Evolution of Weapons – An Exhibition

223_modWith close to 10,000 exhibits on display, it would be hard not to find a piece to hold your interest in the on-going exhibition at Muzium Negara. Aptly titled ‘Evolution of Weapons’, the exhibition showcases a wide range of  weapons used by humans from prehistoric times through to modern times.

Primitive stone axes and adzes give way to spears, blowpipes, and throwing weapons. Malay weapons including the keris, golok, tumbuk lada, and sundang mingle with Viking helmets and axes. On display also are small but sharp hair accessories used by Malay women to pin their hair into buns. Accessories, such as the semar, are beautifully carved but the sharp pins double as weapons that could be used for self-defence. These small weapons contrast with European and Japanese swords whose purpose were never covert.

Weapons used for traditional healing, magic ceremonies, cultural performances, and religious ceremonies are either on display or explained through the display boards. The keris, especially, stands out as a versatile weapon used not only as a conventional weapon but also in traditional healing, magic ceremonies and cultural performances such as the silat and wayang kulit. There is a wide selection of keris on display including keris from Majapahit, Sulawesi, Bali, Riau-Lingga and Lombok, Bugis keris, and the Surakata Kraton Kris.

Collection of Keris

163A large collection of beautifully designed shields complement the equally beautiful body armours bringing to mind a bygone era eclipsed by present day weapons that emphasise function and form. Modern day weapons on display include tanks, machine guns, pistols and rifles.


The bulk of the exhibits are from Muzium Negara’s stores thus affording an opportunity to view a rarely seen collection. Exhibits also come from other museums in the country such as the Army Museum as well as from outside the country including from Korea, the United States and the La Galiga Museum in South Sulawesi. Do get down to Muzium Negara but remember to allocate sufficient time to give the (close to) 10,000 pieces justice.

misc weapons





Author: Museum Volunteers, JMM

Museum Volunteers, JMM Taking the Mystery out of History

5 thoughts on “Evolution of Weapons – An Exhibition”

  1. Many thanks for the write-up – many years ago I was issued with a British military Golok and have often wondered what is the difference between this and a Parang – perhaps you can enlighten me

    1. Good question, Stuart. I am not sure what’s the difference in function between the two but the Golok is generally shorter than the Parang. Will try and find out. The Golok is the yellow piece as I am sure you recognised. I don’t have a Parang in the above pictures. Cheers, Magan

  2. I like the female breastplates! I didn’t know we had female warriors?! I’ve already been to the exhibition but obviously I missed this interesting display. Must go again.

    1. Hi Eunice, I don’t think that piece is local or even from the archipelago. The exhibition includes pieces from other countries as well. Cheers, Magan

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