Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Majapahit Keris (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=25034)

A. G. Maisey 10th June 2019 12:21 PM

Majapahit Keris
 
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One of the perennially popular topics for discussion is the Mojo Keris. I might be wrong, but over the years I have formed the opinion that everybody who collects keris wants a genuine Majapahit Keris. The Real Deal. Something that was made in the old Majapahit kingdom, during the Majapahit era.

Well for your enjoyment, herewith a photo of statue in an East Javanese museum that is located within the bounds of the old central area of Majapahit. This museum specialises in the display and preservation of Majapahit relics.

The statue was produced during the Majapahit era, in Majapahit.

There is no real agreement on who the statue represents, some authorities claim Minak Jinggo, others Garuda, or Maha Kala, or even Bhairawa. Who it might be is perhaps not really important, but if we want to get an understanding of what the keris looked like during and before the Majapahit era, this statue can demonstrate that.

Anthony G. 10th June 2019 02:02 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
One of the perennially popular topics for discussion is the Mojo Keris. I might be wrong, but over the years I have formed the opinion that everybody who collects keris wants a genuine Majapahit Keris. The Real Deal. Something that was made in the old Majapahit kingdom, during the Majapahit era.

Well for your enjoyment, herewith a photo of statue in an East Javanese museum that is located within the bounds of the old central area of Majapahit. This museum specialises in the display and preservation of Majapahit relics.

The statue was produced during the Majapahit era, in Majapahit.

There is no real agreement on who the statue represents, some authorities claim Minak Jinggo, others Garuda, or Maha Kala, or even Bhairawa. Who it might be is perhaps not really important, but if we want to get an understanding of what the keris looked like during and before the Majapahit era, this statue can demonstrate that.


interesting.

Jean 10th June 2019 08:40 PM

Very interesting indeed, the kris is still in "leaf" style (short & broad), not a modern kris. From early Majapahit period?
Regards

A. G. Maisey 10th June 2019 08:55 PM

I don't know Jean, Mojo, certainly, exactly what time, no idea.

Yes, Anthony, interesting, and it becomes even more interesting when we trace the form of the keris through bas reliefs from the Central Jawa (Early Classical) period to what we can see in the reliefs and statuary at Candi Sukuh (+/- 1437).

There is much to consider in keris development.

kai 11th June 2019 12:13 AM

Hello Alan,

Quote:
I might be wrong, but over the years I have formed the opinion that everybody who collects keris wants a genuine Majapahit Keris. The Real Deal. Something that was made in the old Majapahit kingdom, during the Majapahit era.

Guilty as charged. Any example on which this stone-carving might be based would be perfectly fine with me... ;)

Although the pommel is a bit damaged, the (reverse) grip is obviously the old style and apparently would not lend itself to any kind of pistol grip for optimized stabbing.

Regards,
Kai

kai 11th June 2019 12:26 AM

Hello Jean,

Quote:
Very interesting indeed, the kris is still in "leaf" style (short & broad), not a modern kris. From early Majapahit period?

Mojo was a fairly short period (at least compared to the whole classical period during which this development took place).

Considering the pretty scant evidence, I'd expect that this earlier style was still utilized during a notable part of the late classical period. However, even if this sculpture could be reliably dated to the late Mojo period, it might be just a reference to an already obsolete style.

Regards,
Kai

Anthony G. 11th June 2019 04:52 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
I don't know Jean, Mojo, certainly, exactly what time, no idea.

Yes, Anthony, interesting, and it becomes even more interesting when we trace the form of the keris through bas reliefs from the Central Jawa (Early Classical) period to what we can see in the reliefs and statuary at Candi Sukuh (+/- 1437).

There is much to consider in keris development.



Honestly speaking, I am still confuse about how Majapahit keris looks like, till now. I always have impression it has less pamor, dark iron etc. Below link is just a sample.

https://pusakadunia.com/keris-majap...rtuah-ampuh_10/

A. G. Maisey 11th June 2019 11:41 AM

Anthony, there is a very great difference between keris that some people might classify as Tangguh Majapahit, and the keris that evidence seems to indicate actually might have existed during the Majapahit period.

Tangguh ngak sungguh.

A. G. Maisey 11th June 2019 11:48 AM

Kai, it seems to be generally agreed between those people who are supposedly expert in these matters, that where material objects exist in Javanese sculpture from these early periods, those material objects do in fact reflect what was in use in the community at that time.

As to whether or not this sculpture actually did originate during the Mojo era, it is as I have already said:-

it is in a museum that exists for no other reason than to preserve and display Majapahit artifacts

it was found in the central area of Majapahit, and noted scholars consider that it is Majapahit work.

I might be a little bit naive and perhaps too trusting, but all of that is good enough for me.

kai 12th June 2019 05:37 PM

Quote:
Kai, it seems to be generally agreed between those people who are supposedly expert in these matters, that where material objects exist in Javanese sculpture from these early periods, those material objects do in fact reflect what was in use in the community at that time.

Hello Alan,

Yes, agreed. It stands to reason that when a keraton introduces any new style everyone needs to follow suit immediately. I’m less convinced we can extend such a general assumption to rare or even singular iconography though.

Anyway, I was thinking of only minor time lags like a generation or two (i.e. within the living memory of the artisan). There isn’t any evidence that the ancestral dagger much less the keris buda ever became culturally obsolete during the late Majapahit era, is it?

Regards,
Kai

kai 12th June 2019 05:47 PM

Hello Anthony,

Quote:
Honestly speaking, I am still confuse about how Majapahit keris looks like, till now.

Most of us are wondering, I guess.

From statues and bas relief, it stands to reason that the keris buda (and possibly its ancestor, too) was at least well-known and very likely in active use by the ruling elite throughout (almost all of) the classical period. It’s the “modern“ keris which seems to make a really late appearance based on the extremely scant evidence.


Quote:
I always have impression it has less pamor, dark iron etc.

These features most commonly referred to in (pseudo) tangguh probably are mainly due to extensive erosion of the keris blade and subsequent exposure of the slorok.

As Alan already mentioned, it hasn’t been established whether blades classified as Majapahit really originate from that era. Even if partly true, each member of nobility must have hoarded thousands of keris to account for the number of examples nowadays claimed to be Mojo... ;)

The earliest well-preserved modern keris are documented from European collections since the later 16th century. It seems quite possible that a small fraction of these may date to the late Mojo period. However, this could only be substantiated by destructive sampling and C14 analysis; any recycling of old steel might confound the results though.


Quote:
Below link is just a sample

Considering the ambiguous blumbangan, I‘d suggest that this is not the best candidate for a textbook example unless one subscribes to a very neoliberal tangguh approach... ;)

Regards,
Kai

A. G. Maisey 12th June 2019 07:57 PM

Kai, I'm a very simple man, and I am sufficiently unfortunate to recognise my very distinct limitations.

One of those limitations is that I cannot be expert in all things that may be of interest to me. Thus, when it comes to some things I do not try to be an expert and to generate my own opinions, I simply turn to the people who are widely recognised as experts and I rely on those people.

So, if a whole flock of people regarded as expert in the interpretation and understanding of early Javanese sculpture are of the opinion that something is so, I do not feel that my own knowledge, even though I have used a considerable part of my life in the study of Javanese classical sculpture, is of sufficient weight to counter that group opinion.

There is a clear trail of keris development recorded in Javanese classical sculpture that stretches all the way from Candi Loro Jonggrang in Central Jawa, across into a swath of candis and statuary in East Jawa, and back to Candi Sukuh in Central Jawa.

Perhaps a good starting point to begin to understand what was happening during this period of development might be a reading of Pigeaud's "Java in the 14th Century". This work does not by any means give the whole story, but it is, I feel, an essential foundation stone upon which to build the necessary structure of knowledge. I was in my late thirties when I discovered it, and I wish I had known of it 20 years earlier, it would have helped to prevent me going down a lot of dead ends.

A. G. Maisey 12th June 2019 08:11 PM

In respect of your Post #11 Kai.

The Modern Keris, that is, the keris as we presently understand a keris to be, is the result of ongoing development spread over 1000 years or more, but what I personally find more interesting is the development of the understanding that surrounds the keris.

In the context of the keris, the word "tangguh" can be understood to mean "opinion". The Surakarta Tangguh System is a system of classification that is subject to a great deal of misunderstanding and is tolerant of the right of everybody to hold their own opinion. Of course, as with most things, the opinions of some people have more weight than the opinions of others.

kai 13th June 2019 05:58 AM

Hello Alan,

I‘m not arguing against any established evidence, am I? I‘m perfectly fine with opinions of respected authorities, too. No revolutionary ideas to put forth yet. I was just trying to add to the train of thought.

History of mankind is full of errors though. In my experience it does help to explore any assumptions, especially implicit or hidden ones.

Regards,
Kai

A. G. Maisey 13th June 2019 06:43 AM

I do not see your posts as arguing against anything Kai, and all I have done is to attempt to dispel any doubts you may have. Exploration of ideas is sometimes worthwhile, but we all need to have adequate background in the area we are exploring, if we do not it is very easy to get lost.

As for errors, well, never forget Sam Arbesman and his half life of facts. I love that idea. But though I do love the idea, facts, be they shown eventually to be truthful or not, are probably a good place to start anything.

Put another way, if we wish to question something that is currently accepted by those who are generally thought of as expert in something, we need to produce either evidence or logical argument to demonstrate that the present beliefs are ill founded. We cannot just run around throwing red herrings into the air and hoping that they do not stink when they land.

A. G. Maisey 13th June 2019 09:34 PM

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Here is another Mojo keris, this one is at Candi Penataran (Panataran), near Blitar. Penataran is mentioned in the Nagarakertagama as Candi Palah. Candi Panataran was built (approximately) between 1350 & 1389.

This is one of my favourite Majapahit keris representations.

These representations are not rare, nor are they singular Kai, they're all over the place. True, they need to be searched for, but if you're prepared to put the time in, they can be found.

I've spent a total of around two weeks at Penataran over the years, I've visited Candi Sukuh more times than I remember, probably about 50 to 60 visits, usually only of 2 or 3 hours, but that time builds up. Prambanan (Loro Jonggrang) I've spent a total of 5 or 6 weeks on, but during my early visits, the terraces were not open for viewing. Most other Candis I've only visited once or twice, and only for a day or so --- except for Borobudur, I've spent a lot of time there, but it is Buddhist, no keris nor keris-like daggers there. There is a lot of statuary that has been shifted from its original location and is now in museums --- these examples are not always easy to find.

This one is interesting because it shows the rapier grip, which means that it does not have the heavy Indian style pommel that most of these early keris have.

We call these weapons "keris" now, and they might have been called "keris" back then too, but perhaps only in generic terms, there are other candidates for an accurate name when Old Javanese language was in use, names like "tuhuk" & "tewek", which could well refer to the same weapon, but be a reference to mode of use.

A. G. Maisey 13th June 2019 09:46 PM

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Here is another interesting bas-relief from Penataran that shows a scabbard style that was in use in Jawa during the 1300's.

Remind you of anything?

kai 14th June 2019 05:08 AM

Yep, would be considered Bugis(-influenced) nowadays...

kai 14th June 2019 05:53 AM

Hello Alan,

Quote:
This is one of my favourite Majapahit keris representations.

These representations are not rare, nor are they singular Kai, they're all over the place. True, they need to be searched for, but if you're prepared to put the time in, they can be found.

Yes, this is a gem! I‘ve also spent considerable time at temples from the classical period in Asia (as well as musea). It’s a shame that many sites were heavily looted with many pieces ending up in inaccessible private collections.

I agree that a number of representations of the keris buda are extant (I realize that this modern term is a bit unfortunate in the light of its not unexpected absence at Borobudur). Even more common are representations of its ancestor and in quite a few cases it is not really possible to verify whether the blade may already conform with our current definition of a keris blade (which at that period likely was not a distinct style but rather variations of a theme).

What really is extremely scant are representations of any modern keris though! The famous forge scene at Candi Sukuh may well show one example; its details are not really clear though (maybe an issue of craftsmanship?) and in my humble opinion it is not possible to utilize this as a proof of a fully developed modern keris. It’s very important evidence but may also show an intermediate style rather than a full-blown modern keris.

Regards,
Kai

A. G. Maisey 14th June 2019 06:18 AM

Kai, the term "Keris Buda" has very little to do with Buddhism, it refers to the period:- Javanese people use the term "Buda" to mean the old times, before Islam. In fact, although we talk about Jawa Hindu, the fact is that Agama Jawa Hindu is actually Agama Hindu-Buda.

At Candi Sukuh there are two keris in the famous Sukuh Stele, one on the wall, one on the anvil, both are a Keris Buda form, not Modern Keris. In fact, the forge scene has nothing at all to do with forging, it needs to be understood in the broader context of Sukuh itself.

You mention the "ancestor" of the Keris Buda Kai, and that it is even more common than the KB. I must be missing something here, because although I do have a small collection of KB's, and I have sold others, I have never had the opportunity to purchase the type of early dagger that does not have the gandhik.In fact, I have never seen this style of dagger in Jawa.

Yes, you will not find any representations of what we can call a "Modern Keris" in any Hindu-Buda period bas-reliefs or statuary. None. We can find longer examples of keris-like weapons, and maybe I could be convinced that these belong in the keris basket, but in fact they are more like Balinese ligan or Keris-Pedang.

Jean 14th June 2019 07:25 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Yes, you will not find any representations of what we can call a "Modern Keris" in any Hindu-Buda period bas-reliefs or statuary. None. We can find longer examples of keris-like weapons, and maybe I could be convinced that these belong in the keris basket, but in fact they are more like Balinese ligan or Keris-Pedang.


This question puzzles me since I started developing my interest for the Kris. Does it mean that the well-accepted assertion that the modern kris developped during the Majapahit period is wrong in the same way as the link between the kris Sajen and the Majapahit period, and the concept of tangguh Majapahit? Then it would mean that the modern kris was actually developped during the early Islamic period in Java as modern krisses were brought to Europe during the late 16th century. :confused:
Regards

A. G. Maisey 14th June 2019 09:41 PM

Jean, a few years ago I published an article titled "An Interpretation of the Pre-Islamic Javanese Keris". It received a lot of favourable comment, especially in respect of the photographs. In fact it received some very unexpected favourable comment from people whom I would not have thought would ever read something with "keris" in the title. However, I most sincerely doubt if many people truly understood what I wrote --- except perhaps the very few , maybe no more than 2 or 3, who are totally outside the area of keris interest. This lack of understanding does not really surprise me, it took me more than 30 years to understand information contained in this article, information I had possessed since about 1980.

In this article I have put forward an hypothesis that addresses your question.

If I can ever get around to putting my notes in order, another article will be written that addresses what happened after Islam gained domination of the political structure of Jawa. It seems very unlikely that this future article will be understood any better than my previous one.

In fact Jean, the answers to almost everything that we wish to understand about keris are already available, its just that people try to learn about the keris by "researching" the keris. They are going in the wrong direction.

kai 14th June 2019 10:36 PM

Here's the link to the online version of Alan's paper:
http://kerisattosanaji.com/INTERPRETATIONPAGE1.html

And an earlier paper also pertinent to the current topic:
http://www.vikingsword.com/ethsword/maisey/index.html

A. G. Maisey 14th June 2019 11:58 PM

Thanks Kai.

The "Origin" paper is out of date and needs to be re-written. I no longer hold all opinions expressed in this paper. I probably will not re-write it, but incorporate the core of this paper into a much expanded new paper.

"Interpretation" I think I can still 99% agree with.

Jean 15th June 2019 07:59 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey

In this article I have put forward an hypothesis that addresses your question.



Thank you Alan. In this article you consider the krisses shown at the Candi Sukuh as "modern keris" (I personally question it) so it contradicts a bit your post # 20 in which you say that "there are no representation of what we call a "modern keris" in any Hindu-Buda bas reliefs or statuary"?
Regards

A. G. Maisey 15th June 2019 09:29 AM

No Jean, I do not consider the kerises (plural) at Sukuh to be "Modern Kerises", I consider one, or perhaps two of the keris at, or associated with Sukuh to be "Modern Keris". The two keris in the stele are certainly not Modern Keris. In the wayang bas reliefs there are another couple of keris that may or may not be "Modern Keris", however the keris shown on the penis at Image 14 in "Interpretation" together with the text :-

"Consecration of the Holy Gangga Sudhi --- the sign of masculinity is the essence of the world"

does perhaps qualify as a modern form.

There is a similar elongated keris in a rather concealed position at Sukuh, I'll see if I can find an photo.

I think I must refer to these as "Modern Keris", they are certainly not KB's, nor are they swords, but they do not closely resemble a keris from the last couple of hundred years. So if we were to go looking for a "Modern Keris" that would fit neatly into an early 20th century pakem, well, we will not find one, nor anything like one, but if we were to go looking for a keris form that was elongated, we would find one.

As I wrote in an earlier post, maybe I could be convinced that these longer keris-like weapons were keris, but in fact they are more like Balinese ligan or keris pedang.

Now, if we were be able to take one of these Sukuh elongated keris and ask a Balinese gentleman exactly what it was, I am certain that he would call it a "keris pedang". But when I wrote that these were Modern Keris at Candi Sukuh, it seems I was convinced at that time that they were indeed "Modern Keris" --- but perhaps "Pre-Modern Keris" might be more accurate,or maybe "Transitional Modern Keris" --- I could play with words all day and eventually I'd come up with something that would make most people happy.

In any case, it seems that if I ever do a re-write of "Interpretation" I'd better be more careful with my choice of words, and twist things around a bit.

But if we get away from pedantic interpretations, something I tend to overly given to, and I just say something like this:-

"Yes, you will not find any representations of what we are accustomed to regard as a keris today in any Hindu-Buda period bas-reliefs or statuary. None."

I think I might have been the first to coin the term "Modern Keris", but I was certainly derelict in failing to define exactly what I personally regard as a "Modern Keris". Please forgive my failure in this respect.

Jean 15th June 2019 12:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey

But when I wrote that these were Modern Keris at Candi Sukuh, it seems I was convinced at that time that they were indeed "Modern Keris" --- but perhaps "Pre-Modern Keris" might be more accurate,or maybe "Transitional Modern Keris" --- I could play with words all day and eventually I'd come up with something that would make most people happy.
I think I might have been the first to coin the term "Modern Keris", but I was certainly derelict in failing to define exactly what I personally regard as a "Modern Keris".


Thank you Alan. To me and probably many other kris collectors, the modern kris is a generally assymetrical dagger (with exceptions like dapur sepang), generally with a pamor pattern (with exceptions like pamor kelengan), and a slender shape (straight or wavy) unlike the early krisses shown on the 14th century carvings and bas-reliefs.
Regards

A. G. Maisey 16th June 2019 03:50 AM

Yes Jean, I think you're probably right with what you think of, and perhaps most other collectors think of as a Modern Keris. But it is not so easy for me. Since you have drawn my attention to this deficiency of mine I've been turning this question over in my head, and I have come to the realisation that I think about this question of "Modern Keris" in a way that is possibly quite different to the way in which you, and perhaps most other collectors do.

My thinking gets back to the perennial question of defining exactly what a keris is. I think that perhaps the first time I saw the word "asymmetric" used to describe a keris was in Garrett Solyom's definition of a keris. It is obvious that what Garrett was looking at in Solo in the late 1960's and early 1970's were a whole heap of artistically fashioned daggers that were not symmetrical in form, so for Garrett, at that time, the use of "asymmetric" as a descriptor was perfectly reasonable, particularly so as Garrett was addressing these daggers from an academic base, not from a base that incorporated many years of collecting and keris study from outside of Jawa, nor from a historic base. He came up with a very good definition of what a keris was in the world of 1970. In fact, I myself have used similar definitions to Garrett's, I might even have quoted him on occasion, and I've been happy to go that route at that time.

But if I think about the way in which I now look at keris, I realise that for quite a long time I have been thinking of keris in a different way to the way in which Garrett thought of keris in the 1970's, and probably in a different way to the way in which most people think of a keris now.

In the Nagarakertagama we find this passage:-


"Exterminated were the animals, thrusted, lanced, cut, krissed, dying without a gasp”

The word "keris" does not appear in this passage, the word used is "kinris", which is from the word "kris" with the infix "in"> "kinris", which turns it into a verb.

So the passage is using a verb, based upon the word "kris", indicating that the animals were killed with krisses --- but were they? Iris is to cut, so in Old Javanese a keris was a "cutter", maybe the word is used to mean that the animals were killed with a variety of weapons that could cut. Maybe a keris (kris) in Old Javanese was generic and the individual weapons that fell under the umbrella of kris were in fact things like tuhuk and tewek that were defined by method use.

The actual Old Javanese used is:-

"--- Tinumbak, Inirás, kinris, pjah tanpagáp---"

So our romanised translation is subject to a bit of interpretation.

This Nagarakertagama passage has influenced my thinking about keris quite a lot, and I realise that in fact, when I think of "Old Keris" and "Modern Keris", I think of "Old Keris" as "Keris Buda", which in Javanese thought equates to "Keris from the Buda Era" = "Old Keris", and "Modern Keris" as keris that came after Keris Buda dropped out of general usage.

I do not really think about whether or not a keris must have a gandhik, or whether it must be asymmetric, I think about what it is not, rather than features that define what it is, so, if it is not a pedang, or a tombak, or a bendo or a golok, or something else similar, it is a keris, as long as it looks vaguely like a keris.

I probably want it to be able to be used as a keris is used, so in a way, the way in which I think about weapon definition probably reflects the way in which weapon names were expressed in Old Javanese, rather than the way in which 21st century and other recent collectors of these weapons think of weapon names.

But then again, if I say, "the way in which a keris was used", exactly how much do we know about the way in which a keris was used? Balinese keris were not used in the same way that we presently believe Javanese keris were used, and the way in which we believe Javanese keris were used has been heavily influenced by the way that keris are held in some dance performances.

There was a transitional period, and from this period we can find keris that have the square tang and metuk of the Keris Buda, as well as keris that have a tang that is flat on two sides, as well as keris that have the blade of a straight Modern Keris, but a symmetric gonjo.

In Bali, we find 16th & 17th century keris that that have the same features as these longer transitional blades that we see in bas-reliefs and statuary, some of these Balinese keris will have symmetric gonjos, some will have asymmetric gonjos, they all get referred to as keris, but when we get into sub classifications they get named as "keris pedang".

Possibly I should have been more careful in phrasing my reference to "Modern Keris" appearing at Candi Sukuh, but to have done so, and make sense, I believe it would have added at least several hundred words to the text, words that were not material to the objective of the article. I do not remember if I considered this at the time, or if was happy enough to let the reference run as "Modern Keris", but if I were to write "Interpretation" again, tomorrow, I would think about the advisability of referring to a transitional keris as Modern Keris. I don't really know at the moment which way my thoughts would run at the time.

So Jean, you see, it is pretty easy for you to understand exactly what a keris is, exactly what a Modern Keris is, and the difference between them.

For me it is vastly more difficult, and when I factor in the many more influences in development, it becomes even more difficult again.

Gustav 17th June 2019 10:50 AM

4 Attachment(s)
There are two details which visually caught my attention when I look at the picture of the initial post by Alan -

1) one feature of the dagger resembles the shape of the somewhat strange object known as the Keris of Knaud, I mean the concave shaping of the blade above Gandhik or where Gandhik should be.


It is the question if that feature is a damage or was intended.


2) the scroll (?) within the triangular symbol on the blade resembles the scroll found inside the 2 big Tumpal pointing upwards on the left and right side, and the 4 small Tumpal pointing downwards on 16th and 17th century figural hilts.

Of course it could be Bintulu (the image is just too small). Something we see also on Gandhik on later Keris.

Gustav 17th June 2019 11:46 AM

6 Attachment(s)
And speaking about strange and old KLO - there is a hardly known early Keris in Stuttgart. 1653 it came in to the Wuerttembergische Kunstkammer, but originally it belonged to the Johann Jacob Guth von Sulz collection. Johann Jacob Guth von Sulz lived 1543 till 1616, so there is some possibility it was collected already in the 16th century.

The sheath and hilt were supposedly made in Transylvania.

Blade is heavily reshaped, but there are some interesting and peculiar features on Sorsoran. The total length with hilt is 43 cm, so the blade could be 30 - 33 cm.


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