National Geographic : 1961 May
Spear-carrying Dancers of Nias Meet Imaginary Enemies in Mock War Head-hunters and slave traders once scourged the island of Nias. These homes in Hilisimaetano reflect the islanders' defenses. Bars guard windows, and trap doors pierce roofs. Interior doors allow residents to go from one end of town to the other without stepping outside. "At first the village seemed empty of women," the authors recall. "But soon we saw them peering through the window bars." In battle regalia, the warriors demonstrate how their ancestors fought. Horned helmet, metal tusks, and barbed spear are worn to instill fear in an enemy. This Hilisimaetano warrior guards the throne of a dead chief. European armor may have inspired his shoulder plates. Gold necklace calls to mind the days when a man could wear the "ring of bravery" only after taking an enemy's head. ports all over Asia, Jim, a student of Palembang history, pointed out the former Sultan's fort and the spot where a chain across the Musi once controlled river traffic. Avoiding Central Sumatra's guer rilla territory, we left Tortuga and Dinah with Jim and took to the air at Palembang. As we flew north, the low swampy terrain drifted beneath us like a deep-pile carpet of green. Near the Barisan Mountains, main ly controlled by rebel forces, we climbed through a layer of cotton clouds obscuring the peaks, some of which towered more than 10,000 feet.