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22

THE INFAMOUS HEAD-HUNTERS

Many travel accounts of explorers and adventurers contain horrifying stories about

barbarian, Bornean tribes who ruthlessly cut off the heads of unwanted visitors

and displayed them on wooden poles. They were the Dayaks, a people feared by

everyone. The Dayaks are still there, even though they are no longer carrying out

their deadly practices today. They now live neatly in longhouses (large, elongated

houses) and live off agriculture. For the Dayaks, headhunting had nothing to do

with punishment, revenge or bloodthirst, but everything with their animistic reli-

gion in which nature, spirits and ancestor worship were paramount. In their mind-

set, the victim's life force passed to the person who had killed him. The skulls were

dried and strung up so that their strength could also be transferred to the rest of

the community. In the 19th century this practice was stopped by the British rajas,

but when Borneo was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, the

Allied commandos encouraged the Dayaks to sharpen their knives again. The goal

justifies the means, maybe? Meanwhile most of the Dayaks have been converted to

Christianity. But what is the use, for where barbaric practices are abolished for the

sake of general civilisation, they are reintroduced into the neighbouring country for

religious reasons. Strange animal species, the human being ...

TRAVEL

PORSCHIST

The Dayaks: the head-hunters

of yesteryear.

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