Dayak. Early 20th Century Borneo, Indonesia. An impressive human skull without lower jaw, with incised ornamental and floral decorations, minor damages and missing parts (teeth). In former times the Dayak people of Borneo, Indonesia were dreaded headhunters. In order to transition into manhood, young men would have to take the life of their enemy. By headhunting the young warrior proved his virility and was able to take possession of the killed enemy’s soul. The skulls of enemies who had been killed were kept in the central mens’ house as trophies, as proof of the bravery and skill of the warrior, proudly displayed and decorated. ‘Ndaokus’ skulls generally lack a lower jaw. This is because the jaw bone was removed and given to the women as a pendant for their necklaces – as a final, humiliating insult toward the defeated enemy.
Cannibalism, tribal warfare, and rebirth rituals were regularly practiced up until the mid twentieth century when such practices were made illegal. A wide-spread motif for headhunting was the animist belief, that the slain had to follow his murderer in the hereafter as a slave.
Dayak cultures both amaze and scare people. They maintain the culture given down by their ancestors and up to date they are one of the few most feared tribes on earth.
For more information see Headhunters and Woodcarvers, from the Francois Coppens Collection, Arnhem 2000, p. 67, ill. 66
Provenance: Private European Collection
Dimensions: 7″ D x 5.5″ W x 6″ H