indigenous people of central Borneo, grouped with the Kenyah and several lesser groups under the general name Bahau. Numbering about 27,000 in the late 20th century, the Kayan are settled mainly along the middle reaches of the Baram, Bintulu, and Rajang rivers in Sarawak. In Indonesian Borneo the Kayan live mainly near the headwaters of the Kayan River and along the middle reaches of the Mahakam and Kapuas rivers.

      The Kayan live on the banks of rivers—navigable by canoes—in long houses that individually may contain 50 or more family apartments. The extensive quarters of the chief are often decorated with carvings and murals and are in the centre of the house. Several houses may be grouped to form a village. The Kayan have a subsistence economy based on shifting cultivation, hill rice being grown on clearings in the rain forest. Sago is a subsidiary crop; fishing, hunting, and the collection of forest produce are other important economic activities. Many of the Kayan are skilled blacksmiths, and they are noted for their fine craftsmanship and traditional art. Kayan society has a class system, class endogamy being marked among the aristocrats. Formerly the Kayan practiced head-hunting and were in frequent conflict with the Iban and other Dyak tribes. The Kayan have an elaborate traditional religion with a pantheon of gods, a wide range of animistic beliefs, and such ritual institutions as shamanism and augury. Many Kayan of Sarawak are Christians.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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