena, wouldnt it?
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Old 2nd April 2013, 03:38 PM   #21
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Found some pics of a somewhat similar example; it has the same type of (blunt ended) blade with the engraving and copper inset. Interestingly the scabbard is made of also a softer kind of wood as is Roy's grip. If its the same (type of) wood is ofcourse impossible to say (from pics) and than there's the problem of 'ascribing to a region/tribe'.
I can already hear everybody shouting 'Iban' again he he he (me too as it hasnt got the 'what I call' Murut type of grip n scabbard n engr. bars near grip)

See another comparative pic of a grip (deerhorn though) which sits on again a engraved blade. The carved features on this grip have some similarities TMHO; see the interconnecting vines, small 'whirlpools' (2 curved V's) and the "extension" beyond the grips 'horizontal'end. I put Roy's grip inbetween for convenience. (no worries;compar.exp.= sold)

Enjoy n look forward to the replies.
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Old 2nd April 2013, 04:46 PM   #22
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Indiana,

Now it seems like you are deviating from the topic again.
I don't see how your posting of your ex-parang somehow brings any new input to the parang we are discussing?
However, they look quite nice so why don't you publish them in a another thread so we can discuss them separately?

Anyway, you don't really need to own a lot of Borneo parang yourself to learn about them. There are a lot of museum databases on the Internet with provenanced Borneo blades and you can also quite cheap both visit museums and other collectors if you want to handle the swords yourself. It's much cheaper than buying them all yourself and within a couple of years you have acquired a lot of reference pictures for your coming studies.

On attributing Roy's parang to North Sarawak, that has never been an issue. The puzzle here is not where the blade comes from but why it looks so strange compared to all the 100's of related blades that I, Maurice, Arjan and some other Borneo collectors not active on this forum have in our study files. Also the handle is of lesser importance IMHO (but I admit that this assumption could of course easier be questioned).

On your reference parang it seems to be a jimpul related sword, which Roy's isn't, which makes it irrelevant as I brought up already in my earlier mail. That was the reason I only published the tips in my earlier post, to not bring in pictures of non-relevant blades in this thread to avoid spreading confusion.
Why don't you take your time and try to find something that will carry on the discussion if you don't like my attempt in two latest posts?

Michael
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Old 2nd April 2013, 04:50 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
Willem, please let me know if any part of my explanation is difficult to understand and I will add some pictures? Sorry, sometimes I have the bad habit to take some things I have in my head for granted without making sure that the one I am discussing with also both get the implicit and agrees with it.

Michael



Thanks Michael,
I must admit that I thought your opinion was more or less based on your wish to categorize these weapons. (which is a noble goal btw)

Now I see that your opinion is laregely based on understanding the esthetics of the shape.

Thanks again.

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 2nd April 2013, 07:24 PM   #24
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I did spend some time this afternoon, searching one with a similar blunt tip, but was unable to find anything what even looks like it (privat- and museumcollections).
Only one matched, but of particular piece I'm sure it had been cut off (I discussed that one with Arjan quite a while ago), as seen on the decoration which was also "cut off" at the end.....



Attached image: partly image of the ex Nijmegen museum piece of a similar decorated blade, showing the tip.
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Old 2nd April 2013, 08:02 PM   #25
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Hi ,

thanks for listing this puzzling sword ! Your pics are very good and now it looks a lot more attractive.

For such possibly older unusuall examples we must be carefull with tagging it to a certain tribe. Migrations,trades and headhunting raids hasn't made it easier to determinate such pieces. Fascinating is it too see after seeing some hundreds of mandaus that there are still examples that we haven't seen before.It tells something about seemly endless artistic skills of the people who create them.

If the blade is concave or not doesn't tell anything about the origin IMO.
Both concave and not we see them used among different tribes in a large area. That the blade was once longer is for me no doubt looking to the overall shape. But just that fact is quite seldom as you see that the sword seems to be in use after the break.Seemly for the owner the sword had still value and possibly it was a heirloom of gift.

Wooden hilts are among collectors less valued that antler however they are interesting as the carved is more free to carve what he wants.
What is interesting is that your handle looks to have the overall basic shape of a Kayan hilt ( with larges eyes crossed by arms) but with complete other motifs however the back has a quite kayan looking design.
The main motif seems to be a kind of " hornbill head". Where that is from is again difficult, I see it more or less on an old "Batang Lupar like" sword in my collection but also in other carvings much more to the north.

Another feature ,not yet mentioned, is that the hilts ends are closed, there are no drilled or carved holes in it, so it was seemly mentioned not to attach ( human) hair to it. Maybe it was because the owner was too young and not "powerful" enough to carry hair bundles ? Was that maybe also the reason that this hilt was made out of wood ? Was it maybe a young well skilled boy who got the second hand blade from his father ?

All just speculations of course, sorry


Arjan
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Old 2nd April 2013, 08:13 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Indianajones
Too bad this interesting thread ends with discussing just blade-ends." It clearly doesnt bring us anywhere. Or let me ask the question than; Where does that lead us??


I'm not searching my images to get a similar blade tip for your sake, so I don't care if you're disappointed and feel like it is "too bad this interesting thread ends with discussing just blade-ends.
I'm doing my efforts for Roy and other collectors who appreciate my efforts.
Also I think my (borrowed) image has more similarities with Roy's piece as all of your posted pieces. But anyway, let's keep to the topic!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Indianajones
(the first mandau I showed with the somewhat simple scabbard (of softer wood) does look almost the same as Roy's , but ofcourse I seem to be mistaken???)


Are you referring to the "blade tip"? Otherwise I don't see the similarity...



Quote:
Originally Posted by Indianajones
Also Roy brought up a quite interesting question I have overlooked myself (as first attributing this piece to a specific region as seems logical) about the square hole. This hole is indeed 'very square' and seems to be created that way for a specific reason. Normally these holes are for insertion for (human) hair, but clearly a hole doesnt need to be so pronouncedly square to have hair inserted!


As Michael allready stated earlier, this is not uncommon, and I've seen these square holes with and without hair.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Indianajones
But nevermind this (highly interesting) question and lets talk about something else (unimportant!).


Maybe we find other things more important as you do. Sorry for our shortcoming....

Maurice
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Old 2nd April 2013, 09:38 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandaukudi
Wooden hilts are among collectors less valued that antler however they are interesting as the carved is more free to carve what he wants.


Count me out Arjan! I'm interested in the carvings and not the material of which it was made off.



Quote:
Originally Posted by mandaukudi
What is interesting is that your handle looks to have the overall basic shape of a Kayan hilt ( with larges eyes crossed by arms) but with complete other motifs however the back has a quite kayan looking design.


It's quite interesting as there are some features which I've seen in Mendalam handles, but here it's just carved a little different and overall missing those clearly aso motifs we see on Mendalam handles often.
(FI the back of the handle of a mendalam handle I attached next to Roy's. It has a similarity as Roy's but also performed a little different)...
A second motif (in the middle on both sides of the handle), we see this strange deeper motif -> In Mendalam handles we often see here a carved vault, with or without teeth and a lot of aso's around (which misses on Roy's though).
PS. I'm NOT implying it's Mendalam, as I'm sure it's not but I see some style copied here, but performed different.
But according the handle my theory (and ofcourse assumption as I've no proof) is that it could be from the Sarawak area above the Mendalam tribes (or from a tribe which had connections with the Mendalam's), considering the motifs on the handle.




Quote:
Originally Posted by mandaukudi
Another feature ,not yet mentioned, is that the hilts ends are closed, there are no drilled or carved holes in it, so it was seemly mentioned not to attach ( human) hair to it. Maybe it was because the owner was too young and not "powerful" enough to carry hair bundles ? Was that maybe also the reason that this hilt was made out of wood ? Was it maybe a young well skilled boy who got the second hand blade from his father ?


Couldn't think about these speculations myself though.. : )



PS what do you think about the wooden piece instead of the resin ring?

Maurice
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Old 2nd April 2013, 10:02 PM   #28
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Skip my earlier reference because the picture in the Leiden database isn't good enough for the other forumites to see.
Here is one of my Mendalam hilts as a comparison (ex-Arjan's collection).

Michael
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Old 2nd April 2013, 10:05 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
For the possible Mendalam similarity of the hilt, check the hilt of 1219-299 in the Leiden database.
I didn't want to bring it up earlier when there was still disagreement about the blade but now maybe is the time to discuss the hilt separately?

Michael


I'll have a look in a minute. I wasn't ready with my former post as I had some trouble with posting an image.

I'll have it posted here than...
Here the second "similarity" I meant to say in my former post, but than also very different...
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Old 2nd April 2013, 10:13 PM   #30
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Michael, I know what you mean by the Leiden number as I've images of the handle (not to be found in the database)...

Again I see several similarities, but also not performed as usual.
Also there are to be seen motifs we see in handles more to the North (Sarawak), like the square holes at the sides of the handle and the carved veinlets..

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