Modang mandau
This item has been sold.
Overall length

Sheathed 71.6 cm

Sword 67.1 cm

Blade length

54.2 cm

Blade thickness

Base 10.5 mm

Middle 6 mm

5 cm from tip 2.5 mm

Blade width

Base 18 mm

Middle 33.5 mm

Widest 40 mm

5 cm from tip 25 mm

Weight without scabbard

637 grams

Point of balance

17.8 cm from hilt

Materials

Iron, wood, deer antler, rattan, gutta-percha, hair

Origin

Modang tribes

Kutai regency, eastern Borneo

Indonesia

Dating

19th century

Provenance

From an old Dutch collection

Collected in the mid 20th century by a crew member of a trading vessel

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Description

Modang is a generic term for a variety of Dayak tribes living in the east of Borneo, in the regency of Kutai. They speak a variety of the Kayan language. They carry the mandau that is the side-arm of all Dayaks of Borneo, but with its own distinctly different design features. Here is a nice example of such a rare sword.

The blade is heavy, with a long edge and a stepped back. It is convex on the right and a slightly hollow-ground on the left as is the custom for most Dayak swords.

The characteristic hilt is carved from deer antler. It is mostly smooth, carved only with some decorative lines and a menacing face looking backward. A tuft of hair protrudes from the top of the head. The grip section is wrapped with elaborately braided rattan. Hilts of this type are called so-op njong pendjoh.1

The scabbard is an understated work of art. Made of two pieces of wood, a length of rattan, and deer antler tips. The halves are held together by rattan strips that do not go around the scabbard, as is normally the case, but are hiddin within the scabbard and only exposed on the sides.

The scabbard's facing side is carved on the top, but left plain for most of the bottom part, with only subtle ridgelines that give it a very sophisticated look.

S.W. Tromp described such a scabbard in his 1888 article:

"Van de mandauscheeden, altijd bastaande uit twee samengevoegde plankjes van vrij zacht hout, zijn mij twee soorten bekend; de eerste heet in het Koeteinees sarong seltoep, in het Longwaysch segoen doengban of segoen senpot, zie fig. 2 - 4: hier is de samenvoeging der zijstukken, waar de scherpe kant van den mandau langs gaat, door een stuk rotan gedekt, zie fig. 4; bij deze scheeden is van het bindsel bijna niets te zien. Zij hebben het nadeel dat de mandau daarin spoedig de scherpte verliest. Daarom worden zij eigenlijk ook alleen voor sieraad of staatsie gebruikt, terwijl veel meer algemeen is de andere soort, die geen afzonderlijken naam heeft en waarbij het bindsei der zijstukken van buiten zichtbaar is door de poeset-blanak, fig. 8. Van deze bindsels heeft men gewoonlijk drie, soms vier: vijf poeset-blanak te hebben is streng ver-boden, daar dit een distinctief van den vorst is." 2

My translation:

"I am aware of two types of mandau scabbards, always consisting of two joined slabs of soft wood; the first is called sarong seltoep in the Kutai language, segun dungban or segun senpot in Long Way, see fig. 2-4. Here we see the two side plates are covered with a piece of rattan where the edge of the mandau passes, see fig. 4; with these scabbards you can barely see the bindings. They have as a disadvantage that the mandau soon loses its edge in them, and so they are mainly worn as ornament or for official occasions. For more generic use is the other type, that does not have a distinct name, and on which the bindings are visible from the outside by the puset-blanak, fig. 8. Of these bindings one usually has three, sometimes four, five are strictly forbidden because this is distinctive only for the ruler."

 

Illustration Tromp

 

Condition

Some minor edge damage to blade. Some losses to the gutta-percha at top of hilt. Scabbard in rather good state, with missing antler mouthpiece and losses to the rattan carrying strap to the back.

Gutta percha loss

An old inventory number I is repeated twice on the reverse of the scabbard. From the same collection I obtained a saber with the number II in the same style.

 

Collection markings on mandau scabbard

 

Notes
1. S.W. Tromp; Mededeelingen omtrent mandau's. Den Haag, 1887. Published in Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie,  International Gesellschaft für Ethnographie; Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden, 1888. Volume 1, pages 22-26.
2. Ibid.

Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard
Rare Modang mandau with face hilt and sarong seltup scabbard

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