This fine Naga trophy head necklace comprises a cast brass pendant of four severed human heads, suspended from a strand of yellow barrel-shaped glass trade beads.
The heads are particularly well cast and feature open mouths of grimacing pairs of teeth.
Necklaces of this type with representations of human heads traditionally were reserved for successful headhunters – those who had taken heads. A necklace of four heads is uncommon. The wearer would have been an accomplished hunter and had high status.
Probably, the head form was copied from Indian brass box lids (Jacobs, 1990, p. 252).
The necklace and all its constituent parts have excellent patina: it has clear age. The trophy heads have wonderful wear and patina and have been worn smooth by handling.
The Naga comprise a series of related tribal groups concentrated in the border areas of north-eastern India and eastern Burma. They were attracted to rare goods that could be bartered from outside their region. Beaded necklaces were very popular as a show of finery but also as a portable means of displaying and carrying wealth. The components that went into making necklaces were regarded as currency items themselves. Beads and necklaces were accumulated as heirlooms and were passed as dowries and down through generations.
The necklace here is stable and wearable.
Barbier, J.P., Art of Nagaland: The Barbier-Muller Collection Geneva, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984.
Borel, F., The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection, Thames & Hudson, 1994.
Giehmann, M., Naga Treasures: Tribal Adornment from the Nagas – India and Myanmar, 2001.
Jacobs, J., The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India, Thames & Hudson, 1990.
Panini, A., Middle Eastern and Venetian Glass Beads: Eighth to Twentieth Centuries, Skira, 2007.
Saul, J.D., The Naga of Burma: Their Festivals, Customs and Way of Life, Orchid Press, 2005.
Shilu, A., Naga Tribal Adornment: Signatures of Status and Self, The Bead Museum, Washington, 2003.