Kukri with ivory handle carved with a lion head

South East Asia

In addition to the substantial Indian collection on show, historic arms and armour from other areas in South and South East Asia are represented in the Oriental Gallery, including pieces from Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Most of the objects on display date from between the 17th and 19th centuries; a period which saw significant European colonial activity throughout much of South and South East Asia. Despite the effects of varying levels of external influence, however, many of these places remained fairly remote and isolated, and a lot of the weaponry produced tended to be highly individual and localised in style; continuing forms that had been used for centuries.

Modern warfare forced military equipment to become far more homogenised, as shown elsewhere in the museum, but some of these traditional weapons are still recognised to be symbols of particular cultures – such as the kukri, which is still used by Gurkha regiments across the world today.

A lot of this unique material is comparatively rare, but the Royal Armouries is fortunate to have significant holdings which demonstrate a wide range of arms and armour from these regions.

Did you know?

Thunder birds are go!

Artillery pieces before about 1700 were often classified by names. A rare type of very big gun was known as a basilisk; a more common long powerful gun was known as a culverin; and smaller versions were named after birds of prey such as saker and falcon.

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