Head ax, Weapon

0 Posted by - September 17, 2013 - Uncategorized

Head ax, Philippines, Field Museum

Please comment on this photo, especially if you have knowledge of what an artifact is, where you have seen this, what it is made of, what does its design or colors mean, or any context to better understand the story of the artifact. Comments are moderated and open to anyone.



  • Sarahlynn Pablo September 17, 2013 - 10:58 pm Reply

    Yes, I’d heard these were to chop heads off, too! Who were they used by?

  • Juanita S. Burris September 24, 2013 - 2:20 am Reply

    The object looks like a typical scythe used for harvesting wheat or grass or likely rice sheaths. I doubt whether you need such a big curvature to cut off a head. Headhunters in the Northern Cordillera didn’t have that much steel I think a hundred years ago. If we knew where it was collected from, we might have a better guess of its function. My vote for No. 8.

  • Edgar Jimenez September 27, 2013 - 1:35 pm Reply

    I am curious if metallurgical technology was at par with that of local countries before Spain’s colonization? What is the estimated ‘made’ date of this weapon?

  • Michael Armand Canilao November 1, 2013 - 12:39 am Reply

    This is indeed a head axe. It is ideal for an ambush. The pointed tip is driven deep into the skull to deliver instant death to the victim. The other end is for cutting-off the head.

    • sarahlynnpablo November 1, 2013 - 2:55 pm Reply


      Thanks for the comments and especially for the reference. What a gruesome way to go. But at least death was swift to the hapless victims…


  • Michael Armand Canilao November 1, 2013 - 12:59 am Reply

    Dean Worcester has a plate of three head axes from Abra and Kalinga in “NonChristian Tribes of Northern Luzon” Philippine Journal of Science Vol 1 No 8 October 1906 (Plate 51 Figure 4)

    • sarahlynnpablo November 1, 2013 - 3:06 pm Reply

      Very happy to have you contributing scholarship here, Michael!

  • Michael Armand Canilao November 1, 2013 - 7:34 pm Reply

    Your most welcome Sarah. By the way, with reference to Edgar’s question regarding prehispanic iron use in the Phl, according to Dr. Eusebio Dizon iron-using societies in the Phl were around since 370 BCE. Also Albert Jenks of the Bureau of Ethnological Survey Phl (turn of the century) noted that most Bontok weapons (probably including this headaxe) were cast iron brought in from China . Incidentally, the Field museum also has a Piston forge (Malayan forge) which was used in metal smelting (iron, gold, etc…)

    • sarahlynnpablo November 6, 2013 - 2:12 pm Reply

      You are a font of knowledge. :) Salamat po!

  • Elle Festin March 17, 2014 - 12:58 am Reply

    This is a head axe from the kalinga region the core of the cordillera mountains of northern luzon. It is very distinct from all the other tribes axes of the cordillera. Its shape imitate the cycles of da moon in honor of the moon goddess. The goddess in many folklores is explained to be the first one to shed the children of da suns blood. The axe front blade arch is represent the cresent moon same as the other side but opposite. This weapon is for cutting heads for sure. After the head hunt and da victims heads are collected da spike on da back of da axe is anchored down deep in da ground so da blade is steady to cut da skin and meat off da skull. They dry da skin dat was remove and dry it so it becomes leathery to use for cetemony dances and to taunt dat they are da best in battle. Da skull is their major trophy. Etc etc..

  • marilou dickens March 20, 2014 - 5:23 am Reply

    This particular battle axe is used by the Igorots of the Kalinga tribe and can be, and still is used, for carving wood to make things such as furniture, statues, weapons such as spears and shields, not to mention building houses and other things like coffins. Due to needs for meat, they used it as a hunting tool, for killing prey and chopping meat as well. This style axe is VERY sharp, in conjunction with it being perfectly designed for cutting meat. Which is one of the reason why it makes such a formidable weapon to deal with in the hands of an individual who knows how to use it properly!

    During tribal wars, the Igorot Head Hunting Axe was once used as a standard battle weapon for killing their enemies. The Igorot Head Hunting Axe comes in many different designs. Each one is a beautiful work of art and at the same time it is a very deadly weapon. This is due to the fact that the Igorots in reality are very good crafts man and artists. Their weapons are works of art as well as a functional tool.

    The Igorot Head Hunting Axe is still used, though only a few people today rely on it as much in comparison to maybe only 20 years ago. This is because of the modern machines that were introduced to the mountain men to make their hard work that much easier. The Igorot Head Hunting Axe can be seen today in Northern Philippines during festivals and various tribal celebrations when men wear their ancestors native garments to celebrate the event.

  • Justin Tagarao March 23, 2014 - 9:53 pm Reply

    It’s an Igorot Axe. I got nothing else to add because everyone already gave all the details.

  • Yolanda O. Stern April 1, 2014 - 4:00 pm Reply

    This looks like a headhunting ax from the Cordilleras.

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