A Throwing spear or Hlan, 19th Century

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Item ref: 4192

  • Burma
  • Hardwood, steel, copper, silver

The spear has a haft made in two pieces of dark brown hardwood. It has a leaf shaped steel head with tiny, partisan-like wings at the base and a short neck with a faceted knop. The head is overlaid in copper and silver with dancing figures and floral scrolls, the neck with bands of copper with silver leaves. Below this is a copper ferrule inlaid with silver bands and a heavy silver ring, in the same style as the conventional pommel of a dha. At the base is a silver butt cap. This type of intricate decorative inlay work has been ascribed to Yamethin district, where ‘the metalwork (niello) of the district has a good deal of artistic merit. Da or knife blades are decorated with gold, silver and brass at Mindan near Pyabwe [Pyay].

The result is distinctly attractive, and the industry, though small, has earned a well-deserved reputation’ (Imperial Gazetteer, 1908, 279). This tradition is recorded back to the eighteenth century there, where ‘every household depends more or less on its smithy, though there are only a few professors of the particular art to be described, which consists of an inlay of silver wire upon an iron surface. The usual articles produced are ornamental dalwes or da-hmyaungs, scissors katkyi, betel cutters kun hnyat… (Bell, 1907, 27, figs 1–9, 11). Compare a similarly decorated piece in a private collection, and a spear in the Royal Collection, no. RCIN62189, presented to George IV by Lieutenant Colonel Miles, commanding the 89th Regiment in the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824.