Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1930 Atayal warrior
Subject: warrior chief
Culture: Atayal
Setting: tribal warfare, Taiwanese highlands 19-20thc

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

* Heath 1998 p103-104
"19th century writers divided the aborigines into eight so-called 'tribes' ....  However, none of these were tribes in the strictest sense, but rather groups of individually very small tribes which shared a common ethnic identity: the Atayal, for instance, comprised 26 such sub-groups or clans, each of which was further subdivided into numerous individual tribes under their own chieftains.  Numbering some 30,000 souls by the early-20th century, the Atayal -- described as the 'boldest and least submissive' tribe -- were in fact the largest group, followed by the Ami and the Paiwan.
    "All the Ch'i-hoan were head-hunters, a practice vigorously pursued by the Atayal, Bunun and Paiwan well into the present century.  Chinese heads were preferred, obviously, but it was not unknown for head-hunting expeditions to be carried out even amongst the individual clans of the same tribal group, despite the fact that the resultant feuds seriously weakened their ability to offer effective resistance to Chinese encroachments.  In 1869 it was reported that at least 50-60 Chinese were decapitated by head-hunters every year, and that the Chinese authorities, in retaliation, were offering a reward of $20 for each Ch'i-hoan head brought in.  However, they are said to have only got about five a year.
    "The chieftain of each tribe was vested with absolute power over his people.  Though his position was not hereditary, under most circumstances he was succeeded by his eldest son, so long as the latter was competent and of sound mind."


* Sumberg 2010 p145
"The Atayal are one group of several indigenous groups living in the mountains of Taiwan.  The tunic called lukus rumoan was traditionally made from cloth woven on a back strap loom with ramie yarns.  The beads, made from the shell of the giant clam Tridacna, were obtained through trade with coastal people.  It could be worn only by men who were warriors and accomplished headhunters during the welcoming of the heads ceremony.  Being a skilled weaver was vital to being an adult woman; being strong and fearless, as shown by taking a head, was crucial to a man's identity.  These two essential and related activities came together in this man's garment.  Both weaving and headhunting were banned during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895-1945."

* Newton/Barbier eds. 1988 p344 
"Shell bead jacket. ... Highly valued status symbols are long men's jackets, often interpreted as warrior jackets, which are trimmed all over with strings of tiny shell beads.  In fact, the latter were used as a form of ceremonial currency to be exchanged for pigs in the context of marriage negotiations or as penalty payments for infractions of customary law.  According to the ancient Atayal monetary system, fifty bundles of ten strings each corresponded to a shell bead skirt, and two such skirts were equivalent to a jacket ...."

* Heath 1998 p105
"In hot weather it was not unknown for tribesmen to go completely naked, or to wear just a belt (to support their knife) and/or a cap.  On most occasions, however, they also wore a breechclout and a usually sleeveless, sack-like jacket, open at the front.  Though deerskin clothes were worn among some tribes -- notably those living in the mountains, where heavy snow could fall in winter-time -- the majority were made from a hemp-like 'variegated native cloth', woven so that uncoloured strips alternated horizontally with strips which included a pattern of chocolate-brown strands obtained by means of a vegetable dye.  Whenever possible pieces of foreign cloth -- principally red, but occasionally medium or dark blue -- were obtained and unravelled, the coloured threads then being substituted for the traditional brown ones, though jackets and blankets made in this way were reserved for successful warriors and hunters.
    "[...]  The Atayal and Saisiat sometimes wore in addition and small diamond-shaped panel of lightly decorated cloth with a truncated top edge.  Usually measuring about 10-16 ins (27-40 cm) across at its widest point, it was secured round the chest by means of strings attached to the top two corners at each side.  IT can be seen being worn by several of the figures below.  Those of successful head-hunters bore a white porcelain disc at the dead centre. ...
    "Headwear amongst the Atayal, Saisiat, and Ami consisted principally of a variety of coiled rattan caps, some of which had brims or peaks.  The most common variety resembled a large skull-cap.  These were sometimes 'besmeared with the blood of the deer or boar', could be covered with deerskin or bearskin, and might even have a pair of boars' tusks at the front."


* Secret Museum of Mankind v3
"MEN OF THE FORMOSAN FORESTS However scanty their clothing, the hillmen always wear a belt. In it is carried the long, sharp-pointed knife so necessary for cutting wood and betel-nut, for skinning animals, or for beheading enemies."

* Heath 1998 p106
"Their knives were long enough to be described as short swords by some observers, and, being 'always in the savage's belt', were considered part of a tribesman's everyday attire.  They were of iron, with a blade some 18-20 ins (46-50 cm) long and about 11/2 ins (4 cm) wide, and a carved, red-painted wooden handle 6-8 ins (15-20 cm) long, with sometimes a rattan or, less often, a copper wire grip.  Contemporaries described these knives as 'generally crooked', meaning curved, but some were rather more curved than others, while amongst the Paiwan in particular a few were actually straight.  The scabbard was of a one-sided variety quite often encountered in South-East Asia, in which a piece of hardwood was hollowed out to fit the blade.  and deerskin thongs, bamboo strips, or sometimes lengths of wire, were fastened across the open side at intervals, or zigzagged down its length, to keep the knife in place.  Like the knife-handle, most scabbards had relief carvings -- consisting predominantly of stylised human figures, heads, and snakes -- and were painted red.  Those of chieftains or particularly successful warriors were further decorated with coloured pebbles or, amongst the Ami, pieces of shell or mother-of-pearl, which were set into the wood, and tassels of human hair were sometimes fitted to the end.  The belt to which the scabbard was attached was made of braided rattan."


*​ Heath 1998 p106
"Though few travellers mention them, shields were still in common use even at the beginning of the 20th century.  With the single exception of the 'pen-nib' shaped Ami shield, they were constructed of two vertical planks of wood, fixed together at a shallow angle, and were held by means of a single grip.  They seem to have averaged about 14 ins (36 cm) across, with a depth that varied between perhaps 22 and 28 ins (56-71 cm).  Some were entirely devoid of decoration, and others bore simple patterns involving circles and lines."


* Heath 1998 p105
"They wore jewellery consisting of bead necklaces, shell or bead bangles round the arms and ankles, and armlets of large wild-boar tusks encircling the upper arm, decorated either with tassels of red cloth or human hair.  All men wore earrings through large perforations in the lobes of their ears.  Most consisted of bamboo tubes a couple of inches long and between half and three-quarters of an inch thick, but those of some Atayal, Saisiat and southern Paiwan wore the largest earrings of all, their ear-lobes consequently being so distended that the Chinese nicknamed them Tao-he-lan ('Big-Ears').  In addition to the main earring some men wore one or more loops of metal wire, the weight of which sometimes tore right through the already stretched skin."


* Heath 1998 p104
"Tattooing was practiced to a greater or lesser degree by most tribal groups except the Yami, but was most widespread, and lasted longest (until forbidden by the Japanese in 1930), among the Atayal and Saisiat in the north and the Paiwan-Tsarisen-Puyuma group in the south.  It is usually described as black, or sometimes blue-black, and was customarily pigmented with soot, occasionally mixed with gunpowder.  Contemporary descriptions indicate that Atayal-Saisiat tattooing was mainly on the face, though it sometimes also occurred on the chest, abdomen, arms and legs.  Their tattoos were rather simple in form, consisting or arrangements and groups of short lines -- sometimes in the form of long, narrow, horizontally-striped rectangles -- plus dots and crosses.  Those on the face comprised a series of sets of five short, horizontal lines, each between about a third and a half an inch wide, which ran down the centre of the forehead, from the roots of the hair to a point between the eyebrows, 'giving the impression of a finely striped rectangle about half and inch in width and two and a half inches in height'.  An additional set of slightly longer horizontal lines on the chin denoted that teh warrior had taken a head, while tattoos on the chest and the backs of the hands indicated the taking of five heads or more."