The island of Borneo is located on the southeast Asia. It is the third largest island in the world. Borneo is known for its beaches, ancient rainforest, world class diving site and orangutans. But many people didn’t know that this island is the living place of headhunters.
Yes! A real headhunter. The Murut, Ilongot, Iban, Dayak, Berawan, Wana and Mappurondo tribes is famous for its headhunting history. Among this groups, headhunting was usually a ritual activity rather than and act of war or feuding and involved the taking of single head. Ideas of manhood and marriage were encompassed in practice, and the taken heads were highly prized.
In the past, the Dayak were feared for their ancient tradition of headhunting practices (the ritual is also known as Ngayau by the Dayaks) . Among the Iban Dayaks, the origin of headhunting was believed to be meeting one of the mourning rules given by a spirit which is as follows:
- The sacred jar is not to be opened except by a warrior who has managed to obtain a head, or by a man who can present a human head, which he obtained in a fight; or by a man who has returned from a sojourn in enemy country.
Often, a war leader had at least three lieutenants (called manuk sabong) who in turn had some followers. The war (ngayau) rules among the Iban Dayaks are listed below:
- If a warleader leads a party on an expedition, he must not allow his warriors to fight a guiltless tribe that has no quarrel with them.
- If the enemy surrenders, he may not take their lives, lest his army be unsuccessful in future warfare and risk fighting empty-handed war raids (balang kayau).
- The first time that a warrior takes a head or captures a prisoner, he must present the head or captive to the warleader in acknowledgement of the latter’s leadership.
- If a warrior takes two heads or captives, or more, one of each must be given to the warleader; the remainder belongs to the killer or captor.
- The warleader must be honest with his followers in order that in future wars he may not be defeated (alah bunoh).
The Dayaks are previously reputed to be headhunters by the Europeans. In the first half of the 19th century, the Dutch Colonial government in Eastern and Southern Borneo successfully curtailed the traditional headhunting culture by the Dayaks.
In reality not all Dayaks were Hunter-gatherers, most Dayaks in the 19th century are actually farmers, mainly engaging with shifting cultivation. They also gathered forest goods and animal hunting.
Labels: Borneo, Dayak, Iban