A splendid and rare ethic tribal comb from Timor Island, Indonesia
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 6½ ins h x 3½ ins w (15.5 x 9 cm) decorative part 3½ ins h (9 cm)
Here is an interesting horned headdress from Timor Island, Indonesia. Reflecting the belief that the head is the seat of the soul, combs and head ornaments are particularly important in Indonesian jewellery. Among tribal societies beliefs associated with the corporal human body and soul were closely tied to the use of body ornamentation and jewellery. Traditional beliefs emphasize the spiritual protection of the person against bad influences, dangerous spirits, diseases and black magic. Such ornaments also convey status and authority within the community.
The ornament is carved from dark wood, probably Makassar ebony, and is decorated similarly on both sides. Here we see an interesting depiction of both the representational and anthropomorphic carvings which often appear together in tribal Indonesian art. The lower part of the heading, situated just above the tines, is decorated with lozenges which are frequently found in this kind of work.
Placed above these are spirals and coils which are representations of snakes and the serpentine naga, or sea dragon. The ornament is topped off with a pair of confronting roosters. These probably represent the fighting cocks which are important in Indonesian culture and are descended from practices in Balinese Hinduism. Compare this comb with the rooster hair comb from Batek, Toba shown in the final picture. This is from a plate in Ethnic Jewellery from Indonesia, B W Carpenter. EDM, 2011
Timor is an island at the southern end of Maritime Southeast Asia, north of the Timor Sea. The island is divided between the sovereign states of East Timor on the eastern part and Indonesia on the western part.
The ritual and spiritual life of the tribal Indonesian groups was founded on ancestor worship, as well as worship of the different nature spirits. The cycle of daily life was imbued with the belief that all things, both animate and inanimate, possessed a spirit and that these were potential allies or enemies.
The function of bodily ornamentation was never purely material. It communicated not only with humans but also with supernatural powers. In the earthly sphere it involved the communication of status, authority and legitimacy. This latter was directly connected to the power and prestige of the ancestors to families, clans and villages..
Most jewellery was not made for daily wear but for use during ceremonies. They were also closely linked with music and dance and rites of passage in the human cycle such as birth, coming of age, marriage and death. Examples of this can be seen in combs indicating marital status.
As part of the greater tapestry of Indonesian history and culture these ornaments offer valuable insights into a multi faceted land and its peoples.
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Ethnic Indonesia hair comb Timor Island carved wooden hair ornament