Saturday, February 23, 2008

6 Things About Dayaks, the Fearsome Head-Hunters

The Dayak people represent a group of Proto-Malayans inhabiting the inner part of Borneo (the largest Indonesian island). They are related with the Batak of northern Sumatra, Igorrote of Philippines, and various tribes of Timor, Celebes, Sumatra and Moluccas.

During their history, the Dayaks experienced many external influences, especially of Hinduism, a religion that many ethnic groups of Borneo converted to. Still, Dayaks are highly conservative, and each village is organized in clans composed of various families that admit the authority of a sole chief; this structure allows a tight collaboration in field labor and other collective works. During the harvesting period, festivities accompanied by dances are kept.

Dayaks usually make their villages on the banks of the rivers and lakes. They make branch huts. The large houses are destined to host a whole clan.

Dayaks worship a superhuman power, called semangat, that rules the lives of humans, animals and plants. This invisible life force dwells many places: all the human body parts, cut hair, shadows, names, the water in which a human or animal bathed, traces imprinted in the mud...

Like all Proto-Malayans, Dayaks are a mix between Mongoloids and Asian Blacks, with the predominant genetic background being Mongoloid (the situation is inverse on the coast of New Guinea or Melanesia).

Men are assigned to four classes: children, teenagers, young men and old men. Each class has specific tasks. Young men are before all warriors that have to defend the village against neighboring tribes. When defeating the enemy, Dayaks beheaded them and preserved their heads as trophies in the communal houses. That's why they inspired dread amongst other people, being famous as "head-hunters".

Dayaks use machetes during their journeys through the jungle. They use blowpipes and envenomed darts for hunting small game and birds. Only Proto-Malayans and some tribes of Amazonia are known to use this weapon.

Full article by Stefan Anitei

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