Pagai Island, Mentawai Island, Indonesia
19th-early 20th century
110.0 (h) x 29.5 (w) x 12.0 (d) cm
KIT Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam
On the Mentawai Islands, off the west coast of Sumatra, men traditionally achieved honour and status through headhunting—killing members of rival communities and taking their victims’ heads as trophies. Protective shields were carried on headhunting raids. This superb shield is painted on both sides with elegant spiral, diamond and star patterns and its boss is made from coconut shell. Tiny images of reptiles and monkeys appear on the inside of the shield.