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Short sword (piso sanalenggam)

19th century


Unknown Artist


The Batak people of North Sumatra inhabit the mountainous interior region centring round Lake Toba. The Lake and Samosir Island on the lake are at the heart of Batak activities and culture. Aside from the Toba group, the Batak identify themselves as belonging to six other distinct communities. The Pakpak and Dairi Batak live west of the lake, the Karo are north-west and the Simalungun are east of the lake. The Angkola and Mandailing Batak who do not share their borders with the lake are further south and in closer proximity to the Indian Ocean. Whilst the Batak have long maintained trading links with coastal communities, especially along the Strait of Malacca,their relative isolation meant that they did not experience direct contact with Europeans until the mid 19th century when they were introduced to Christianity by Dutch missionaries. Whilst most Batak villagers converted to the new monotheistic religion they never entirely abandoned their pre-Christian animist cosmologies and as a result some interesting and syncretic religious practises were established.

This Pakpak Batak sword has a straight blade with a buffalo horn hilt. The hilt is carved in the form of a kneeling man wearing traditional headgear.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, July 2015


Place where the work was made

North Sumatra Indonesia

Cultural origin

Pakpak Batak


19th century

Media category

Arms & armour

Materials used

buffalo horn, iron, brass and wood


62.1 x 10.0 x 2.6 cm :

a - sword; 56.3 x 8.6 x 2.6 cm

b - scabbard; 48.5 x 7.5 x 2.3 cm


Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–2019

Referenced in 1 publication


Unknown, Southeast Asian Tribal Art, Nov 1986, Plate 23 (colour illus.) unpaginated..