With broad silver-clad scabbard, worked entirely in repousse.
Sheathed 71.9 cm
Sword 65.8 cm
Base 9.5 mm
Widest 5.2 mm
Tip 3.7 mm
Base 23 mm
Widest 40.7 mm
18.5 cm from hilt
Iron, steel, wood, brass, pigments, lacquer
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This very interesting sword from the island of Borneo is executed in a style that we usually see on belabang swords, also known as parang nabur, made in the Southern part of the Island. Characteristics of this group are the brass pierced ferrule and red lacquered scabbard.
Production was not limited to belabang sabers, we also see short daggers and straightswords executed in this style. The red thread is that almost all these arms show strong influence from elsewhere: the sabers have Islamic style blades, the daggers borrow design elements of Arab daggers, and the straightswords bear strong Chinese influence. This is to be expected in an area that was frequented by foreign ships.
This sword, however, is made to resemble a mandau from the Kutai region.
The blade is well-made, precisely ground with three narrow grooves and a long sharp backedge. The long ferrule has a bulging top section that is pierced and chiseled with floral designs. The hilt is carved in a form somewhat resembling that of Modang mandau of the Northern part of Kutai.
It has the sarong seltoep style scabbard that was used for ceremonial swords in that region, with the difference that the halves are glued here. The true sarong seltoep scabbard would have internal rattan bindings, neatly going through channels so they are barely visible from the outside.
A Northern Kutai mandau of the Modang, with sarong seltoep type scabbard:
A purely Southern Kalimantan design feature of the scabbard is the carved panel with floral elements, lacquered black and red. The hilt is also ornamented with carvings that are accentuated in red and black.
Another departure from the traditional design is the blade: Mandau blades tend to have an asymmetrical cross-section with a hollow ground left side and convex right side. This blade has a symmetrical, wedge-shaped cross-section and so was clearly not meant for the Dayak market.
About the arms manufacture in South Kalimantan
According to old sources, arms manufacture was concentrated mostly around the village of Negara in the Sultanate of Banjarmasin. Here, local arms producers could produce arms with the permission of the Sultan. He was entitled to 10% of the proceeds, and when needed, the workers produced arms for him for free, provided he delivered the materials on his account.
They produced all kinds of arms, from modern percussion guns to traditional swords. They had access to several types of local steel, but also imported Swedish steel.
-A. Hendriks; Iets over de wapenfabricatie op Borneo.
Part 18 of Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen.
Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, 1842.
Swords of this type are very rarely encountered. A somewhat comparable example, without scabbard, is found in Holstein. Writing in 1931, he mistook it for a Dayak mandau. According to the descriptive text, the hilt of the Holstein example was made of horn instead of the wood on ours.
P. Holstein; Contribution A L'Etude Des Armes Orientales. 1931.
Volume II, No 174, and plate LI.
Scabbard was split and then glued back together. Some edge damage to the backedge. Some resin missing in ferrule. Otherwise in good condition.
A very rare example of a mandau-style parang, bringing together design features from Kutai and South Kalimantan. It was probably made by the smiths of Negara in South Kalimantan.
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