A curious slashing weapon from northern Borneo.
5.5 mm at base
22 mm at widest
Iron, wood, rattan, palm bark, gutta-percha
From an old Dutch collection
Collected in the mid 20th century by a crew member of a trading vessel
Anything similar for sale?
The piso raout is a utility knife used throughout Borneo. Piso literally means "knife" and raout means "rattan". Apart from splitting rattan, it was used for numerous tasks as a utility knife. It was also used to carve the designs on hilts and scabbards of the Dayak headhunter swords.
It is often associated with headhunting due to the following period mention:
"This knife is used by the Dyak for severing the heads of the victims that fall to his mandau, and removing from them the fleshy parts; also for skinning animals killed in the chase; and in the more peaceful work of carving the ornaments which adorn his mandau, etc." 1
-Carl Alfred de Bock, 1882
But in reality, most of its use had to do with everyday work, cutting rattan, carving wood and antler, etc. Even medical applications are mentioned.
For more information, see my glossary entry: piso raout.
Notes to period writings
1. Carl Alfred de Bock; Head-hunters of Borneo: a narrative of travel up the Mahakkam and down the Barito; also, Journeyings in Sumatra. London, S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington. 1882.
An unusually large example. Where Zonneveld mentions blades of 5-10 cm in length, this example has a blade length of 13.5 cm. The blade profile is reminiscent of that of a modern scalpel, but the blade is much larger and rather thick.
Shown to scale with a Kenyah mandau sold here previously.
It follows the traditional design with a convex finish on the right side with a sharply defined edge bevel, and is slightly hollow-ground on the reverse side.
The tanged blade is held securely into the hardwood handle with gutta-percha, and wrapped with braided rattan. The end of the handle is carved into a point.
It comes with a palm bark scabbard in which it fits rather well, suggesting it may have been carried along with a mandau.
Considering the size, I wonder whether it was used for carving the larger Dayak artwork like that found on the Dayak wooden doors.
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