Sword with handle resembling a human face in profile

DATE:
19th century or earlier
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Iron, wood, buffalo horn, bone, and rattan
CLASSIFICATION:
Weapons and ammunition
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 31 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 5 1/2 in. (80.01 x 3.175 x 13.97 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia, Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Steven G. Alpert and Family
OBJECT NUMBER:
2007.7

General Description

Long ago among the Tanimbarese, the krai silai (great sword), was the most impressive of all weaponry. The handles of such swords were usually composed of wood and bone and decorated with carved spiral patterns. This krai silai is distinguished by the shape of its handle which resembles a human face in profile. According to the Tanimbarese, the face could be that of an ancestor who guaranteed protection and a successful outcome in battle to the bearer of the sword. This symbolism was common on Tanimbar, where ancestor veneration was practiced. Ancestors were believed to take up residence in tools and weapons bearing their image and help their descendants in undertaking difficult endeavors.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.