April 3, 2017
This early-20th century axe comes from the Bontoc people of the Philippines. The Bontoc live in the highlands of Luzon, the largest and most populous Philippine island. In the past, the Bontoc practiced headhunting, beheading their enemies during warfare and claiming the severed heads as trophies. Typically, a warrior would attempt to spear his opponent to deliver a mortal blow, but before he died, would decapitate the wounded man using an axe like this one. The trophy head was then brought back to the village where it was smoked, washed, and ritually activated to bring good fortune to the village. Sometimes, the lower jaw was removed to be used as a handle for ceremonial gongs. This axe is currently on exhibit in the student-curated mini-exhibit Warfare and Violent Conflict, in which you can learn more about traditions linked to headhunting.