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Knives and Spears - Knives and spears are popularweapons in Borneo. They are used both for fighting and for hunting.

The most common knife is the long knife called a “parang”. The parang was first introduced to Borneo by Chinese traders who called at the ports along the coast. The traders gave the tribesmen parangs in exchange for wild pigs and birds. These same traders may have taught the Dayaks to make parangs later on.

Parangs are made of iron. The iron is beaten into the cor­rect shape, and the finished parang blade is usually three to four feet long. The “tang” (or end) of this blade fits into a handle made of wood or horn. The handle is then carved into the shape of a snake or bird. 

Asheath is made to hold the parang so the hunter will not hurt himself accidentally. The sheath is also decorated with carvings and is bound with rattan strips.

Other knives used in Borneo include the small, curved “keris” of the Malays, the short, richly carved “dunggulok” of the Muruts in Sabah, and the “barongs” of the Bajau and Suluk tribes. Another long knife is the “gayang”, used by the Kadazans. The gayang is a sacred knife and is always used in religious ceremonies.

The Kadazan tribes were probably the first in Borneo to make spears. They used their spears for hunting animals and against their enemies. The first spears were made of hard wood. The spearheads were sharpened over slow-burning open fires.

When metal was introduced, the tribesmen began making their spearheads of metal. The metal spearheads were attached to long bamboo or wooden poles withstrips of rattan. Spears with metal heads were double-edged and very sharp. Some­times the tribesmen would put poison on the tip of the spear to kill an animal or an enemy more quickly.

There were many ideas about the magic of spears, and hunters were careful not to walk over their spears. If a hunter stepped over his spear by mistake, he had to kill a chicken to satisfy the spirit of the spear. The Dayaks believed that if this was not done, the spear would lose its power. 

Before a hunting trip,the hunters would gather special leaves from the jungle and burn them. They would place their spears over the fire hoping that this would give the spears magical powers.

It is easy to see why knives and spears are important in Borneo. Many of the tribesmen must hunt food for themselves and their families, and they must be able to protect themselves from wild animals and other enemies.

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