X65.8018 Calendrical/divination device

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Calendrical/divination device
Batak peoples
Sumatra, Indonesia
19th-early 20th century
Bone and pigment
L: 37.5 cm, W: 4.5 cm, H: 5.0 cm (L: 14.7 in, W: 1.7 in, H: 1.9 in)
Gift of the Wellcome Trust. X65.8018


Batak priests (datu) inscribed sacred texts on sheets of bark, bamboo cylinders, and the rib bones of water buffalo. These writings-magic formulas, oracles, recipes for medicines, and instructions for rituals and cures-were passed from generation to generation within a priestly class. Inscriptions on rib bones often contain calendrical information used by priests to divine auspicious days for particular activities. The bones also brought good luck to their owners. The beauty of the script and the poetic language were both appreciated.

Gallery Text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006