Comb (hai kara jangga)

DATE:
Late 19th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Turtle shell, silver
CLASSIFICATION:
Tools and Equipment
DIMENSIONS:
6 5/8 × 5 3/4 × 2 3/8 in. (16.83 × 14.61 × 6.03 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Nasher Foundation in honor of Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher
OBJECT NUMBER:
2008.63

General Description

Aristocratic Sumbanese women wore combs made of turtle shell as a crownlike festival headdress. In East Sumba, turtles (tanoma) are symbols of noble lineage. Like textiles and gold ornaments, turtle shell combs were treasured heirlooms kept in the upper reaches of the peaked roofs of clan houses.

The central image on this comb represents a skull tree (pohon andung), an upright wood stake on which were hung human heads taken in warfare or reprisal raids. The captured heads were symbols of prosperity and good fortune. As the primary altar for headhunting rites, the skull tree was also a religious center for the village. Flanking the pohon andung are cocks with prominent, arching tail feathers. They stand on the backs of small horses, which, like real Sumba ponies, hold their heads and tails high. Horses, cocks, and skull trees also appear on East Sumba textiles.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.