Model of War Canoe

Photo by Diana Gerberich.
Photo by Diana Gerberich.
Photo by Diana Gerberich.
Photo by Diana Gerberich.
Photo by Callie Gilbert.
Photo by Callie Gilbert.
Photo by Callie Gilbert.
Photo by Sophie Kimball.
Photo by Sophie Kimball.
Photo by Sophie Kimball.
Photo by Sophie Kimball.

Built for strength, stealth, plundering, and offensive attacks, the construction of the war prahu aids its purpose as a Sea Dayak pirate ship. Flashing a brass canon at the stem, a rooftop fighting stage along its length, and natural fiber fasteners, this vessel had the features necessary to effectively rule the seas of Borneo. The stem and stern, both adorned with the bright colors common among the Dayaks, differ in their height and angle to better suit their individual purposes. Possible storage space underneath the transverse planks of the deck would hide evidence of more weaponry to be used during an attack. The lack of siding on the vessel also makes it easier for the pirates to use the weapons as well as board another vessel. These and other construction features of the war prahu aided the Dayak pirates in their tactics. Find out more.

Diana Gerberich

 

The physical appearance of the model, from its long, narrow body, to the wooden planking, to the pointed paddles, was what initially drew me to this war canoe model.  Thus, when I next set out to examine and analyze the construction of the canoe, I was excited to learn more about how its structure and design lent themselves to the canoe's ultimate purpose as a warring vessel.  Why was there such a large space underneath the main deck, and what was the purpose of having such a prominent awning covering the canoe itself?  Questions like these were at the forefront of my investigation, as my research ultimately led me to sources so precisely detailing the Iban people's way of life, the natural resources they had available to construct these canoes, and the difficulties of maritime warfare along the winding rivers of Borneo. Read more.

Callie Gilbert

 

How does the method of the war canoe’s construction relate to its use by the Iban culture of Borneo? This is the main question that I attempt to address in this paper. Indeed, the marriage of aesthetics and function is a major concern of ship construction in general, and it was interesting to analyze those dimensions of this boat after having researched its cultural and historical significance.  The two guiding details of the canoe’s construction were its designation for use during war and its status as a river-going vessel. These factors collectively produced the canoe you see modeled here. Click here to explore more features of this boat’s construction. 

Sophie Kimball

 

Content of this page provided by students of Anthro 1218: Shipwrecks and Seafarers, Piracy and Plundering: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology.