Ethnographic Edged Weapons

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Author Topic:   Wedungs
Lee Jones
posted 11-16-2001 06:10     Click Here to See the Profile for Lee Jones   Click Here to Email Lee Jones     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Received for posting from Mick:

I noticed some talk about Wedungs in a post during the last week or so and thought I might pass on a little something about them.

The first picture is a fairly typical Javanese Wedung from Solo. It is not one of the more fancy ones with gold work, but is a good example of the style of this item. The sharp edge of this piece is developed from a full bevel grind. The case is formed of a single piece of wood hollowed out from the sharp edge side of the blade and then filled in latter with a thin strip of similar wood glued into place to close the scabbard. Thin bands are then installed to finish the piece. (Similar to the system used for Recongs in Sumatra) The large hook like attachment for carrying the piece is made from sea turtle shell and is held in place on the back side of the same bands that finish the closing of the carved scabbard. These bands are shaped to closely fit around one side of the turtle shell hook and bind it to the back of the piece.

The second is a Balinese Wedung flanked by an everyday scabbard and the Ceremonial scabbard. The everyday scabbard is made of two pieces of wood hollowed out and then glued together. The ceremonial scabbard is made from one piece of wood hollowed out from the top to fit the blade similar to the way Keris scabbards are made. The blade of this piece is sharpened on one side only (as the Mandaus are). The back side is flat with no decorative effort spent on it at all (again similar to the Mandaus). The large decorative piece on the top of the blade is constructed of cast and carved brass and is dovetailed into the blade. All of the other decorative motifs are inlaid on the front surface of the blade. Lines are chiseled into the surface and thin strips of brass are hammered into these line similar to the method used to make the boundaries for cloisonné applications. This brass material stands about 1/2 mm above the surface of the blade.

Although these items are not as stylish the Keris they were produced on a much smaller scale as so are not as well known and abundant as Kerises.

[This message has been edited by Lee Jones (edited 11-16-2001).]

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Senior Member
posted 11-16-2001 08:12     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian   Click Here to Email Ian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Both are very interesting pieces and wedung are not seen often. Thank you for putting them up (thanks to Lee also).

Do you have any idea of age of these two? And can you recommend a good reference source for information, history, etc. about wedung?


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posted 11-16-2001 10:20     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
two beautiful and classic examples...beautiful, each in their own way.
Well done!!!

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wong desa
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posted 11-16-2001 18:01     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I`ve never been able to find very much on the wedung.
There`s only about a paragraph in Harsrinuksmo,which is not too enlightening;about a Solyom which is worth quoting:

"The wedung is a ceremonial chopper worn by certain court personnel,including women attendants,to symbolise their willingness to do the bidding of their ruler.In the Kraton Susuhunan, wedung with pamor were restricted to the use of princes.In the same court,huge,heavy wedung about two feet in length were said to have been used as execution weapons.The wedung sheath has a large horn clip ,'sangkletan',allowing it to be hooked over a belt at the waist."

The belt hook is interesting,because Harsrinuksmo says that it is turtle shell,the one posted by Mick has a turtle shell belt hook,Solyom says it is horn,and I`ve never seen one of turtle shell.

I do know that in recent years they have become ridiculously expensive,and very,very rare,in Jawa.During my last visit there I only saw one very ordinary wedung for sale,and the asking price was the equivalent of over $US 600.Bear in mind ,I do not present as a tourist;I look like an Indonesian,and speak Indonesian with an East Javanese accent.

I`m not sure that the correct term for the 'Balinese wedung' is ,in fact,wedung.
Engels(Geschiedenis en algemeen overzicht van de Indonesische wapensmeedkunst) calls this a golok.
Stone also calls it a golok.
I`ve questioned a couple of people in Bali about the correct name for this type of knife,and recieved conflicting answers.These people did not know the word'wedung'.The people themselves,although I would not classify as expert in this field,were keris conscious,and tuned into weaponry and such things.

Just maybe,'wedung' and 'golok' are both correct;a wedung certainly has a golok shape,and maybe long,long ago started off as a golok,and was progressively miniaturised as it became an item of court dress.When it had become this item of court dress ,it was given its unique name of 'wedung'.
The words 'wedung','golok',and 'berang'(another type of wedung/golok type thing)do not appear in Old Javanese,so it seems that perhaps the whole group does not go back in their recognised forms to the same early beginnings as the keris.
If this is so,then it would not be reasonable to expect that it was called 'wedung 'in Bali,because the Balinese
name would not echo the Javanese name.

It would be interesting to know what they really are called in Bali.

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posted 11-16-2001 21:50     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Page 665 in Stone's.....listed as a wedong (sorry for the spelling)

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wong desa
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posted 11-16-2001 23:23     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On p.665 in my Stone`s he does spell the word 'wedong',which is incorrect.It has become more or less a convention to spell it 'wedung',but strictly,this is also incorrect.The correct Javanese spelling is'wedhung'.Echols and Shadilly give the Indonesian spelling as 'wedung',but then again,they give the meaning of 'wedung' as 'cleaver'(as in a butcher`s cleaver).
Personally,I don`t really care much how we spell it,as long as it sounds right,and we all know what we are talking about.
Stone also calls it a "Javanese ceremonial knife".

The picture on p.666 of my edition of Stone`s shows two Central Javanese wedungs,(or,as Mr.Stone spells it,'wedongs').

On p.249,figure 306,item no.6,he shows one of those Balinese ones with the dovetailed brass incrustation,and he calls it a 'golok'.

As I remarked in my earlier post,I`d really like to know what the correct Balinese term is.

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posted 11-17-2001 02:18     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll second that motion....apparently the wedung is more widespread than indicated and with more variation also, and I assume, with at least a variation in terminology from also seems likey that all wedungs are golocks, but not all goloks are wedungs **grin**....actually, I'm surprised there aren't more instances of the same item appearing in two different locations, under different names in stone's work.
And if I sounded catty about the page, deffinitely wasn't meant that way.

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wong desa
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posted 11-17-2001 03:02     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No,you did not sound catty.
Actually,I`d written a lot more in my response ,but I deleted it,because it was becoming too complicated.
Reduced to bare bones,it amounted to this:

a) wedungs are by their very nature,Javanese.

b) maybe there are other things ,in other places that have the nature of wedungs,but cannot be called wedungs ,because wedung is Javanese,and not Old Javanese,or Middle Javanese,which means that the name developed in Jawa after,say,1400 A.D.(I`m not exactly sure of when Old and Middle Javanese dropped from use).Now if the name came into use after the fall of Mojopahit,then the thing we call a wedung in Jawa could not have gone to Bali or other places,in Javanese form,or with its Javanese name.

c)I`ve read somewhere,or heard somewhere that it represents a jungle knife,the implication being that the wearer will willingly cut a way thru the jungle for his ruler(similar to Solyom`s explanation).So,yeah,maybe somewhere,some time its original was a goloky type thing.
But it is a court item,not something of the common people,so it must be uniquely Javanese.

d)In the temple carvings there are things shown that look like predecessors of berangs,which themselves look like wedungs,but fatter.The distinguishing feature of this class of thing is a heavy forged baluster at the blade base,that declines to a tang.Wedungs have this,goloks don`t.Niether do the Balinese things that Stone calls a golok.

Still sounds confusing,doesn`t it?

Anyway,I don`t think anyone knows a real lot about wedungs.

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posted 11-17-2001 10:03     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Aha!!!....BUT it appears likely that the wedung has followed the path of it's more famous relative, the keris, in crossing each body of water and culture with changes in both form and function with each voyage, the opening of funeral shrouds being a notable example (perhaps cutting through the jungle shrouds of life to the afterlife?)
There seem to be several characteristics common to the wedung and it's descendents...a ferule connecting to a narrower hilt with a substantial , fairly straight downward projecting rear blade edge that is usually drilled or filed, and a lower blade edge that often has a slight to significant inward taper swelling again towards the tapered point.
The blades seem to be predominately flat on one side and chisel ground on the other, while the scabbards when present often have a downward projecting open ended hook for belt/sash attachment, itself an unusual feature on Indonesian knives.
It would seem logical to me that, combined, these features form a significant type with an obvious ancestral/cultural origin that serves as an identifier, with the term wedung (for the present, at least) simply being easier than wedung-like or "a wedung derivative".....of course, finding out if there is a more approriate term than wedung itself would be highly prefereable, but to start splitting hairs on origin/function and time frame based solely upon variations within a theme seems counterproductive.

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posted 11-17-2001 17:55     Click Here to See the Profile for JP   Click Here to Email JP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Lee,
Great pictures and information.

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 11-18-2001 02:37     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Red face time.

After posting what I wrote in b) ,in my posting of yesterday,I discussed this matter with some one older and far more knowledgeable than I am.
What I wrote in b)is wrong,in that the word 'wedung'did exist in Old or Middle Javanese,where this word had the meaning of "a type of wide axe ,with a scabbard made of wood"(Zoetmulder).

This ,of course ,must reverse my argument of yesterday.(well,I said no-one knows much about wedungs,and that includes me).

So,yes,a bladed implement with a form similar to the Javanese wedung may have travelled to other locations,from Jawa.
However,there are a couple of things that make a wedung ,a wedung,in Jawa.
First is its function in the courts.
Second is its forged baluster.

Last night I had the opportunity to handle 8 Javanese wedungs,and 3 Balinese wedungs/goloks with brass encrustation.

What I noted was this:

all the Javanese wedungs had a symetrical bevel grind to both blade faces;in some,these blade faces were flat,in a couple of better quality ones the blade faces were concave;only the better quality ones had any sculpting in the form of holes or file work to the downward projecting back edge of the blade;all had a heavy ,tapering ,forged baluster at the blade base;all had short,facetted ,wooden handles attached to this baluster;all had scabbards with a large horn belt hook attached to the rear,most of these belt hooks were held in place by silver bands,one was just glued into place.

all the Balinese wedungs/goloks had chisel ground blades;the blade faces were flat;two of these Balinese pieces had sculpting to the downward projecting back edge of the blade,one did not;none had a forged baluster;all had blades with stick tangs and handles with brass ferrules;all had handles in the form of carved figures;all had wooden scabbards,none of these scabbards had a belt hook.

So,it seems to me that there are basic differences between the Javanese wedung,and the Balinese wedung/golok.In fact ,it seems to me that about the only similarity between the two is the downward projecting back edge of the blade,a feature which is found in knives from many locations,such as French cook`s knives,Gaucho knives,Mediteranean Dirks,and maybe even Chooras.

It also seems that function in Jawa and function in Bali differs.
Of course we know that societal and court structure ,and religion in Jawa and Bali also differ.

There is another type of Balinese "thing" that no-one has so far mentioned.This is a small hand axe ,no point,oblong silhouette,chisel ground blade,sometimes with a figural handle,sometimes not.Whenever you see men in Bali going along to some sort of ceremony,they have one of these stuck into the sash that holds up their sarung.I`ve never seen the Balinese goloks/wedungs being worn,only these little hand axes.I suspect that these hand axes are the modern day continuation of the wedung/goloks.As I just said,these things are oblong,but I saw one last night that is obviously pretty old,its proportions are the same,but whereas the ones I`ve seen in Bali are oblong with an unsharpened front edge,this one has a sharpened front edge-not really a distinct point,but this steep front edge that has been sharpened.If you line up the older wedung/goloks,the hand axe with the sharpened front edge,and the oblong hand axes ,you can,I believe,see a line of progression.
But if you put the Balinese wedungs/goloks alongside the Javanese wedungs,there are really a lot more differences than similarities.

So,I really don`t think that we can put Balinese wedungs/goloks into the same group as Javanese wedungs.There are more differences than similarities.
But,at the same time I really don`t know what the Bali things should be called.
The word 'wedung'seems to have more of an association with axes than goloks.Actually,I seem to remember that I`ve heard a word something like 'wedung'-maybe'wadung'-used by someone in Jawa to mean 'axe'.

I`d still like to know what they call those things in Bali ,though.
One time I asked a couple of people what they called the little oblong hand axes that I mentioned above.They told me that it was a 'kapak'.'Kapak' means 'axe'.

I haven`t seen a copy of van Zonneveld`s new book yet.
Has he got anything to say that could throw some light on this subject?
I`ve seen his paper- back ,printed in 1996,and that has very little on the wedung.

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posted 11-18-2001 09:06     Click Here to See the Profile for RSword   Click Here to Email RSword     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mick,Mike and Wong Desa, Thanks for the interesting comments in this thread. After the new thread started, I wanted to show pics again of a piece I recently acquired. Based on the above information, it seems to fit into the Bali style but I am unsure if it can be classified as a Wedong. The blade seems to be of meteor iron and is very thick and heavy. It does have a brass coller. The handle is ivory and the scabbard seems to be elephant leather with no belt hook. The other possibility I have considered for this piece is that it might have been used for chopping palm leaves. In Von Zonnefelds new book, this type of knife was referred to as a Budo. Would love any more thoughts about this particular knife.

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posted 11-18-2001 10:57     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wong, you truly have no idea how much I envy you.....fantastic commentary and research (where did you sau one can get one of those little axes?**grin**)
Once again, as we, or at least I, have repeatedly seen here in the forum, particularly over the last few months, defining a "type" with only one source and from only one example, is treading on shaky ground for the new Indonesian book, it looks like it will be a month or so before I can order one and would REALLY appeciate any input from this area.
From the definition of wedung having an axe root, that would also make sense in the context of "cutting through the jungle for the king" of even the Java prototypical style.
Whew...sorting out information into the "more confusing" and "less confusing" stacks is a task unto itself, with a very fine line between.
Rick, I saw your piece before when you posted it, and I'd almost suspect a muslim origin for that one....the brass blade attachment style and leather sheath are both very reminiscent of some Afghan pieces I've seen (you have no idea what I would give for 1/10th the knowledge that Artzi has gained in this area.)

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tom hyle
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posted 11-18-2001 12:17     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
RSword, I agree with Conogre; that piece with its copis-derived bolster that goes out along the dropped edge is problably Eastern European/Western Asian/mediterranian; part of the same family as salwar yatagan ("khyber knife", "Afghan kinjal"), pesh kabz, choora, and more distantly flyssa, yatagan (per se), kard, etc. I'm trying in my mind to place that simple double-feruled hilt to a particular culture and can't, but it certainly looks Mainland, to me. Does the tang emerge from the buttcap/rear ferule?

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posted 11-18-2001 14:39     Click Here to See the Profile for RSword   Click Here to Email RSword     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The tang does not pass through the pommel cap. What is throwing me is the blade. I am quite sure it is meteor iron which would seem to point it to an Indonesian origin. The blade is very thick and stout for its short nature. The scabbard though, doesn't seem as much Indonesian in origin though. It has good age to it, probably late 19th/early 20th century. Thanks for the thoughts.

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wong desa
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posted 11-19-2001 03:08     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had a talk with my mother earlier today,and yes,it does seem that one of the Javanese words for 'axe' is definitely 'wadung'.Plus a lot of other words that I`ve never heard of.The whole subject of what axes are called,and what actually constitutes an axe in Javanese language and thought is starting to become even more confusing than what we started off with.
I`m sort of beginning to feel that what Javanese people consider to be an 'axe',we would call something else.And maybe they do too,but they classify all these things as a type of axe,and some do not have a direct equivalent in English.
One of these days,I`m going to get all the dictionaries I can lay my hands on and try to work the whole thing out.
Anyway,if a 'wadung' is an axe,its close enough for me to 'wedung',so I`m happy enough believe that probably wedungs descended from axes.
But if they did,does that make a 'wedung' an axe,and an axe a 'cleaver',and a 'cleaver' a 'wedung'in accordance with Echols and Shadilly?
I`ve been warned repeatedly about playing the 'name game'.There is no doubt it can drive you mad.
Thanks for your compliments Conogre,but from where I stand,it looks like all I`ve done is display my ignorance of what wedungs are.
If you want one of those little axes I mentioned,you could try Alan Maisey,P.O.Box 197,Vincentia 2540,Australia.I know he had one in a recent catalogue,and if he had one,he probably has more.

On the subject of meteoritic iron(and nickel) in Indonesian blades.
This is,for the most part,one ernormous myth.
The only blades that we can say contain meteoritic iron,with any confidence,are those made after about 1800 for a very limited number of people who had connections with the kratons of Surakarta and Jogyakarta .These blades used pamor which contained material from the Prambanan meteorite,which fell near the village of Prambanan in about 1742,and was brought to the Kraton Surakarta ,in two pieces,the second piece arriving by about 1790.By about 1796 the empus working in that kraton had started to experiment with its use as a pamor material.
These blades probably generated the myth.
I suggest reading of "Terrestial and meteoritic nickel in the Indonesian Kris",Bennet Bronson,published in "Historical Metallurgy",Vol.21 ,No.1,1987.

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Senior Member
posted 11-19-2001 04:41     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wong, for once I have to take issue with something you've said...when one openly questions and then examines an issue from logical points of view, makes assumptions based upon available data and then openly follows that train of thought, and in so doing presents supporting and opposing information found, and includes much fascinating information in so doing, I can in no way see that as showing ones' ignorance.
Questions and statements that are raised in honesty, in my opinion, are never reason for embaressment, nor is being wrong about something, majorly or minorly, as long as one keeps an open mind and is as willing to admit a mistake as to accept kudos for a discovery.
Two statements/quotes that firmly believe....1) "I've never met a man I couldn't learn something from", and 2) "The difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man learns from his mistakes".
As you said, the wedung, and many other weapons are surrounded by a surprising scarcity of information....thanks for sharing with us all you were able to find out, and hopefully, what you will find out in the future.

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posted 11-19-2001 06:15     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
van Zonneveld shows three small Balinese "ceremonial axes" without mentioning anything further regarding terminology. They are the least bit simmilar to the wedung and certainly nothing like their European counterpart but I rather doubt that they are related. In fact I think that wedung have more in common with golok and may have been intended as a sort of small machette. Van Zonneveld says as much in his own description of the wedung.

I personally think that there are far more striking simmilarities between wedungs and certain Bugis badik cf. the Badik jantung. And even more so with the Acehnese rencong with which it shares a simmilar forged bolster (a rather rare feature) and basic blade shape though the rencong is of course far less broad. The Peninsular badik/tumbuk lada also often shares these characteristics and in the case of certain very broad Pattani pieces the resemblence is rather striking. In terms of function though these weapons were certainly far removed from that of the wedung though court examples of such are equally as elaborate.

How far we can take these rather superficial simmilarities though is highly suspect. At best there was probably some level of cross polination as citizens of the various regions met and shared. Its just as likely though that all these blades evolved from a general idea and the very real necessity for blades that performed well in a certain function.

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tom hyle
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posted 11-19-2001 09:58     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I, too have seen these types of things to which DAHenkel refers. It seems clear to me that they constitute a family of closely related forms about which there can be very little doubt that they are related by descent. Also that they are related to swords of the area, as would be expected. Look at a forged-bolster sikkin, for a striking example. Relatively close geography in world-wide terms(and sea-faring cultures) encourage this analysis; some 18th to 20th century European and Euro-American (roast) carving and butchering knives also closely resemble the type; I've never heard a relation of descent suggested here, and one does not suggest itself as very likely (descent from the yatagan/copis family being a more favoured theory in my mind), but one must wonder, and an Eastern or pseudo-Eastern flare has certainly gone through periods of faddishness in Europe and N. America.
RSword, I didn't expect an emergent tang; I think I see a brss pin that holds the rear ferule (yes?). Though I still think it roughly mideastern, I had another thought concerning your piece, and that is that its bolster/guard does share some features with the cast-on/brazed-on guard/gonjo of "bonifacio" type hilts and of plug-bayonet hand-barongs (I say "gonjo" because guards on both of these, especially the bayonets, can be markedly kris-like). It still much more closely looks middle-eastern to me, and the sheath does not look SE Asian.
Some Africans and Hindoos were traditionally able to make large chunks of relatively tough, homogenous iron and steel from an early date (much later the Europeans, too, and theirs, like the Hindoo was an elite product, expensive, and very often folded despite maybe not needing it; "shear steel"), but aside from that everyone who used iron and steel welded it for size and folded it for homogeneity until modern methods set in. Most welded it for varying hardness, too. Additionaly even unfolded, the old steel shows a fibrous pattern many associate with "meteoric" blades (of course, often only if etched with acid does it show). Also, cultures all across the Eurasian mainland have used deliberately manipulated patterns for decorative (and other) reasons (Germans, Tartars, celts, arabs, chinese, to name some prominent examples).

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wong desa
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posted 11-20-2001 02:30     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My problem with this whole wedung thing is that firstly,the Javanese wedung has got this really very distinctive and unique baluster,bridging the blade and the handle.In fact it is so different to other balusters,or bolsters,that it actually forms a part of the handle.Its just not similar to anything else I know.

Now,when we consider this,along with the function of the Javanese wedung in Javanese kratons,plus the apparent etymological relationships,my feeling is that we have an item which is related to the berang,and to the rather flamboyant hand axes shown in the old temple carvings,but not related to other similar blade shapes,such as the badik.

As I remarked the other day,when you lay those Javanese and Balinese things down alongside one another,pick them up,handle them,register how they feel and fall in the hand,there seems to be a line of continuation between the two types of Balinese things,but not really so with the Balinese and Javanese.
Now,if we add in something like a badik ,there simply cannot be any relationship.These Bali things are heavy in the hand-real good little choppers;the Javanese wedungs are front heavy and quite suitable to chopping,or slashing;badiks are light and fast,made for thrusting.

I agree that if we just look at the blade silhouette we can find quite a few blades in south-east Asia,and in fact,world wide,that seem to have a similar shape,but there is the well known theory of "parrallel development" there to explain that away.

As Dave remarks"--how far we can take these superficial similarities ,though,is highly suspect---",and I agree totally with this.

There`s the other thing too,of what constitutes an "axe"in Javanese language and thought.
I don`t think any of us have too much difficulty in conjuring up a mental image of what the word "axe" means to us,but what did the concept of "axe" mean to Javanese people in past times?
Even when I talk to my own parents about the idea of an "axe",I get a lot of things described to me that appear to be used like an axe,and that they call an axe,and the dictionaries back them up,but for which I have no name,or maybe a different name, in English.

Another thing Dave said that I am in general agreement with also,and that is his remark "Its just as likely though that all these blades evolved from a general idea and the very real necessity for blades that performed well in a certain function."
In other words:parrallel development.

I must admit,I`ve never given much thought to this wedung question,and I`ve always sort of thought of them as a ceremonial golok.A jungle knife,reduced in size and usefulness to become simply an item of court dress.
But maybe it did not descend from a goloky sort of thing,maybe it came down from those flashy looking hand axes in the temple carvings .

Fascinating stuff-well,I think so anyway-but I reckon the answer to it all is going to have to wait for someone a lot smarter than I am.

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tom hyle
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posted 11-20-2001 09:22     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is "panabas" a useful word to refer to those heavy sicle-type things with the 12" to 18" handles that have a thick heavy bolster backed by a long ferule that flows from it, having the same (often octagonal) cross-section? (seen oh-so-many names for them) Might these be related? Aren't they, themselves, ceremonial choppers (axes)?

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tom hyle
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posted 11-20-2001 10:24     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would be a little careful with the idea of parrallel evolution. It is certainly real, but in my opinion far too often creditted when no better explanation is evident. It is my opinion that the published experts in history and anthropology do not give enough credit to cultural cross-polination, largely because they do not appreciate the breadth of trade and travel engaged in by pre-industrial peoples (though the information to appreciate is certainly available). We all know the average man never went more than 5 miles from his village party line, but that does not discount the unaverage men who did go. Ancient Rome traded with China and with the Pigmies (who had a much larger range in those days and were thus closer). There were Swedes in medieval byzantium. Etc. Etc. And then there's diffusion; kind of leaking of things from one culture to a neighboring one, who spread it in turn to their neighbors, etc. I see great similarities in material culture thoughout Europe, Asia, and Eurasia and I credit intercultural dealings and travel. I think these similarities have grown greater with the cumulative affects of repeated/continual contact throughout history, though they are manifest quite anciently.
(btw, if you're wondering why I say "Europe, Asia, and Eurasia" it is because I view "Eurasia" as referring properly not to the continental land-mass, but to the "grass sea"; the tartar/siberian steppe. I speak strangely; largely in using archaic words and abandoned definitions. Comes of reading too much, I guess.)
As regards forged bolsters, I will repeat a thing I've said before; though they do give some added strength to a cutting blade with their soft thickness their main actual structural usefulness is in thrusting/stabbing, in which function they transfer the force to the tips of the handle-fibres, relieving wedge-like internal stress that will split your handle, and they are seen at much earlier dates (bronze age)and in more cultural contexts on spears and chisels than on swords and knives. My feeling is that they derive from spears and chisels, which is not to say the pieces they are found on all so derive, but only that feature. Applied bolsters (as on a yatagan) may likely derive from the early Western practice of attaching sword blades to hilts with a short wide tang rivetted to a wide guard.

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wong desa
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posted 11-20-2001 16:09     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes,reading too much is a fairly common sin,and one of which I also am guilty.

However,I`m an engineer by profession,who ,by the roll of the dice has become a pedlar of whatzits.I have no formal training in anthropology,ethnology,history or sociology,thus I am compelled to rely upon the recognised authorities in these fields when I seek answers that relate to these areas of expertise.
If I had studied in these subjects,perhaps I would be sufficiently confident to formulate my own theories and opinions.Were I older,perhaps I could lay claim to"experience",or "knowledge gained in the field"-I have noted that a lot of degrees seem to get handed out these days upon this basis.
However,lacking both the formal training and the qualification of age,I am compelled to adhere to the opinions of the recognised authorities,in order to avoid my opinions being dismissed as "uninformed".

Thus,when it comes to something like"parrallel development",I am obliged to adhere to what appears to be the generally accepted theory in this respect.

As you appear to have a greater depth of knowledge in this particular area than do I ,Tom,I shall most definitely heed your advice and treat the concept of "parrallel development" very carefully.

Your mention of the"published experts" would seem to indicate that either you,or someone you know is planning to publish an opposing theory.
I would be very interested to read it,when it becomes available.

Regarding bolsters.Tom,your argument is a good one,I understand and agree with everything you have said.
However,the wedung does not have a bolster,it has a baluster.
A bolster is the projecting shoulder of a knife or chisel which abuts upon the handle.
A baluster is a short,round pillar of varying diameters.

The nature of the baluster on the wedung is that it forms a substantial part of the handle,and its cross section is the same as the cross section of the wooden part of the handle,thus this baluster becomes a part of the handle.So ,if the wedung is used with the chopping action of an axe,the force of impact is taken by this metal part of the handle,which has been forged as a part of the blade.
I don`t know of anything, anywhere,that has this same design feature,except wedungs,berangs,and maybe those fancy old axes in the temple carvings.

But I have seen cleavers with hollow metal handles forged as a part of the blade.Same idea,applied in a slightly different way.

[This message has been edited by wong desa (edited 11-20-2001).]

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posted 11-20-2001 17:16     Click Here to See the Profile for Conogre   Click Here to Email Conogre     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wong, at the risk of sounding pompous or a braggert (never the first, rarely the second) at 22 I was fortunate enough to discover a species of fish unknown to science, and had a difficult time getting the "recognized authorities" to even consider the possibility. Two years later, I was the first person recorded to breed a speciaes of lizard in captivity previously considered impossible to even keep alive for any length of time.
My point is, a good eye and an intuitive intellect can occassionally disrupt accredited acedemia, and facts are not always facts, but rather sometimes just long standing errors that SHOULD have been questioned.
If I remember correctly, Alexander the Great wasn't all that old when he set out to conquer the world, lacking both age and experience.

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tom hyle
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posted 11-20-2001 21:00     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Arit" is also another name for the sickle-type things. And I've seen/heard them called "goloK", and "parang..."...this and that. Parang jengok? Jengok parang? Something like that is one of them. They often (not always)also have a long bolster/baluster, leading to the long ferule, though I would not think it would rest in the hand in use nor take the stress in quite the same way as Wong Desa has pointed out in Javanese wedungs. (btw, this seems a very interesting point and I have seen a very similar effect in possibly/probably cast-on brass on bonifacio hilts; many of those do not seem like ferules to me, and some seem integral to the guard, and what of flyssas; are those cast-on hilts? does the cast-on joint take up the stress as effectively as a truly integral swelling? as an iron on steel weld? I doubt it, but a similar concept; essentially that of what current N. American cutlers call the "integral hilt".) Point? These sickle-axe dealies may be a related form, particularly as I am given to understand that both they and wedungs are ritual blades.
A cooking down of my point concerning parallel evolution might be that parallel evolution of forms due to universality of human intellect and needs is a real thing, but where cultural diffusion can be reasonably inferred it is more likely the dominant occurance, and two reasonable factors are coincidence or near coincidence of time and geography (ie. a direct relation between bardiches and Loch Haber axes is more likely than a direct relation between either and bronze age Egyptian broad-axes or between flyssa and wedung, though both those may taste faintly of copis.). Man! that's as simply as I could bring myself to say that, but whew!

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posted 11-21-2001 10:50     Click Here to See the Profile for Mick   Click Here to Email Mick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like I got a discussion going for a change.

To bad the individual who first put the large clip on the Javanese Wedung didn't get a patent on the idea. He invented the first paddle holster. Look at the royalties he is missing out on.

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wong desa
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posted 11-21-2001 16:13     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Conogre,it is a matter of eternal regret for me that I was not born lucky,or handsome,or rich,or with a high level of aggression,or with more than average intelligence.I only possess one positive attribute that I can identify:I have the ability to work hard.

This means that unlike Alexander I`m probably never going to conquer anything,unlike Bill Gates,I`m never going to get rich,and unlike you,I`m never going to make any important discoveries.

Unfortunately the rules of the game are written by those faceless people known as "The Recognised Authorities",so if one wishes to play the game,and be taken seriously,one is obliged to play by the rules that they have written.

Perhaps the principal rule is :"Quote the Recognised Authorities".
Fail to do this and they disqualify you.

Its not fair,maybe its not even logical,but my experience to date indicates that this is the way the world works.

Now,in a field where I have some base of knowledge to fall back on,where,in effect ,I have 'paid my dues' I`m quite prepared to debate a point.However,in other areas,where I only know what my limited reading has revealed to me,I am very reluctant to engage in such debate.I see this as the difference between an"informed opinion",and an"uninformed opinion".

An arit ,or sabit,may sometimes be called a celurit,never a pedang or a golok.In its most usual form it is a reaping hook,or sickle,and in rural ares of Jawa and Madura you seldom see a farmer without one dangling from his hand,or stuck into the back of his belt.There are variations that can be used for other purposes,such as splitting wood,and both arits and celurits have a weapon form.
There are probably more murders and serious injuries able to be attributed to arits and celurits than to all the keris and pedangs and tombaks put together.

Celurits were what were mostly used by the Javanese and Madurese in East Jawa ,in the 1960`s to murder suspected communists,and people of Chinese descent.This pogrom was the reason my parents moved to Solo.

I`ve seen millions of them,but like anything that is extremely common,I`ve never taken a real lot of notice of them.What I think of when I try to call up an image is a pretty crude tool with a stick tang and a big brass ferrule.

I have handled one celurit from Madura which had been made as a weapon,rather than a tool,and it had a forged socket to accept the handle.

I`ve also got a vague memory of a good quality arit that I`ve seen somewhere that had been made with pamor,instead of just plain steel,and I think that might have had some sort of bolster,but my memory is not clear,and I cannot remember where I saw it.

But one thing is very clear in my memory,and that is that arits are farmers tools,mostly as rough as guts,and made to a price,not a standard.To my knowledge they have no ceremonial or ritual form.

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posted 11-21-2001 17:25     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well put Iwan.
Thank you for the clarification.

Draeger's book The Weapons and Fighting Arts of Indonesia has pictures of the Arit used in combat forms.

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tom hyle
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posted 11-21-2001 19:37     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whatever the things I am talking about are properly called, they have round or octagon-section bolsters, some quite long. They are fairly heavy blades, perhaps suitable as billhooks; way overkill for a sickle. They have etched, folded blades, usually fully edged on the inside curve, about half length cutting edge on the outside curve, to the end of which bevel there is an abruption, sometimes marked by a projecting feature. They have a long, and on ones I've seen, iron, ferule of the same cross section as the bolster which is usually fitted and matched so well as to seem a welded on/intergal socket with a decorative line around it at first glance. They tend to be very graceful to the eye. They were discussed on this forum about the time I started posting; I'll see if I can find the thread.
Wong Desa, I do not believe that hard work is your only virtue, as it strikes me you also have excellent manners, which I admire greatly, and a great deal of information, which, perhaps, came from the hard work.
I find an insiderishness to institutionally accepted experts in pretty much all fields that sometimes keeps their minds closed, not just to information, but more importantly, to ways of viewing the information. This causes me to be disinterested in beating myself up by trying to convince them of anything. I say what I believe & see. I offer what evidence and thoughts I have immediately available to make myself as clear as I can, but frankly I view myself as planting or putting forth an idea; it is more the responsibility of the reader to convince himself for or against it, as, meaning no offense, I've learned to attach little importance to convincing others to agree with me. Also, as I have no really esoteric information that I know of; just my own point of view; the information I have is out there; it's around, as much in flea market "junk" and blacksmithing books and old chronicles (any part of which disagrees with accepted current academic dogma will very often and often wrongly be rejected out of hand as confabulation or ignorance on the part of the author, who was only there, you know, but never mind that "we know all.") as in treatises on antiques and anthropology. I know that's very odd, and I don't know if I can explain it further nor if this is an appropriate place to (is there a reclining couch around here for the psychotherpy? ) I am a strange thinker. I'll try to leave it at that.

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wong desa
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posted 11-22-2001 04:13     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think that perhaps I understand where you are coming from Tom.
I`ve heard somebody else, for whom I have immense respect ,espouse similar sentiments.
However,regretably,the real world does not make a lot of allowance for,or take a lot of notice of,the non- conventional thinkers who are not a part of the establishment.
Its tough,I know,but that`s the way things work.

I believe that the photos of the implements to which you refer were posted by Dave Henkel.
I had a look for the thread myself,but was unable to find it.
My memory of those particular implements is that they were very large,handles carried neatly fitted ferrules,nobody really knew what they were,or were for,but it appeared as if they had a dress/ritual/court/ceremonial function.
If these are the things to which you refer,I don`t believe I can see much of a relationship to our wedungs.

Thank you for your kind remarks.

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posted 11-22-2001 09:23     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian   Click Here to Email Ian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the thread in question related to parang patani and can be found here:


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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 11-22-2001 14:55     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the assistance,Ian.
Yeah,some of those things definitely do have a baluster ,like a wedung,don`t they?
Totally different blade shape,but the heavy forged baluster running into the blade is there all right.
It doesn`t seem to form an actual part of the handle,as with the wedung,but unless we knew how,and for what these things were used,who can say?

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tom hyle
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posted 11-22-2001 17:41     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yep, that's them. Whatever they are I really enjoy them; never owned one, though, nor gotten to examine one for more than a few minutes.
I realized a thing about saying they are more like bill hooks than sickles; I'm making a perhaps overly fine distinction in my native language there. A bill hook is a heavy sickle on a stick, suitable for saplings, tree limbs, heavy cane, etc. Some people call it a brush hook, some people call it a kaiser blade, whether anyone calls it a slingblade I don't know.
Interestingly enough, European and euro-American bill-hooks can have almost any attachment to the handle (flat tang, stick/stalk tang, in-line socket, one or two outrigger sockets behind the blade, which may be welded over the back edge, folded from it, pinched into it, or attached with rivets or bolts). Blades can be single or double edged, and are straight with a hooked tip or circularly concave-edged. I'm sure these tend to indicate variation in geopgraphic origin, date of manufacture, and intended use, and maybe even "proper" antiquated name. (flat tangs I've seen only on light, thin, new double-edged ones for machete-like purposes; stalk tang only on late medieval/post-medieval weapons with pole-arm handles (6 to 8 feet); "Kaiser blades" with thick, heavy, straight/hook-tipped axelike blades with two outrigger sockets mounted on a dogleg axehandle is all we used to use in my native county. I'm leaving short-handled fascine knives out of this, though maybe I shouldn't.) Looking at the large variation in this which is considered a single form with its several names really has me thinking....The name "kaiser blade" was linked to a supposedly German origin for the type where I'm from. A lot of "Dutch" (Amish, Mennonites, and others) were there.

[This message has been edited by tom hyle (edited 11-22-2001).]

[This message has been edited by tom hyle (edited 11-23-2001).]

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