Setting: tribal warfare, Nagaland / Northeast Frontier of British India 19-20thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* van Ham/Saul 2008 p281
"The random demarcation and distinction between administered and unadministered territory ... brought enormous consequences to the Naga. Instantly, the essential practice of headhunting was prohibited within the administered zone. But headhunting was not merely a war practice for the Naga but also motivation for all of their cultural traits and social development/change. The age-old principle 'Increase of life-force for the clan by getting an enemy's head' all of a sudden could no longer be fulfilled. This was a heavy blow to Naga culture as the entire social system had been built around this cultural practice. The most important insignia reserved for successful headhunters became unreachable, social prestige unattainable. Men were no longer perceived as fully fledged members of society since they had not taken a head and, thus, did not have a surplus of fertility at their disposal, which they could use to beget offspring. An entire religious way of thinking, which was built around the assumption that the life-force could be personally added to a directed to one's will (by headhunting) and so made it possible to change death into life (for the clan), was obsolete in an instant. This principle, however, had been fulfilled very seldom and only on very special occasions, when, for example, a new log drum was to be installed, a chief's house was to be inaugurated, or clan members wanted to get married. The ideal was never to take as many heads as possible: one head was enough for an entire clan if that would satisfy the worldview. ....
"The immense change was felt by the colonial British. By forcing their policies on to the Naga within their Imperial borders, but excluding those outside their region of influence, they had not only a profound psychological and cultural effect on the people but also created a fundamental change in power in the entire Naga Hills. Headhunting never took place at random but was always orientated to benefit the clan. In a sense it was a 'cultivated practice' with many taboos and laws, the proof of which may be gained from the stone monuments still to be found in many villages. Many of these are hundreds of years old but consist of relatively few stones. As it was customary to erect one stone for each head taken, it would seem that the stone settings should be enormous if the Naga had taken as many heads as possible during a raid. But this is not the case. In addition, it is logical to assume that had wanton killing taken place among the Naga groups there would have been a dramatic decrease in the population, if not extinction. Age-old clan feuds that mostly concerned land had been settled through alliances, peace treaties and differences in status and power of certain settlements, so that a kind of balance between clans, villages and groups had developed over the centuries. This is recognized by Hutton even when travelling through the unadministered zone when he remarks how old the heads in certain morungs are and how long it must have been since a raid had taken place in such-and-such village. ...
"By imposing their 'Inner Line System', the British changed the delicate balance of power between certain villages and their subordinates and, as a result, were confronted with a lot more headhunts than before, involving a much higher loss of lives than had previously been the case. For example, when villages were no longer allowed to wield power to keep others in check, the threat of possible raids increased. It is known that Naga at times undertook week-long marches to take a head from an enemy village because, although there were many villages in their vicinity, they were not hostile. The subordinate villages often lay in the unadministered zone and, consequently, villages that had been weak now formed alliances among themselves and set out, united in hatred, to fight a powerful village located within the administered zone. Then the long-established rage was often unleashed in bitter killing of sometimes hundreds of victims. Since, however, it was British policy to guard its 'citizens of the Empire', the colonial forces on their part were compelled to set out on a punitive expedition in order to avenge the raid against its citizens -- expeditions that presumably could have been waived if the random border hadn't been drawn in the first place."
* Heath/Perry 1999 p22
"The Angamis were soon found to be the most warlike [Naga] tribe, and most of the subsequent British military action was directed against them. This went through three distinct phases: between 1832 and 1850 frequent punitive expeditions were launched in an effort to halt raids into British territory; between 1851 and 1865 a policy of non-intervention was adopted; and finally after 1866, a concerted drive towards annexation and control of all Naga territory steadily gained momentum. The less warlike tribes capitulated gladly, looking to the British to protect them from the raids of their more aggressive neighbours, but others (notably the Angamis and Lhotas) resisted ferociously. The conflict reached its climax in 1879-80, with the Angami siege of Kohima and the retaliatory British siege of Konoma, which broke the back of (though it did not end) Angami resistance. Sporadic Naga raids continued well into the 20th century."
* Oppitz/Kaiser/von Stockhausen/Wettstein 2008 p81
"The waist ornaments and headdresses are the most imaginative [warrior ornaments] and many variants exist. The artistically designed hats were standardised in some tribes whereas in others they were designed individually. The rules for the use of material were flexible -- the more expressive the better; only the use of human hair and the quantity and attachment of hornbill feathers were subject ot certain restrictions -- they were reserved solely for accomplished warriors and chiefs."
* Stirn/van Ham 2003 p89 caption
"The large curling tusks of mature boars are used for collars and necklaces as well as ornaments for cane hats worn with ceremonial costumes. The right to wear a pair was earned by taking an enemy's head, 'touching flesh,' ie. spearing a victim, or killing a tiger or leopard."
* Untracht 1997 p59
"Flat bone lengths about one foot long (30.5 cm), used as hair ornaments placed through a topknot at the back of the head, were similarly decorated [with a burned-dot design]."
* Broman 2002 p102
"Conch and cowrie shells brought from faraway beaches on the Indian Ocean are extremely popular among these hill folk who will probably never see the ocean in their lives. Conch shells are popular among the ladies, usually for necklaces and also in headbands. Conch are equally popular among Naga males and may be worn as earrings or in a headdress."
* Egerton 1968 p86
"Of late years the Angami Nagas have taken to fire-arms."
* Heath/Perry 1999 p41 (reconstructing an Angami Naga warrior)
"The universal Naga weapon was the spear, with a bamboo shaft, a long, leaf-shaped iron blade, and a pointed ferrule. Overall length could be up to about 8ft (2.4m). The shaft was either plain or ornamented with red-dyed goat's hair, with a space sometimes left bare for the hand. The Naga customarily carried two spears; a plain, shorter one for throwing, and the longer, decorated one for use at close quarters."
* Stirn/van Ham 2003 p125
"Only after death caused by a spear or crossbow could a head be taken."
* Untracht 1997 p65
"Because necklaces (ala) in the form of short (yikuwonhe) or long (kushuwa) strings of beads are considered by Nagas to be important signs of social distinction, Nagas paid great attention to their design organization. Many assembly systems were invented, and color and form combinations were carefully considered. [...]
"Some Naga groups showed a preference for other kinds of hardstone, such as gray-banded agate shaped into a long barrel form. Still made today, in appearance these suggest conch-shell columella beads of the same form."
* Untracht 1997 p62
"Conch shells are commonly used in Naga ornaments.... Shells can be used whole, such as those worn as a pendant by an aged warrior of renown. [...]
"[The conch shell columella] was used primarily to make beads. They were made mainly by the Angami Nagas of Khonoma and widely traded among most Naga tribes. [...] Pierced longitudinally, they were strong in graded lengths in several rows in a necklace called an ashoghila. Their presence considerably increases the value of that ornament."
* Borel/Taylor 1994 p150 (describing an Angami necklace)
"The Naga make use of a wide range of materials, including conch shells from the Bay of Bengal, carnelian, glass, brass, ivory, bone, and rock crystal."
* Jacobs 2012p106-107
"[T]he classic 'enemy's teeth' ornament .... is a flat piece of wood, usually about one foot long, representing the head of an enemy, with cowries (or Job's tears seeds) for the teeth, red cane for the tongue, and a fringe of red hair for blood pouring out of the mouth; needless to say it is an ornament worn by a warrior. The Angamis wear it on the chest, and the Sema on the chest or on the back."
* Untracht 1997 p53-54
"Ceremonial dress also required traditional shawls, baldrics, kilts, and aprons in specific formats in use by each tribe. ... The man's shawl (akhome when plain; asukedapi when ornamented), still an important item in ceremonial dress today, was generally made in two joined lengths. A narrow baldric (amlakha), an ornamental cloth used by several Naga groups, is worn diagonally across the chest, or crossing at the front in matching pairs over both shoulders."
* Jacobs 2012 p119
"Some items of material culture reveal the link between sex and other practices which give high status. An Angami man, for instance, would aspire to wear three lines of cowrie shells on his kilt, to indicate success in warfare, and to add a fourth line to proclaim his sexual prowess."
* Broman 2002 p100
"Despite the sanguinary aspect of Naga culture, the practice of head-taking fostered a richness in the artistry and ornamentation of the scattered groups of Naga. Examples are shawls and body cloths worn by the Naga. The social status and head-taking prowess of the wearer can quickly be determined by another Naga of his group."
* 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."
* Heath/Perry 1999 p41 (reconstructing an Angami Naga warrior)
"Secondary armament consisted of the hatchet-like dao, often described as a P-shaped axe. This had a blade about 9in (23 cm) which was 4in (10cm) wide at the tip, narrowing to an inch (25mm) at the base. It was carried in a wooden block suspended behind the right buttock."
* Weapons 2006 p191
"The swords, or daos, made by the metal workers of Assam's Naga people were versatile implements used for both cutting wood and combat. The owner would have fitted his own wooden handle to the tang, probably decorated with goat hair."
* Egerton 1968 p86
"The Angami Nagas occupy the tract of land immediately to the east of Northern Kachar, and use nearly the same weapons as the Nagas. The hilt of their 'Dao' is ornamented with tufts of hair, frequently dyed red, each tuft representing a slain enemy."
* Pant/Sharma 1991 p15
"The Nagas use a special kind of shield during their dance performance in Nagaland. Made of buffalo hide or bamboo-bark, the shield is covered with tiger or other skin and is large enough to cover the entire body. The Angami Nagas have a peculiar custom of taking oath -- they place a spear between their teeth and hold a shield in both their hands, thus signifying that if they fail in their promise, they are prepared to fall prey of either of the two weapons. When a respectable Naga dies, his body is buried along with his personal shield and spear in the grave."
* Egerton 1968 p86
"A curved shield of painted wood is occasionally carried in place of the usual oblong shield of matwork covered with bear-skin."