Lalaw sword
Overall length

Sheathed 83 cm

Sword 72 cm

Blade length

51.8 cm

Blade thickness

Base 6 mm

Middle 4 mm

5 cm from tip 3 mm

Blade width

Base 50 mm

Middle 45 mm

5 cm from tip 27.5 mm

Weight without scabbard

933 grams

Point of balance

65 mm from start of edge

Materials

Iron, steel, wood, rattan, silk, plant fiber cord

Origin

Atayal, northern Taiwan

Dating

19th century

Provenance

European antique art market

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Introduction

The Atayal are the indigenous inhabitants of the northern highlands of Taiwan. They were known as fierce fighters and originally had a headhunting culture until it was outlawed under Japanese occupation in the early 20th century.

Their largest sword is called the lalaw. It is characterized by its curved, scythe-like blade, forged in one piece with a socket-shaped hilt. They are stored in half scabbards that hold the blade by means of iron bars.
 

This example

An unusually large and fine example. The blade is of good steel with a high-pitched ring when struck, and is finely polished for a tribal item. The socket-shaped iron hilt is bound with five bands of braided rattan, all nicely patinated.

The scabbard is of typical form, open on the right side. Remarkable is the high number of bars that hold the blade; 120 in total, with some distance the largest amount I have observed on a scabbard like this.

The scabbard still retains its brown silk woven baldric.
 

Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword
Taiwanese aboriginal Atayal headhunter lalaw sword

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It was collected by Laurens Langewis, an early 20th-century ethnographer and author.

€7800,-

Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.

€2000,-

Chiseled with a rare type of decor on the base, and with two Islamic inscriptions.

€6500,-

It has a narrow but sturdy blade with a springy temper.

€2600,-

Description A rather unusual Vi

€1100,-

A very fine specimen with VOC blade and ruby-set scabbard.

Price on request