A fine example of a late 18th C. Indian javelin, mounted on a bamboo pole, with a fine quality wootz steel head overlaid with bluing and gold koftgari.
The javelin is primarily a missile weapon that takes the form of a light spear with a small head. Utilized both in combat and for hunting it is often used from horseback but is also effective on foot. For the javelin, the material of the shaft was usually hardwood or bamboo, only occasionally were shafts made entirely of iron or steel. Up until the sixteenth century the javelin-head was largely produced of plain steel, and it was not until the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in India that decorative javelin-heads saw a marked increase in production; as indicated by the examples of decorative spear-heads reproduced in eighteenth-century European prints of the Mysore wars.
The concept of contrasting a shining metal against a dark ground was widespread in the eighteenth century, most prominently characterized by bidri ware, where brass or silver detailing is highlighted against a blackened metal ground. The floral designs evident on such objects are likely to be derived from the local manuscript tradition, where floral sprays and scrolling vegetal motifs are integral to both the marginal and central decoration (for examples of bidri wares see Zebrowski 1997, no.369-441, pp.228-258). Such designs are closely comparable to those exhibited on this javelin head.