|Borneo - a map by Pigafetta. 'Burne' is clearly labelled in the north, although this is a vague and inaccurate map. Would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that the white houses are intended to be depictions of houses on piles along the river? That would certainly be typical of Borneo architecture.|
Dinnanzi la casa del re è uno muro de quadrelli grosso, con barbacani a modo de fortezza, nel quale erano cinquantasei bombarde de metallo e sei de ferro. In li due giorni che stessemo ivi, ne scaricarono molte.Robert Nicholl translated it like this: 'In front of the king's house there is a wall made of great bricks, with barbicans like forts, upon which were fifty-six bombards of metal, and six of iron. They fired many shots from them during the two days that we passed in the city.' You can find this translation in Victor King (ed., 1992), The Best of Borneo Travel, OUP.
Clearly, again, gunpowder was not unknown - it seems to have been plentiful. Metal cannons (most presumably bronze) were found even in Borneo, hardly at the centre of the Malay world, and while they were almost certainly the small cannons known as lela or rentaka in Malay, as at the battle of Melaka in 1511, they seem to have functioned as both practical military tools and status symbols for local potentates.
If Albuquerque is to be believed, these cannons were cast in local foundries by experts as good as any in Europe. Remember that this was the early sixteenth century and before serious European involvement in this part of the world - another reminder that island Southeast Asia was not and is not on the periphery of our world.