We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Sword with scabbard (moso or rugi)

late 19th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Alor East Nusa Tenggara Lesser Sunda Islands Indonesia
    late 19th century
    Media category
    Arms & armour
    Materials used
    buffalo horn, horsehair, iron, wood and rattan, with traces of lime
    84.5 x 8.5 x 3.5 cm :

    a - sword, 69.5 x 24.5 x 3.3 cm

    b - scabbard, 69 x 11 x 3.5 cm

    Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    Situated in the easternmost Lesser Sunda Islands, the Alor archipelago is neighboured by the islands of Lembata to the west, and Timor to the south. This sword is of a style found on a number of islands in the region, including Timor, Roti and Savu. While the physical characteristics of such weapons are distinctive, little is known about the meaning of the imagery depicted. Carved from buffalo horn and wood, the finely decorated hilt and scabbard of the Alor sword appear to depict the head and tail of a composite creature incorporating birdlike and serpentine features. In addition to conveying notions of virility and strength, the combination of upper and lower world creatures most likely provided supernatural protection against the dangers of hunting and warfare. The strong profile of the hilt is embellished with delicate scrollwork and would have once been encompassed with a full mane of hair tufts, most likely from a sacrificial creature.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 2 publications

  • Provenance

    Christopher Wilson, 1985-1996, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased on Alor, Indonesia.

    Mariann Ford, 1996-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, inherited from the estate of Christopher Wilson. Gift to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.