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J R Soc Med. 2002 December; 95(12): 632.
PMCID: PMC1279309

Neuromuscular blocking drugs

Further to the letter from Dr Zorab (September, 2002 JRSM1), I am fortunate in having a copy of Penans by Dennis Lau, The Vanishing Nomads of Borneo. It has about 100 beautiful photos of the Penans, including pictures of the blowpipes in use, their manufacture, etc. The Penans are the principal makers and users of the blowpipe, called a sumpit. It is made from a hardwood tree. A platform is made, with a hole through which the blowpipe passes and which holds it upright. The maker stands on the platform and uses a long narrow iron bore, first from one end, then the other. To compensate for droop, he makes an upward rise in the middle of the shaft. The skill of making a blowpipe that works and is accurate is almost incredible. The job may take months. The darts are made from bamboo and coated with a poison extracted from the sap of the tacem tree (= tree of poison) and are accurate at a range of 50 feet (some say 50 yards) at which range they will kill a man. In all their spare moments, Penans make more darts, which are hardened in fire. They are kept in a gourd tied round their waist.


1. Zorab JSM. Neuromuscular blocking drugs. J R Soc Med 2002;95: 477-8 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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