Village in Sabah houses skulls collected by
By Gamar Abdul Aziz (From Channel NewsAsia of July 27, 2006)
Centuries ago, the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah was mostly ruled by warriors who practised head-hunting.
The most feared among them was a warrior known as Monsopiad who collected 42 human skulls.
Today, on the very land he lived and roamed some three hundred years ago, his descendants have erected the Monsopiad Cultural Village to let visitors see what life was like back then.
It is the only such place in Sabah and it's worth a visit because this is where a visitor will find the House of Skulls.
Monsopiad was a great warrior from the largest of the over 30 ethnic groups in Sabah - the Kadazan group.
The 6th and 7th direct descendants of Monsopiad reconstructed and manage the village in the heartland of the Kadazan people in 1996 to commemorate the life and times of their legendary ancestor.
This private initiative is a living museum to showcase the Kadazan culture.
Felsie G Madin, Supervisor, Monsopiad Cultural Village, said: "We are preserving the Kadazan culture and custom. Mostly the youngsters tend to forget their culture so that's why we open this to educate and document all about the Kadazan dusun, how their livelihood in the past."
Bamboo stakes were used to dry human skulls, which took seven days and seven nights.
During that time, the high priestess would perform a ritual and sacrifice seven types of animals for the spirits.
After that, the skulls were kept.
The skulls, now over three centuries old, are lined up in a hut at the village.
Some are damaged but most are well preserved, thanks to palm leaves known as hisako that are also said to protect the spirits in the skulls.
The spirits are said to have made an agreement with Monsopiad's descendants to keep them safe.
The skulls were collected by Monsopiad who had to protect his people by fighting off other warriors who had terrorised his village.
It was not long before Monsopiad earned a reputation of a feared warrior.
But the urge to kill got to his head and soon, he provoked other men into fighting him so that he would have an excuse to kill.
It came to a point where a group of warriors had no choice but to eliminate Monsopiad as he had turned into a threat.
And so, Monsopiad was killed but villagers still revered him for all that he had done for them.
Also in the House of Skulls are photographs of the rituals performed by the high priestess - the bobohizans.
A bobohizan's job can only be performed for women who use items like a heavy metal belt known as Tangkong during their rituals.