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Old 12th September 2010, 05:59 PM   #1
mrwizard
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Default Ancestor hilt or tourist piece?

Hello everyone,

I'm new to the field of keris in general and this forum has been a extremely valuable source been so far. Many thanks to all experts here that so willingly share their knowledge.

My reason for leaving read-only mode is a keris i picked up recently. The hilt is most unusual (at least from my inexperienced point of view) as it is (a) rather coarsely carved and (b) clearly identifies as human.
Both is rather strange a even cheap tourist pieces sport more elaborative carving and almost all keris hilts
i've seen in this forum either depict some deity/demon (e.g. raksasha) or abstract very heavily form the human form.
From the history of the keris all i know that it has been in a private collection of a german collector for about 40-60 years and was sold by his relatives after his death.

It came in a sheat that has definitely been made for a completely different keris, so i didn't add any pictures of it.
Another remarkable feature is that the ganja is etched/rusted through at the pesi, so it is slightly bent outwards.
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Old 13th September 2010, 04:37 AM   #2
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the hilt is quite old and I wouldnt dismiss it as genuine although the carving is not that of high quality. The blade looks very Buginese IMHO, thus the quality of the hilt carving is "normal" under the circumstances, as we had known all along that Buginese is a warring and rough ethnic within Nusantara.
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Old 13th September 2010, 04:56 AM   #3
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The blade is of the Buginese Sepokal form... How old it is and where it comes from, I cant tell for sure...

The hilt is like nothing i have seen before
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Old 13th September 2010, 08:02 AM   #4
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Welcome to the active membership of this forum!

The whole piece seems to be a composite: Blade, hilt ring, hilt, and - apparently - scabbard don't match. Thus, I'd suggest we only can evaluate the hilt itself if we want to discover more about it.

IMVHO, this hilt doesn't look Bugis to me - simple Bugis hilts are usually plain and of highly stylized form (well-carved but without any embelishments). Hilts vaguely similar in style and craftmanship that I seem to remember have been attributed to different parts of Java and also sometimes to the outer islands...

Regards,
Kai
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Old 13th September 2010, 10:31 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the kind suggestions. My first guess was also bugis because of the blade form. But then, as has been noted, the hilt does not look like bugis at all.

The carving style seems at first glance be similar to the tau-tau ancestor statues of the Toraja. So my (wild) guess
is that the hilt originates from Sulawesi where these cultures live closely together.
However, i didn't find anything from these cultures depicting the gesture and hair-stye of the figure from the hilt :-/

Of course it might be a composite keris from completely unrelated parts, but then what was the motivation of combining these items? If it was for sale to tourists,
i guess it would have been easy to come up with a hilt that is more appealing to this target group. It also didn't seem to be very appealing to collectors either, because i got it rather cheaply.
Maybe the ensemble was combined by a european collector from "spare parts".

Last edited by mrwizard : 13th September 2010 at 03:04 PM. Reason: unclear reference to makassarese culture
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Old 13th September 2010, 11:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Of course it might be a composite keris from completely unrelated parts, but then what was the motivation of combining these items?

Mixing and matching parts of a keris apparently has a long tradition all over the archipelago. There are enough examples that appear to be genuine and possibly based on personal preferences.

However, wild composites from several areas and including parts of lower quality are often seen offered from Java/Madura. Genuine spare parts from other regions are apparently often not available cheap enough to warrant the investment. Local craftsmen also try to copy "foreign" hilt and scabbard styles but these tend to be easy to spot since usually the flow of lines is off.


Quote:
Maybe the ensemble was combined by a european collector from "spare parts".

Also a possibility - same approach to a similar situation...

Regards,
Kai
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Old 14th September 2010, 01:02 AM   #7
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Yes, I agree 100% with these remarks Kai.

The number of times I have seen mix & match keris goes beyond counting. All sorts of reasons can be identified for this, it can be a collector or dealer outside S.E.Asia, a collector or dealer within S.E.Asia, or somebody, somewhere in a keris bearing area of S.E.Asia who is outside of the direct influence of a particular keris style.

Even in Central Jawa, although we will see the classic Surakarta/Jogjakarta styles predominate in cities and towns, when you go into the villages you can find a lot of variation from the classic styles.

A couple of years ago I was shown a keris that had authentic old, provenance dating it to pre-WWII in coastal North Sumatra, and as a pusaka keris, that is, as a keris that had been identified as a family keris for an extended period of time. It was a complete hodge-podge of mostly very inferior parts, I forget the actual combination, but it was something like Bugis blade, home made wrongko with truncated Jawa pendok, rubbish Jawa mendak and some sort of poor quality ivory hilt, and it was quite small. If you saw it in a shop you'd write it off as junk, however, for the owner, in pre-WWII North Sumatra, who was a poor fisherman, it was the most important and valuable thing he owned.

Not all keris are wonderful works of art.
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Old 14th September 2010, 06:36 PM   #8
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I see, thanks for the clarification Kai and Alan. I wrongly assumed that the different styles were used as symbols for cultural/geographical identity and mixing styles would just look plain wrong in the eyes of members of that culture. Somewhat like combining sneakers with a business suit or someone in italy wearing a scottish kilt.

AND, of course, this a very specialised forum where most people care about every detail of their keris and will therefore present mostly the well dressed pieces of their collection. For sure there will be many "village style" keris around that will never end up in the collection of a keris-enthusiats or presented in an internet forum.

In the meantime i did some further "research" regarding the heritage of my oddball hilt.
What i found was this kodi from sumba which looks somewhat similar in style:
http://old.blades.free.fr/daggers/badik/kodi1a.gif

Further search about sumba revealed that the hair-knot is a common hair stlye of the women there and that there
is a also buginese minority. Didn't find any pictures of local keris, though. But as always i will propably stumble across one as soon as i stop looking ;-)

Best regards,
Thilo
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Old 14th September 2010, 07:57 PM   #9
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saw today in an auction a sirih hand crusher with a similar hilt, perhaps
the hilt is from a sirih-crusher?
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Old 14th September 2010, 10:10 PM   #10
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Like Sirek i am also wondering if this hilt was always intended to serve as a keris hilt. Here is a handle i bought a few years back that was listed as a keris hilt, though i was always pretty sure it was meant for some other implement such as a sirih crusher. Bought it anyway because it was only $5 bucks.
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Old 14th September 2010, 10:59 PM   #11
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That Singha in horn you have, David; I always figured that was a betel crusher handle .
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Old 14th September 2010, 11:02 PM   #12
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Hello Sirek and David,
This is indeed a very good suggestion and i think it might be the correct one. At least it's much more probable than
my Sumba theory (this post is currently still under moderation so you didn't see it).

I had a closer look at some more of those sirih pestle hilt
and many of them have carvings similar to my hilt.
Most of them look very much like keris hilts and the pestles have probably a tang that is not much thicker than a keris pesi which makes them a suitable and
inexpensive replacement.

Best Regards,
Thilo
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Old 14th September 2010, 11:27 PM   #13
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Yes Rick, i thought about that, but this one is also a women with a "bun" on her head so i saw more similarities with Mr. Wizard's hilt.
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Old 15th September 2010, 03:12 AM   #14
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It does not matter whether the hilt is meant for sireh crusher, as long as it serves as a handle pretty well on a keris. Maybe the keris used to be owned by "wong ndeso", so the aesthetic might not be that important.

I remember reading somewhere in Babad Demak and Babad Jaka Tingkir, the sireh crusher (known as "sadak" in Jawanese, and "gobek" in Malay) was used by Jaka Tingkir to kill a guy name Dadung Awuk who challenged him to a duel. It's said that "sadak" can overcome a person with invulnerability.
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Old 15th September 2010, 03:30 AM   #15
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Default Toraja?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrwizard
Thanks for all the kind suggestions. My first guess was also bugis because of the blade form. But then, as has been noted, the hilt does not look like bugis at all.
The blade is quite straight forward, Bugis..

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrwizard
The carving style seems at first glance be similar to the tau-tau ancestor statues of the Toraja. So my (wild) guess
is that the hilt originates from Sulawesi where these cultures live closely together.
However, i didn't find anything from these cultures depicting the gesture and hair-stye of the figure from the hilt :-/
I've thought of that too, and reviewed the position of the ancestors, but the positions were mostly open arms.. so it's most likely not.. however, it does look 'priest-like'..
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Old 15th September 2010, 03:33 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PenangsangII
It does not matter whether the hilt is meant for sireh crusher, as long as it serves as a handle pretty well on a keris. Maybe the keris used to be owned by "wong ndeso", so the aesthetic might not be that important.

I remember reading somewhere in Babad Demak and Babad Jaka Tingkir, the sireh crusher (known as "sadak" in Jawanese, and "gobek" in Malay) was used by Jaka Tingkir to kill a guy name Dadung Awuk who challenged him to a duel. It's said that "sadak" can overcome a person with invulnerability.

I don't think anyone has commented on whether it matters or not, simply trying to determine what it's origins.
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Old 15th September 2010, 04:09 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Yes Rick, i thought about that, but this one is also a women with a "bun" on her head so i saw more similarities with Mr. Wizard's hilt.
Hmmm.. I thought it looks a little like Sumatran Batak.. but maybe not..
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Old 15th September 2010, 04:37 AM   #18
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Actually Penangsang, "sadak" in Javanese is the betel leaf when it has been rolled into a point with lime in it, ready for chewing. When the bride meets the groom at wedding ceremony, they both throw a sadak onto the floor.

These pestles pictured are for crushing lime and are called "pelecok", from the word "lecok" which becomes "nglecok" : to crush, "dilecok" : crushed.

When you think about it, yes, of course a sadak can overcome invulnerability, because friendship overcomes invulnerability and a sadak can be offered in friendship. Words do not always mean what they might appear to mean.

In Indonesian, which as we know has its origin in Malay as it is spoken in South Sumatra, "gobek" refers to the entire mortar + pestle that is used to crush a complete betel chew to make it easier to consume. I do not know what the pestle alone is called in Indonesian.
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Old 15th September 2010, 06:05 AM   #19
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Ah... yes, you are right Alan, I stand corrected... sadak is the rolled betel leave, and (was said) used by Jaka Tingkir to kill Dadung Awuk. And I also understand that words do not always mean what they might appear to mean, as the duel with Dadung Awok mentioned could just be a metaphor of what jaka Tingkir had done to warrant a punishment (stripped of his position and outcast).

And you are also right about gobek

back to the topic, IMPO, keris of pusoko standard among wong ndeso does not really care about aesthetic, compatibility blade to wrongko or ukiran. As Mrwizard pointed out earlier, the hilt struck very close resemblance to tau-tau statue of Toraja, i think the blade and hilt originated in Sulawesi.

Though Toraja people are not keris bearers, some of their pusakas are actually keris, made in South Sulawesi (ref: Kris Disk by Karsten Sejr Jensen)
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Old 15th September 2010, 03:20 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alam Shah
Hmmm.. I thought it looks a little like Sumatran Batak.. but maybe not..

Well, i think mine definitely looks Batak. See the statue below. I also made the assumption that Mr.Wizard's hilt depicted a woman, not based on the hair style as much as the breasts, so i am not so sure that this is a priest. Of course i might be misreading these clues. This statue is Batak and there are obvious connects to my hilt in the hair style. Mr. Wizard's is stylistically rougher, but seems to depict a similar figure.
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Old 15th September 2010, 04:48 PM   #21
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Ok, disregard the 'priest-like' comment.. the breasts looks more woman-like..

Looking in Bambang Harsrinuksmo's 'Ensiklopedi Keris', pg 500.. there are 2 examples of ancestor hilts from Nusa Tenggara Timur.. in a different pose, but worksmanship of similar type.. which indicate that besides Sumatra, these type of hilts, do exist elsewhere in the Indonesian Archipelago.

Last edited by Alam Shah : 15th September 2010 at 05:57 PM.
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Old 15th September 2010, 08:43 PM   #22
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Thanks again to a contributors. :-)

Just in case someone wondered about my lack of feedback: I didn't abandon this thread, but because as new member my posts are moderated and didn't appear until a few hours ago (see post #8 and #12) ;-)

@David
I'm not sure if the hair looks like the batak hair-style on the statue it is more round (see attached pictures) and i also think the person depicted is female but the carving style looks very similar.

@PenangsangII
The hilt fullfils it's purpose for sure. It fits very well and provides good hand contact for stabbing moves. And I'm also sure even equipped with a sireh pestle it would be a formidable weapon in the right hands.
It also think it is quite possible that the hilt was made be a non keris-carrying culture to decorate the keris as a family pusaka. But of that, i think, we will never know.

@Alam Shah
You are probably right this could have originated anywhere in S.E. Asia. This thread shows example of similar craftmanship across the whole area, spanning several cultures. And then there remains always the possibility that it has been made by an "independent artist" that doesn't follow a certain cultural style.

I think what can be said for sure is that this keris hilt doesn't fit in any mainstream category, else one of the many experts here would have identified it.
And that there are several examples of similar artwork within many different places and cultures in the area.
So, until someone comes up with a very similar specimen from a known source all we dicuss here is just wild speculating.
For know i will just file the keris under "one-of-a-kind-hodgepodge" ;-)

Best Regards,
Thilo
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Last edited by mrwizard : 15th September 2010 at 08:44 PM. Reason: forgot attachment
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Old 16th September 2010, 12:58 AM   #23
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When we consider the keris, or anything else for that matter, we tend to look at it in terms of what we know to be true at the present time. Where the dress for keris is concerned we are accustomed to seeing wrongkos and hilts that have been crafted by artisan craftsmen with usually very high levels of skill.

But consider this:- in some societies in Maritime SE Asia, even up to recent times, the dress of the weapon was crafted by the owner. The hilts in particular were a homage to ancestors, or a personal hope for protection of deities or spirits, and the skill shown in carving these hilts was an advertisement for the personal qualities of the carver . This advertisement was noted by women as an indication of his suitability as a husband.

Even now I have known people in Bali to carve their own keris hilt, and in Jawa for people to carve their own wrongko.

This keris under discussion could well be a composite that has been put together for one reason or another, however , the hilt could well be an owner's personal effort to provide something usable. Once you move away from the influence of the kratons it seems to me that almost anything goes in respect of keris dress.
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Old 16th September 2010, 01:49 AM   #24
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I'd like to mention that there are no 'Experts' here; only students .
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Old 17th September 2010, 11:47 PM   #25
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Here are a few more primitive style hilts.

#5 is from a pelecok, I have no idea what the other hilts are from.
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Old 18th September 2010, 06:16 AM   #26
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Two others primitive (batak) styles
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Old 18th September 2010, 11:15 AM   #27
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Thanks for showing those great examples. I think i'm beginning to like this kind of hilt style... it's somewhat
more - how to call it - "personal"

Best Regards,
Thilo
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Old 18th September 2010, 01:21 PM   #28
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I have a knife with a handle which might fit this discussion. I bought it quite some time ago as a 'Sasak knife'.





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Old 18th September 2010, 03:51 PM   #29
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Gentlemen, i'd just like focus this discussion just a little back to ancestor hilts that are intended for keris. I realize Sirek and i opened the door for this when we posted our hilts trying to determine if Mr. Wizard's example was originally intended to be for a keris. After seeing Alan's grouping i'd say it is very possible that Mr. W's hilt was indeed always meant for a keris. Does anyone have more of these hilts that are been used on keris?
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Old 18th September 2010, 10:33 PM   #30
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David, I'm not at all sure that the ones I've shown are all for keris.

#5 is definitely for a pelecok

I think #1 might be for a keris, because the base is pretty much the right size for a large Madura style mendak, and the hole for the tang is about right for a keris, and it feels right for a keris.

#3 has got a keris look and feel to it also.

However, #2 & #4 I'm not at all sure of. They might be handles for some kind of knife, or even for some tool or other. I just don't know.

I also have a few pedang or klewang hilts that are carved to one degree or another as figures, similar type of primitive, unprofessional carving.

I've actually seen a kitchen knife that a friend in Jawa uses that she has carved a human face into the pommel end of.
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