An image of Sword with scabbard and amulet basket (belato sebua)

Unknown Artist

Sword with scabbard and amulet basket (belato sebua)

Lower Asian gallery
Further information

The sword and scabbard (‘belato’) were among the most important items belonging to a warrior on Nias, serving as a physical weapon and a protective device against enemies and malevolent spiritual forces. Found throughout the island, ‘belato’ swords are distinguished by ornate hilts in the form of mythical creatures and their scabbards which incorporate a range of talismanic devices, including carved ‘adu’ figures.

The hilt depicts the head of a ‘lasara’, a composite protective beast reserved for royalty which combines the features of a hornbill, deer and crocodile. A small monkey astride the ‘lasara’s’ neck was believed to predict and warn of potential threats. These motifs, along with the rattan amulet basket (‘rago’) fashioned by the warrior and caged with animal teeth and tusks, would have offered powerful protection
to the user.

Place of origin
Bawomataluo village, Teluk Dalam, South Nias, Indonesia
late 19th century-early 20th century
Ceremonial object, Arms & armour
wood, iron brass, rattan, crocodile teeth and pigs’ tusks
72.0 x 18.0 x 15.0 cm :
a - sword; 65 x 8.5 x 5.8 cm
b - scabbard; 56 x 18 x 15 cm
Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
Accession number