This very rare dagger features a damascene iron blade that has been etched in silver on both sides with talismanic Koranic verses.
The hilt and scabbard are made entirely of horn – possibly carved hornbill. The handle is of horn and carved in the form of a parrot’s head. The features are well defined and the beak is plump.
The scabbard has five bands of silver with the broader upper and lower bands being decorated with applied, twisted silver wire, and small, applied silver rings.
The hilt ring is of reddish gold-copper alloy, known locally as suasa.
The horn chape is long and elaborately carved and engraved. The handguard at the other end of the hilt is beautifully carved with leafy scrolls.
Such a dagger would have been used by a member of a Malay royal house or a Minangkabau chief.
A smaller, far less elaborate parrot headed Malay dagger is illustrated in de Guise (2008, p. 63), and a dagger of very similar form is illustrated in Summerfield (1999, p. 103.)
There are no losses or repairs to the example here. The blade fits into the scabbard well. The dagger has a superb patina and the horn has a wonderful honeyed hue from age and handling.
de Guise, L. (ed.), Faith and Power: Women in Islam, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2008.
Summerfield, A., & J., Walk in Splendor: Ceremonial Dress and the Minangkabau, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1999.