Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1870 Konyak Naga ang
Subjectang chief
Culture: Konyak / Eastern Naga
Setting: tribal warfare, Nagaland mid-late 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Grand guide de la Birmanie 1989 p74-75
"Menant une existence aujourd'hui paisible, ils avaient la réputation d'être de redoutables guerriers chasseurs de têtes.  De même que leurs techniques n'ont guère évolué, leur structure sociale est restée archaique et ne dépasse pas le cadre du clan et du village. ...
​    "Fiers montagnards, les Naga vivent reclus dans de gros villages fortifiés, au sommet des collines.  Leurs groupes d'insurgés se battent pour faire évoluer la situation de leur pays, le Nagaland, en Inde orientale."

* Arya/Joshi 2004 p43
"The Angs belong to the ruling clan of the Konyak, who are distributed in Arunachal Pradesh, the Mon district of Nagaland and in Myanmar.  Each Ang exercises influence over a group of villages.  The Angs themselves come under a Great Ang."

* Penzu 2009 pxv
"Among the Konyak Naga tribe there is one Angh or king over a village or several villages.  He holds overall village administration with the help of Deputy Angh and other confident village elders or relatives."

* Stirn/van Ham 2003 p37
"The angs, the Konyak chiefs, still hold a king-like position in society and are entitled to numerous wives ... as well as to levy taxes in kind from allied villages."

* van Ham/Saul 2008 p277-278 
"The Angs, the Konyak chiefs, still hold a king-like position in society and are entitled to numerous wives ... as well as to levy taxes in kind from allied villages; they are endogamous, i.e. they take wives from their own clan to perpetuate the royal line. The Angs also head the traditional village councils (Wang Hamyen), made up of representatives from all the morungs of the village."

* Broman 2002 p 100
"The customs that have brought most attention, and notoriety, to the Naga are head-taking and human sacrifice.  The latter was rare and was largely confined to northeastern groups.  Naga warfare tended to be internecine, often pitting one group or village against another for generations in a protracted blood feud.  The main object was the taking of human heads that were displayed as trophies in the houses of Naga chiefs or from "head trees."  Central to this practice was the concept of fertility.  Elwin writes, 'The practice is probably based on a belief in a soul-matter or vital essence of great power which resides in the human head.  By taking a head from another village, therefore, it was believed that a new injection of vital and creative energy would come to the aggressor's village when he brought a head home.  This was valuable for human and animal fertility.'
​    "Naga warfare usually did not pit warrior against warrior in open battle.  The preferred Naga method of head-taking was by stealth or ambush and a favourite target was a lone woman.  Saul says, 'By tradition women did not work alone in the fields and the best time to fine a lone woman was when she went for water.  Even then, women were fairly well protected which is one of the reasons, along with the long hair for use in ornaments, that they were so highly valued -- it took more skill to penetrate a protective wall of males than to pick off the odd male hunter.'"

* Penzu 2009 pxiv
"Nagas had been head hunters from time immemorial.  No one knows for sure when it was started.  In ancient times, compulsory training in warfare was imparted to all young men in their dormitory institution which was called Arju or Morung.  However, all men were not professional head hunters.  Training was mainly for village defence and self-defence.  There were professional head hunters who took head hunting as their game of life, without commiseration or remorse for his killing and bloodshed.  They protected the village from enemy attack.  They earned personal glory, fame and titles in defence of their respective villages.  A nated brave head hunter was treated as a wall for his village.  All adult males were involved in fighting during inter-village battles or fightin on greater scales.  Inter-tribal war was however rare.  Naga head hunting practice came to a gradual end by the beginning of the 20th century with the combined efforts of early Christian missionaries for the Nagas and the administration of the (then occupying) British government."

* Arte Naga 1988 p18
"Las motivaciones de esta cruenta conducta [caza de cabezas] son bien conocidas: viviendo en un mundo acechado por los espíritus malévolos, sobrevivían solamente aquéllos que llegaban a acumular una suficiente energía vital.  Ahora bien, en el ser humano esta fuerza vital se concentra en la cabeza, por lo que apropiándose de ella se domina esta fuerza, que beneficia a toda la comunidad, y ello explica el prestigio del cazador de cabezas victorioso.  Sobre este simbolismo el sacrificio humano -- aunque más raro entre los Naga -- aparecería como una variante de la caza de cabezas."

* Maxwell 2014 p10?
"The Naga of western Burma ... believed that success in head-hunting would harness the essence of enemies' souls and ensure agricultural abundance."  [reference omitted]

* Penzu 2009 p55
"In the old Naga head hunting era, there were professional headhunters in many villages.  For them, head hunting was a game of life.  Except in exceptional cases such warriors could not be killed by enemies.  Of course, when such a warrior was outnumbered and overwhelmed by many enemy forces he got killed.  But such incidents were of rare cases.
    "There was compulsory training in warfare for all males after attaining a fixed age-group.  Training was provided in Arju, the young men's dormitory in the village.  But that fighting force was of ordinary cultivators and they were involved in fighting only when there was inter-village war or any war on a large scale.
    "Defence and protection of a village from enemy attack were mostly dependent on those professional head hunters.  For their services in village defence, the villagers provided them paddy free of cost as annual contribution.  In turn, those warriors took their responsibility solemnly and shouldered the village defence strategy as their own dedicated work."


* Broman 2002 p102
"The crowning glory of a Naga warrior is, quite literally, his headdress.  These are usually produced in the form of a cane helmet and are decorated with a variety of animal parts including black Himalayan bear fur, wild boar's tusks, tiger's teeth, red-dyed goat hair, and topped by hornbill feathers.  These impressive headpieces are informative as well as decorative.  They define the warrior's status in society and his achievements in battle."

* Untracht 1997 p57
"Hats (akutsu 'kekkoh) made of woven cane and bamboo seasoned for strength are a form of ceremonial helmet or headdress worn by most Naga tribes and other peoples of northeast India.
​    "Cane hats made of  tightly woven split-cane strips, a product of specialists, were acquired by barter from the Naga tribes who produced them.  What makes a tribal hat distinctive is its ornamentation, which might include hornbill heads and casques, wild boar's tusks, horns, bear's fur, boar's bristles, or long switches of black human hair or hair dyed red.  The right to wear such helmets was confined to warriors."

* Sumberg 2010 p110
"The Naga are an ethnic minority living in Northeast India and Burma.  Male basket weavers make hats with a split bamboo frame covered with plaited cane dyed red.  The yellow fibers are orchid root.   The materials used to decorate the hat -- feather, fur, and tusk -- are all associated with male power and fertility.  The boar tusk is the insignia of a warrior.  These hats, similar in shape and construction but with different embellishments and meaning, are worn by many Naga groups in India and Burma during community celebrations.  Celebrations used to revolve around the taking of enemy heads and the killing of dangerous animals, activities that gave prestige to the individuals involved and brought fertility to the community."

* Heath/Perry 1999 p41
"Helmets were a characteristic feature of their costume.  They were conical, made of plaited cane, and were either plain or had patterns of coloured straw worked over them.  Boar's tusks were attached to each side, and a large plume of black or red-dyed hair sometimes traversed the crown from front to back.  A single small black feather, or larger toucan feather, usually stood erect from the top of the crown."

* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p13
"On feast days the boys and men far outshone the women in the variety and splendor of their attire, graded according to their achievements in the field of head-hunting.  While at the time of the annual spring festival all males, from small boys to white-haired grandfathers, wore some sort of headgear, only head-takers were entitled to the more magnificent headdresses.  Most common were conical hats plaited of red cane and yellow orchid stalks, crested with red goat's hair and surmounted by a few tail feathers of the great Indian hornbill.  Head-takers garnished such hats with flat horns carved from buffalo horn and tassels made of human hair.  Boar's tusks, monkey skulls, and hornbill beaks were other favorite embellishments, and there was great scope for ingenuity and individual fantasy."

* Untracht 1997 p58
"Skin and hair (ayikwo) of the black Himalayan bear is used in body ornaments, especially for decorating a helmet ....  This too had symbolic value associated with the fierceness of the animal, who aggressively defends itself when hunted."

* Untracht 1997 p57 f77
"Wearing the horns of a male animal symbolizes male virility."

* Untracht 1997 p59
"Using an animal's horns (aikibo) for personal adornment probably originated as a form of totemism in which the material distinguished a family, clan, or tribe."

Ornaments (Pendant, Bag, Tattooing)

* Oppitz/Kaiser/von Stockhausen/Wettstein 2008 p343
"Jewellery is one of the most distinctive elements of Naga material culture.  As with other types of Naga personal accoutrement, most ornaments hint at the social position of the wearer.  Favourite materials used in ornaments include stone, glass and sea-shell beads, white Job's tears' seeds, shining beetle wings, red dyed goat's hair, or the teeth, horns and bones of wild game.  The lost-wax casting method was used by the Konyak to produce small brass heads worn by successful headhunters as breast ornaments.  Metal chased arm ornaments usually were not locall produced but handed down from ancestors who had received them as gifts from neighbouring tribes -- and, some say, from the kings of Cachar and Assam.  Locally produced gauntletts and leggings were usually made of woven cane and bamboo fibres or orchid stems.  Ivory armlets have become rare these days."

* Untracht 1997 p56
"Head-taking, or an acceptable substituting act, was also essential to marriage.  Without this accomplishment a man would not be entitled to wear the necessary ornaments of a warrior at festivals, for lack of which girls would consider him a coward, ridicule him, and refuse a marriage alliance."

* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p13-14
"Boar's tusks and antelope horns figured also among the more spectacular ear ornaments, for all Konyaks had perforated ear lobes and wore earrings and studs of great variety.
​    "Among the most cherished ornaments of head-takers were small carved wooden heads worn on the chest.  Some of these were of great artistic merit, but similar heads made of brass were of much cruder form.
    "Both men and women wore arm rings and neck ornaments of various shapes and materials, and many rich men possessed gauntlets covered with cowries and decorated with small tufts of red goat's hair.  Only those who had attained the status of head-taker were entitled to wear gauntlets of plated cane and cane rings dyed red.  Cane leggings were worn by all men and boys in years in which a captured head had been brought into the village.  On such occasions men plaited the cane onto each other's legs and there the leggings remained until they decayed and fell off.
​    "The ceremonial dress of Konyak warriors also comprised broad, woven baldrics often covered with brightly colored embroidery, and ceremonial hip baskets decorated with all manner of tassels, bird skins, boar's tusks, carved wooden heads and figures, and -- in the case of head-takers -- also monkey skulls."


* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p15
"The Konyak's main weapons of attack was the spear [SIC].  In hunting as well as in war, success depended on the effective deploy of this weapon.  The ordinary or fighting spear, as carried by adult men, was about 5 feet long; it had a socketed iron head, either lozenge- or leaf-shaped, and an iron butt."

* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p14
"No Konyak ever left his village unless he was armed; he did not feel 'dressed' if he had not at least a dao stuck in his belt or a spear in his hand.  Even small boys carried miniature spears when they went to work in the fields."

* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p16
"Ceremonial spears, sometimes with two-pronged heads, bore ... decorations of red and black goat's hair, and men who had taken more than one head were allowed to carry spears whose shafts were covered with fine plaiting woven from cane, stained red, and yellow orchid stems."

* Rawson 1968 p59
"The normal methods of attack followed by the Naga peoples is by ambush. A shower of spears is followed by a rush, in which the disabled are given the coup de grâce with the Dao. The Dao is, therefore, unlike the sword, normally a secondary weapon, and length of reach is of no importance."


* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p14-15
"The most important weapon and universal implement was the dao, an iron chopping knife, with a broad blade, about 8 inches long, hafted on a wood or bamboo handle; the cutting edge was outward curved and the back almost straight.  Although valued as a formidable weapon, the dao was not only a 'head axe' but also a versatile instrument that could be put to many uses in everyday life.  It was employed in felling trees, building houses, splitting bamboo, slaughtering cattle and fowls, as well as in haircutting and numerous other domestic tasks.  In was the dao was used in hand-to-hand fighting and for the decapitation of an enemy slain in battle.
​    "Dao of obsolete type, used neither as weapons nor as implements, but as currency for such ceremonial payments as bride prices, were to be found in the possession of some wealthy men.  Such dao had very long blades and were much heavier in the hand than those in current use."

* Stone 1934 p203
"DAO.  The national sword of the Nagas of Assam.  It has a straight, heavy, square-ended, chisel-edged blade narrowest at the hilt. The hilt is of a very simple shape, without a guard and with no distinct pommel.  It is usually made of wood, bamboo root being considered the best, but sometimes of ivory, occasionally very well carved.  It is often carried in an open-sided wooden scabbard fastened to a rattan belt.  It is almost the only tool the Naga has.  With it he builds his house, clears the forest, makes the women's weaving tools and any wooden objects needed in his ordinary occupations."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding, Harris/LaRocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p198 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"[T]he Nagas of Assam carried a sword ... known as a dao.  The blade was straight with a slightly flared end ....  The sheath was unusual, for unlike the vast majority of scabbards it consisted of a board with a slight lip around the edge and a cross-binding of rattan to hold the blade in place."

* Paul 1995 p64
"The dao was used in Eastern India by the Nagas and other tribes.  The blade is about 2 1/2 feet in length, straight, narrow at the hilt, broad and square at the tip.  It is set in a handle of wood, rarely ivory.  Daos are carried in wooden cases, one side of which is open where cane bands keep it in position."

* Arte Naga 1988 p59
"El cazador de cabezas y su dao son inseparables."

* Fryer 1969 p85
"Dao  A sword used by the Nagas of Assam.  The blade is virtually straight with cut-off tip.  The plain wooden hilt has no guard.  It is carried in an open-sided wooden scabbard with rattan binding and carrying loop."

* Byam 1988 p22
"NAGA WAR AXE ...   The dao is an impressive-looking all-purpose weapon used by the former headhunting peoples from the Naga Hills of Assam, India, in their intertribal warfare."  [NOTE: the Naga Hills are near to, but not in, Assam]

* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p16
"Dao handles were decorated with tufts of goat's hair, usually in alternating bands of red and black.  According to established custom, only head-takers were entitled to carry such a dao, but at the time of my acquaintance with the Konyaks this rule had been relaxed, and any man or boy who had taken part in the ceremonies following the bringing in of a head was permitted to carry a dao tufted with goat's hair."

* Rawson 1968 p64
"Aside from their appreciation of fine workmanship the general principle which governs the Nagas' valuation of their Daos as symbols of social prestige is their belief that complexity of form, subject, of course, to tradition, is the index of the standing of the owner.  This elaboration of form is bound up with the display of power and prestige.  A typical instance of the conception appears among the Konyaks.  The blade of simple triangular form with a slightly convex edge is generally in use among them, but the Dao of the sacred Ang clan from which chiefs are drawn, is a large adn clumsy blade of similar form with two semicircular nicks taken from the reverse edge, and rows of punched dots following the resultant contour.  This Ang Dao cannot be carried in a carrier or the belt, as the elaborate decoration of hair on its shaft as well as its weight make it impossible.  It therefore always has to be carried by hand.  It is very awkward to use, but this does not matter, as a sacred Ang would never be allowed to go on a raid and is always well protected.  The weapon has become the emblem of sacredness."

* Burton 1884 p140
"Another good specimen of the 'Turanian blade' is the formidable Dáo of the Ná tribe, south-east of Assam.  It is a thick, heavy backsword, eighteen inches long, with a bevel where the point should be, worn at the waist in a half-scabbard of wood, and used for digging as well as killing."


* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p15
The only defensive weapon carried by Konyak warriors were shields made either of buffalo hide, or of bamboo matting, stretched over a bamboo frame.  The former were used in battle as well as at dances, but those made of bamboo were used mainly as dance shields and very occasionally in tiger hunting."

* Heath/Perry 1999 p41
"Their ridged, rectangular shields were 3-4ft long (0.9-1.2m) and 1 1/2 - 2ft (45-60cm) wide, made of buffalo hide and painted black."

* Stirn/van Ham 2003 p108 caption
"Naga shields were surrounded by numerous rituals and taboos.  Particularly during the manufacture of a shield, purity had to be maintained and food restrictions observed.  Shields with rough surfaces or bamboo nodes were said to invite death to the user and his family; thus all shields had to be inspected by the village shaman."

* Egerton 1968 p86
"In their war dances the Naga warriors are armed with these weapons and a shield of buffalo-hide, wicker-work, or of bamboo, covered with tiger, bear, or other skin, large enough to cover the whole person.  They advance in extended order, making admirable light infantry practice, for nothing can be seen but the black shields creeping along the ground.  When sufficiently near to their imaginary enemy, they spring out and fling the spear; this is supposed to take effect; a tuft of grass represents the head of the dead foe; they seize it with the left hand, cut it out with the battle-axe, and retreat with the cold hanging by the grass over their shoulder as the skull or scalp."

Costume (Belt, Cloth)

* Heath/Perry 1999 p41
"In Victorian times the Eastern Naga were often known as 'Naked Nagas' because they did not wear loincloths.  (It was only under British influence in the 1870s that loincloths started to be adopted.)"

* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p12
"In the older literature the Konyaks were sometimes referred to as 'naked Nagas,' and in 1936 this description was still justified.  Men and half-grown boys seldom wore more than a tight belt and a small apron, but at that time the custom of covering the private parts was probably of comparatively recent introduction.  Although the young men of Wakching seldom took off their aprons in public, many middle-aged men worked naked in house and field, and on occasions such as funerals, particular functionaries were in the habit of performing their ritual duties naked.  And as late as 1962, even young Wanchu men were to be seen without aprons, gossiping in the village or digging in the fields.
​    "Men's belts were made of several coils of cane or of broad strips of bark, with long ends that hung down over the buttocks like a tail.  The apron was a rectangular piece of blue cotton cloth which covered the private parts and was tucked into the belt.  Old and middle-aged men wore their aprons plain, but boys and young men favored aprons embroidered in red and yellow wool, which was obtained in the markets of the plains.  These embroidered aprons were usually the gifts of girlfriends, who in return received such presents as incised combs or ear ornaments.
​    "There were minor local variations in male dress and ornament.  Thendu men preferred cane to bark belts for everyday wear, and they took a special pride in reducing the waist to an amazingly small size by pulling the cane as tight as was endurable.  Their aprons were longer and narrower than those worn in Thenkoh villages."


* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p15
"Hunting birds and monkeys with crossbow and arrow was a favorite pastime of both boys and young men.  The crossbow was a potentially powerful weapon, with a stave fashioned from bamboo and a stock made of wood.  The string was twisted cane fiber and the arrows were bamboo spikes, feathered with finely cut bamboo spathes.  The degree of accuracy obtained by Konyaks when hunting small game was not very great,  but in the days of raiding, when crossbowmen played a vital part in defending their village, skillful marksmanship was probably of greater importance.  Already in 1936 some muzzle-loading guns were owned by Konyaks, and the increasing use of firearms naturally lead to a decline in the art of archery.  Yet, even in 1962 there were still crossbows in the hands of the Wanchus of Tirap."

* Stirn/van Ham 2003 p128
"Upon their return from a successful headhunt, the warriors were deemed sacred yet still impure and unpredictably dangerous.  In the morungs they again had to observe a certain taboo period, including sexual abstinence, the wearing of white blankets and consumption of special food prepared only by men.  A final purificatory ritual involving both headhunters and the captured heads reintegrated them into regular society.  The entire village danced around the heads (or head) to the beat of the log drums; ritual songs were sung and a feast held in honour of the warriors.  Adolescents were allowed to cut the heads with their daos, thus becoming warriors themselves.  Then arrows were shot through the heads to blind them."


* Fürer-Haimendorf 1969 p15
Besides weapons employed in hunting and intervillage feuds, the Konyaks had clubs fashioned from a flattened section of bamboo, with both edges sharpened into teethlike jags.  These were used in intravillage hostility, when the young men of rival men's houses came to blows and the taboo outlawing the use of the weapons of war against covillagers had to be respected.  In such villages as Namsang, this type of club was kept in the dormitories of unmarried girls, whose lovers used them to ward off the unwelcome attention of other boys."