A Dayak Piso Podang
The Iban people, also known as Sea Dayak are the indigenous people who mainly resident in the Northern part of Borneo and the Malay. They are known for their infamous headhunting campaigns in the earlier days. The Iban people possess of a wide scale of indigenous weaponry of which the ‘Piso Podang’ is well known.
Borneo, Sarawak – 19th century
Materials: Steel, Brass, Silver, Hardwood
The ‘Piso Podang’ or ‘Paku’ is an iconic type of sword worn by the Batak and Iban Dayak people. Inspired by the Islamic and Portugese traders who arrived on the Sumatran shores for ages. The hilt resembles strong similarities with the Indian ‘Talwar’ and the Portugese cutlass. The decoration is often Sumatran or Sarawak oriented. The term ‘Podang’ is likely derived from the Portugese ‘Espado’ which is pronounced ‘Espandang’.
Typical for the ‘Podang’ is the hilt. Mostly made off brass, but also of bronze, silver and iron. This example is made of brass and casted in one piece. The pommel is hollow, sometimes filled with tufts of hair, held by resin. The quillons and grip are decorated with a floral pattern which is commonly seen on Iban objects such as shields and scabbards.
Often imported from Europe such as our example here. This example was combined with a European cavalry sabre with long curve and double fuller ending at the false edge near the tip. This blade was usually mounted on light cavalry sabres. Some examples are found with native blades, made in traditional manner, sometimes even with a clear pamor structure. The podang from the Iban were often made in Brunei, but with locally manufactured blades.
Made of two sheets of polished hardwood, held together by silver bands and a fine repoussé locket and chape in pure Iban style. This combination of materials points us to higher status. Likely worn by a village or town chief, or somebody with high authority.
Condition: Very good, well constructed with a fine conditioned blade. The hilt and scabbard are in good order. The silver fittings have movement due to their age, the chape is missing its lower end. A very fine high quality ‘Piso Podang’ in good original condition.
Blade length: 73.6cm
Blade spine thickness: 6mm
Scabbard length: 76cm
Total length: 89cm
– ‘A.Zonneveld’s Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago’ p.109/110
– Micheal Heppell’s ‘Iban Art’ frontcover, p.122
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