Join Date: Jan 2005
The major investigation of the keris:nickel relationship was carried out by Bennet Bronson. The results of this investigation were published in the scientific journal "Historical Metallurgy" Vol.21, No.1, 1987. The title of Bronson`s paper is "Terrestial and meteoritic nickel in the Indonesian Kris".
This paper is far too comprehensive to be precised here, however it should be noted that both Raffles in 1817, and Crawfurd in 1820 and 1856 say nothing of meteoritic material being used as pamor. Crawfurd states that pamor was imported into Java from other islands.By 1839 Newbold was able to state that pamor came not only from Sulawesi, but also from Java, but Newbold did not claim meteoritic origin for this Javanese pamor.By 1844 De Luynes had shown that some keris blades contained nickel. In an 1867 article published by Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indie an analysis on iron and nickel content of the Prambanan meteor is given and it is referred to as "pamor-stone". In 1840, a Dutch military intelligence officer reported that pamor was produced in the Bugis kingdom of Celebes (Sulawesi).
This pamor material from Sulawesi is known as "pamor Luwu".
In the early 1900`s Groneman indicates that the use of pamor Luwu was still widespread in the Archipelago , a survey showing that it was used by keris makers in nine centres on six different islands. Groneman was the European who was responsible for introducing Javanese keris makers to European nickel.
A number of analyses of keris blades have been carried out by various metallugists, probably the most extensive testing of keris has been performed by Prof. Jerzy Piaskowski of Poland and his tests extend to the analysis of very old Javanese blades.Only a small part of Prof. Piaskowski`s results have been published, however, from what has been published we can learn that the white metal that produces the pamor effect in early Javanese blades is in fact iron with a high phosporus content.No nickel is present in these blades.
The keris has a very long history. Pre-modern keris seem to date back to the early Javanese classical period, pre 1000AD in Central Java, and the modern keris (ie, the keris in the form that we now recognise) has existed since at least the 15th century. During this time it has developed from a weapon to a cultural icon and cosmic symbol, and this development can be traced by the references made to the keris in Javanese literature.
In the literature of Majapahit the keris is mentioned predominantly as a weapon. The nationalistic resurgence of Javanese identity which occurred during the Kartasura era (Ricklefs) began a movement which tended to stress Javanese values as an active counterbalance to the increasing European influence of the Dutch, and dating from this time we find the keris accorded an increasing importance in Javanese society. However, even though the keris had now moved away from being merely a weapon, in the "Silsilah Keturunan Empu Tanah Jawa" (History of the Descent of the Empus of the Land of Jawa) by Pangeran Wijil of Kartasura (circa 1740), no mention is made of meteoritic material being an important component of the keris .
The Kitab Centini (Kitab Suluk Tambanglaras), a major Javanese literary work of the 18th century and taking the form of an informal encyclopaedia of Java, has a number of mentions of keris , however, nowhere in Centini is there mention of meteoritic material being used in the keris. There is no mention of any connection to the heavens.
This is not surprising, because Buchwald`s catalogue of known iron meteorites lists only two from anywhere in Indonesia:- a small one that fell near Rembang in north Java, and the Prambanan meteorite.
In summary, the evidence provided by analysis of actual keris, by Javanese literary sources, and by historical European reports of Javanese material culture all point towards there being no connection between the keris and meteoritic material prior to the 19th century.
I urge those with an interest in this subject to obtain Bronson`s paper and read it.