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Old 6th February 2005, 03:23 PM   #1
Jens Nordlunde
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Default Meteoric iron used for keris's vs. for Indian weapons

I have started to wonder a bit about how many kerise’s have been made out of meteoric iron.
It is fairly often mentioned, that some are, or could have been made of this iron, but where these kerise’s were made and used, there is mostly little land, but a lot of water for the meteor to disappear into.
When you go to India you very seldom hear about meteoric iron, although they have a lot of land and little water. The only place where I can remember to have seen meteoric iron mentioned is here:
Arms and Jewellery of the Indian Mughuls, Lahor 1947, written by Abdul Aziz.
In the book he tells about Shah Jahangir, and about a falling meteor. The meteor fell around 10 April 1621 close to a village called Jalandhar. The meteor was dug up and presented to Shah Jahangir:
I ordered Master (Ustad) Daud to make a sword, a dagger and a knife out of it, and bring them to me. He represented that it would not stand below the hammer, and fell too pieces. I told him in that case to mix it with other iron and make use of it. As I had told him, he mixed three parts of lightening-iron and one of other iron, and having made two swords, one dagger, and one knife, brought them to me. From the mixing of other iron he had brought out its quality (watering). According to the manner of the excellent swords of Yaman and [the swords of] the South, it could be bent, and became straight again. I ordered him to test it in my presence. It cut very well, equal to true swords. I called one the Shamshir-I-qati (keen sword) and the other Barq-sirisht (lightening-natured).
Can anyone explain to me, why we so relative often hear about meteoric iron in connection with kerise’s, but not with Indian weapons?
Jens
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Old 6th February 2005, 04:03 PM   #2
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Hello!
Being complete rookie on krises, I think that answer is easy. It is because there are ralative legends and magic around krises made with meteoric iron, and I didn't hear any of them about Indian weapons. When you mix up legends and magic with attractive weapon = very popular story and weapon - it's just a thought from European view, lets wait what forum "krises sindicate" (still growing stronger I think) will tell us about it
Best regards

PS. And by the way: it's just a second hand information, but what I heard there fall the meteor in 18th century on Java, so that's why meteoric iron was popular for some time. And it was often replaced with nickel, wasn't it ?

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Old 6th February 2005, 04:47 PM   #3
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As far as i know there is only one recorded meteor fall in Jawa, the Prambanan meteor, in, i believe, 1749. The remains of this meteor are still to be seen at the kraton in Surakarta .Special court keris were definitely made from this meteor. How many i could not say. I don't believe this began until the very end of that century. I would be suspect of anyone who claimed to have a keris of meteroric pamor made before this time. I would also be suspect of any claims made for any keris to meteoric pamor, simply because i don't think that many were made. But they certainly do exist. However, the ideas that spread that this was the original form of pamor in early keris has absolutely no evidence to support it. Somewhere along the lines, probably thanks to some European who got the wrong idea, i was spread about that all keris were made this way. Groneman, apparently enamored with the higher nickle content of this pamor after seeing court pieces made with it, imported pure nickle to the area for pamor use in 1910, but the results were not the same. How to identify this pamor has long been a matter of debate and we have talked about it here before so you might want to check the archives.
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Old 6th February 2005, 07:02 PM   #4
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Default Iron Meteorites

Just an FYI... only 5% of Meteorite "falls" are of the nickel-iron type, making them "rare" to begin with. It is true there is more land in India, but unless the "fall" is witnessed, located and recovered, it is likely that the meteorite will be ignored unless it is a sizeable chunk. This makes the Prambanan meteorite very special meteorite indeed, as if it were meant to be.

Here are some definitions that may be helpful:
Meteoroid - when it is in space
Meteor - the light given off by a meteoroid entering the atmosphere
Meteorite - when it rest on the surface of a planet, that which you make a keris from

Nickel-iron type will average around 5 to 8% nickel and to 92 to 95% iron, and some can be relalitively soft, such as the Gibeon Meteorite from Namibia, Africa.

I hope this information is useful.
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Old 6th February 2005, 08:27 PM   #5
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Nechesh,

You are right. The kerisses at the court were made from the meteoric iron. The meteoric iron was used in combination with iron. It is said that the empu who was given the order to make such a keris, received enough material to make a few kerisses. That means that there are kerisses made from meteoric iron outside the kraton. So when we talk about keris from meteoric iron, I think we can say that for every keris ordered by the court the empu was able to make 3 kerisses more for other customers.

Why we only here about the Prambanan meteor is because it was a very hughe one. The Indian meteor gave only 2 swords a dagger and a knife. That is what I read. The Prambanan meteor gave a few more kerisses. So I supose the use of the meteor for keris is more known.
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Old 7th February 2005, 12:04 AM   #6
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Henk, it's not that i doubt you. You could well be right. But i think it is important to keep this discussion on an academic level, so could you please quote the sources of your information about palace empus recieving extra meteoric pamor material whenever they made a court keris with one. Did kraton empus actually make keris for clients outside of the court? There has been so much confusion on this issue that i just can't base any conclusions on this topic based on more hearsay information.
I also don't quite get your reasoning that leads to you supposing that meteoric pamor was more well known. The Prambanan fall is the ONLY one i am aware of. Are you just assuming that there were smaller meteorites that fell and were used? Is there ANY documentation of this. I need more to go on.

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Old 7th February 2005, 12:38 AM   #7
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I have heard of one technique that (supposedly) was used in Japan:
Micro-meteorites fell to the earth and were washed into rivers; and these small nickel-iron meteorites were recovered by dragging large magnets through dry river beds in summer, when the rivers were dry. The resultant iron could be incorporated with other iron, and because of its high nickel content could be processed and refined by forge-folding.
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Old 7th February 2005, 03:22 PM   #8
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Thank you for your answers, although not all tried to answer my question.
Master (Ustad) Daud said to Shah Jahangir, ‘that it would not stand below the hammer, and fell too pieces’.
If Master Daud could say like that, he must have known meteoric iron, otherwise he could/would not have made such a statement.
Meteoric iron must have been known, at least among some of the better weapon smiths, other wise he could not have said that the iron would fall to pieces when hammered on, and he knew how much other iron he had to mix it with, to make it possible for him to make two swords a dagger and a knife. To have this knowledge it must have been tried many times before.
Although there, no doubt is much mysticism and symbolism involved in making swords in India, I think this is even more so when it comes to making kerise’s.
The way to find meteoric iron in Japan sounds interesting, although I have never read about it.
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Old 7th February 2005, 03:47 PM   #9
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Jens Nordlunde:

No doubt some nickel-iron type are not well suited for direct hammering. There are several factors to take into consideration... the crystal structure of the meteorite (from fine to coarse octahedrite, etc.), and metallurgy for example. The Gibeon Meteorite from Namibia, Africa is an example of a nickel-iron type that you can hammer directly without forging. Again, it goes back to the odds of the right type of meteorite falling in the right place at the right time.
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Old 7th February 2005, 03:58 PM   #10
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Yes I have read that there are different types of meteoric iron, and also that the one with nickle is very difficult to use, but from the structure Master Daud must have been able to estimate how much 'normal' iron he had to mix it with. To have had this knowledge, he, or others, must have tried it several times to get that knowledge
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Old 9th February 2005, 09:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
I have started to wonder a bit about how many kerise’s have been made out of meteoric iron.
It is fairly often mentioned, that some are, or could have been made of this iron, but where these kerise’s were made and used, there is mostly little land, but a lot of water for the meteor to disappear into.
When you go to India you very seldom hear about meteoric iron, although they have a lot of land and little water. The only place where I can remember to have seen meteoric iron mentioned is here:
Arms and Jewellery of the Indian Mughuls, Lahor 1947, written by Abdul Aziz.
In the book he tells about Shah Jahangir, and about a falling meteor. The meteor fell around 10 April 1621 close to a village called Jalandhar. The meteor was dug up and presented to Shah Jahangir:
I ordered Master (Ustad) Daud to make a sword, a dagger and a knife out of it, and bring them to me. He represented that it would not stand below the hammer, and fell too pieces. I told him in that case to mix it with other iron and make use of it. As I had told him, he mixed three parts of lightening-iron and one of other iron, and having made two swords, one dagger, and one knife, brought them to me. From the mixing of other iron he had brought out its quality (watering). According to the manner of the excellent swords of Yaman and [the swords of] the South, it could be bent, and became straight again. I ordered him to test it in my presence. It cut very well, equal to true swords. I called one the Shamshir-I-qati (keen sword) and the other Barq-sirisht (lightening-natured).
Can anyone explain to me, why we so relative often hear about meteoric iron in connection with kerise’s, but not with Indian weapons?
Jens


Jens , when I read that quote from 'Arms and Jewelry' I interpreted it that the Master Smith took the meteorite to the forge and reported that 'it would not stand below the hammer' . He was then told to mix it with other iron .

Perhaps it was made into a form of crucible steel like wootz .
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Old 9th March 2005, 08:48 AM   #12
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hi,
back to the original quote by jens, about the meteorite weapons commisioned by jahangir. well, the dagger actually exists still and is in the freer gallery of art in washington.
to quote on the dagger in the gallery -

'it was ordered together with a dagger and two swords, to be made from the metal of a meteorite. accounts of this incident appear in jahangirs memoirs and also in the iqbal-nameh-i jahangiri. the armourer was ustad da'ud, described in the iqbal-nameh as 'well known in those days for the swords he made'. it is inscribed in gold persian nasta'liq on the spine of the blade:

'there fell in the time of jahangir shah from lightning-like precious piece.janhangir ibn akbar ordered to make from it two swords (shamshir), this knife (kard) and a dagger (khanjar). in the year 1030 (1621ad) in the year 16 (of jahangirs succession),146.'

the hilt of this knife, clearly original, is decoarated with typically persian chisselled vignettes of a lion killing an antelope and a hawk killing a bird. the form and repeat pattern of these medallions are founds on persian metalwork such as candlesticks of the period. this object is pure persian in inspiration, except that the royal ownership is underlined by the inlaid gold umbrella mark on the blade.'


note, he number 146 has been debated and general consencus agree the possibility of it being an inventory number. also, by pure speculation from an image, without holding the piece, the persian work on the hilt just reminds me of late 18thC work, and not of the period stated. its just a speculative opinion, as the quote is from a good source, as are the general opinions from the freer gallery.
interesting stuff!!
btw, although it is a great dagger indeed, i think i would gladly exchange it for the chance to see jens' face when i sees the images
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Old 9th March 2005, 09:19 AM   #13
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Hi B.I.

I was a bit surprised to see that ’Meteoric’ was still alive, and to see the picture was an even bigger surprise. I had never thought that any of these weapons, made out of the meteor, still existed. How or where you found it is a riddle to me, but thank you very much for showing it. The pattern on the blade is most unusual, but I like it a lot, just like I like the whole knife. Your end remark about seeing my face when I read the text and saw the pictures, was very well placed .

Jens

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Old 9th March 2005, 03:25 PM   #14
Mare Rosu
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Thumbs up Dagger

JENS
This is a link to the dagger that B.I.
is showing.
http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/...?ObjectId=10925
Gene
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Old 9th March 2005, 04:00 PM   #15
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well found, gene. i didnt realise that a picture was online, and i bet jens is kicking himself for not finding it first
i learnt sometime ago from the V&A pieces that you can find additional information from somthing as simple as an accession number. these are never random numbers, at least in british institutions and i think the US is the same.
this piece has the number
Purchase, F1955.27a-b
1955 is the year the museum aquired it, and F probably is the inititial of the person/sale it was aquired from. i'm sure a little back tracking could yield some more information. either that, or a phonecall to someone in the department to ask what the F stands for. it would be good to know where the dagger came from, as we can assume the museum hasnt held it too long.
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Old 9th March 2005, 08:27 PM   #16
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Gene, thank you for the link – it is a beauty. I wonder what the museum want this knife for, now in my collection – it would be real comfy – but I am afraid that they will not part with it, sigh.
I think I will have to settle with the fact that it is safe, and kept for new collectors to see and admire. Just imagine its history – fantastic. The pattern of the blade, besides being very unusual, really fascinates me. How many other blades do we know, of which we are sure, that they are made of meteoric iron?

B.I. is a bit of a marvel, when he puts his mind to it, it is not the first time he has given me a big surprise – and I don’t hope it will be the last time.
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