Inventory no.: 1571

Tumbok Lada Malay Dagger


Very Fine Horn, Silver & Gold Filigree Tumbok Lada Dagger

Sumatra, Indonesia

19th century

length: 38cm

This tumbok lada dagger is a particularly fine example. It has a slightly curved steel blade; a long, thin hilt encased in silver; a hand guard in open-work carved horn; a hilt collar of gold and gold filigree; and a hilt of carved horn.

The hilt has been carved with the Malay clove motif – clove-heads among leaves.

The hilt collar is of solid gold covered with fine gold filigree and small applied gold spheres. The spheres are known as

telur ikan (fish egg) work.

The scabbard is finely repoussed on one side with two panels of scrolling water plant (

bunga air) motif all within rope-twist and pearled borders, and a further chased panel of fish scale (skala ikan) motif. The other side of the scabbard has this sequence but in reverse, ie two panels of skala ikan and one of bunga air.Tumbok ladas were intended as stabbing weapons. The distinctive hilt probably is what has given the name to this dagger – for tumbok means to ‘crush’ or ‘pound’ in Malay and the hilt is said to resemble a crusher for crushing pepper corns. In some parts of the Malay world, the tumbok lada was thought ot be favoured by women because its small size allows it to be more easily concealed in one’s dress.

This example is in fine condition. There is a stable shrinkage-age related crack to the hilt but this tends to be lost in the profusion of carved foliage. There are no other losses, or repairs.


Gardner, G.B.,

Keris and other Malay Weapons, Orchid Press, 2009 (reprint of 1936 original).

Inventory no.: 1571


Clove heads, photographed in Sri Lanka, 2011.

The hilt of this

tumbok lada has motifs based on cloves.