The object is approximately 80 cm long and is decorated with cane and dyed goat hair.
It belonged to a member of one of the Naga peoples, a group of over 30 tribes occupying a mountainous region of north-eastern India and north-western Burma, known as Nagaland. All of the tribes are culturally and linguistically distinct. The dao was used in expeditions among feuding tribes, for agriculture, house building and wood carving. It could also have featured in a specific manhood ritual where young males beheaded an enemy either in a prearranged conflict or a random skirmish. If a “head hunter” was successful they were revered as a hero and protector.
The spread of Christianity starkly changed the culture of the Naga; “head-hunting” was banned and traditional values were suppressed. As part of this process, Naga culture underwent colonial stereotyping and they became known predominantly for their “savagery”.
Logan Home donated a series of items belonging to his father (a Major in the British Army) in 1950, believing them to have been brought back from north west India. In Logan Home’s letter to the curator of the museum he mentions further paperwork on the items being donated and states how he is finding it “increasingly difficult to keep these in a clean state, owing to no domestic staff”.
This artefact can be view by appointment at Berwick. For more information about our collections, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org