Enquiry about object: 7150

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    Rare Dayak Ironwood Ear Plugs

    Dayak People, Borneo, East Kalimantan, Indonesia
    19th-early 20th century

    diameter: approximately 5.2cm, depth: 2.6cm, combined weight: 165g

    Available - Enquire


    private collection, Germany.

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This rare pair of ear plugs or spools is carved from polished ironwood. Ironwood is very dense and each of these plugs is astonishingly heavy in the hand.  Each has a slight ‘hourglass’ form.

    This type of earplug comes from the Benuaq Dayak of the West Kutai/Mahakam basin area in East Kalimantan province in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.

    The face of each is carved with triangle motifs arranged in concentric circles around a central well set with a foil-backed glass roundel, and coloured with powdered white chalk.

    Such a pair would have been worn by a Dayak women with dramatically pierced, elongated earlobes.

    Traditionally, most Dayak groups regarded elongated, open ear lobes as a sign of beauty and adulthood.

    A near identical pair is illustrated in Dietrich & Pavaloi (2013, p. 163). Related, less elaborate examples are illustrated in Carpenter (2011, p. 157).

    The examples here are among the best we have seen.


    Carpenter, B., Ethnic Jewellery from Indonesia: Continuity and Evolution, Editions Didier Millet, 2011.

    Dietrich, S & M. Pavaloi, Flussaufwarts: Die Borneo-Sammlung Hilde May, Volkerkundemuseum, 2013.

    Longenecker, M. (ed.), Elemental Art of the Indonesian Archipelago: Selections from the Collection of Mingei International Museum, Mingei International, 2005.

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