An image of Bowl carved with mythical creature (aso)

Unknown Artist

Bowl carved with mythical creature (aso)

Not on display
Further information

The practice of headhunting on Borneo was strongly associated with notions of fertility and renewal. It was essential for restoring cosmic order, sanctifying and renewing relationships with ancestor spirits, and ensuring the spiritual and physical welfare of whole communities. After headhunting was largely abandoned by the Dayak and Iban groups of Borneo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the skulls and bones of wild swine, bears, primates and apes were used for rituals dependent on headhunting and sacrifice. Probably fashioned from the skull of a large primate, this bowl would have been considered a prized hunter’s trophy and a ritual implement imbued with the spiritual essence of the deceased prey. The simple form is embellished with the depiction of the ubiquitous Bornean ‘aso’, a demonic dragon–dog beast originating from the underworld and associated with fertility and protection. The delicate scrolling design is reminiscent of the ornamentation styles of the Kenyah and Kayan groups of Central Kalimantan.

Place of origin
Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia
Cultural origin
Kenyah or Kayan
late 19th century-20th century
Ceremonial object
animal skull
6.8 x 15.0 x 14.0 cm
Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
Accession number
Christopher Wilson, pre 1989-1996, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased in Indonesia.
Mariann Ford, 1996-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, inherited from the estate of Christopher Wilson. Gift to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.