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Old 17th May 2011, 07:48 AM   #1
migueldiaz
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Default The 10th to 15th century Visayan kris, & earlier artifacts

In vol. 2 of Reader's Digest's Kasaysayan: Story of the Filipino People, there's a pic (below) of a precolonial (pre-16th century) kris.

Later on, I found out that the artifact was excavated in the 1920s by an American archeologist [Carl Guthe, from the Univ. of Michigan], in the town of Loon in Bohol Island in the Visayan region of the Philippines.

This Visayan kris was estimated to be coming from the 10th to 15th century. The kris is still with the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), at its University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

More details are to follow.
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Old 17th May 2011, 07:50 AM   #2
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Here's a close-up of the said Visayan kris ...
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Old 17th May 2011, 07:58 AM   #3
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The details surrounding the Visayan kris can be found in a Univ. of Penn. PhD dissertation of a well-known Filipino archeologist, Dr. Eusebio "Bong" Dizon, from the Philippine's national museum.

The dissertation can be bought online from the university. The illustration below comes from the said paper.

Based on the graphical scale, the blade length is 36 cm (14.2"), blade thickness near the guard is 0.8 cm (5/16"), and tang length is 8 cm (3.2").

Please note also that the tang has a square/rectangular cross-section, as is the characteristic of Philippine krises.
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Last edited by migueldiaz : 18th May 2011 at 06:57 AM. Reason: Remarks on the tang were added.
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Old 17th May 2011, 08:00 AM   #4
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The textual description of the Visayan kris:
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Old 17th May 2011, 08:01 AM   #5
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For the technically-inclined:
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Old 17th May 2011, 08:07 AM   #6
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Incidentally, the dissertation covered 75 pieces from the Guthe-Michigan collection, plus another 10 artifacts from the Phil. national museum.

As to the basis of the age of the artifacts, I've just leafed through the paper (it's about 500 pages long). The 10th to 15th century dating can be found in the excerpt below.

I suppose they also used the associated Chinese ceramics excavated together with the metal artifacts. These Chinese ceramics provide a pretty accurate metric, and are used all the time ("Nacho" is an expert on this also).
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Old 17th May 2011, 08:14 AM   #7
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There's an artifact from Bohol in the Visayas which was initially thought to be a kris. But Dr. Dizon correctly pointed out in his paper that it is a spear:
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Old 17th May 2011, 08:34 AM   #8
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Now I'm not an expert on Philippine krises, much more on Indonesian and Malaysian kerises

Thus the above info are being presented for purposes of validating and further examining things.

I realize that the 10th to 15th century dating of the Visayan kris will impinge upon the commonly held view that the keris/kris came from Java. And the images found in Candi Sukuh (pics below, from Wikipedia), are supposedly one of the best proofs.

Again, you guys are the expert Would the elaboration found here and here be representative of that commonly held view?

On the other hand, what's the meaning of life if we don't reexamine our beliefs from time to time?

I've discussed the matter briefly with "Nacho" earlier. Off hand, he thinks that one explanation is that the Philippine kris and the Indonesian keris had a parallel development.

I think that's one very plausible view (instead of pitting one against the other, as to which came first).

We'd certainly like to hear more views and queries on the matter.

To broaden the perspective, I'll also be posting pics of even older blade hilts, from a recently published book on Philippine ancestral gold (10th to 13th century).
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:30 PM   #9
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Very interesting.
Thank you for posting the articles/information.
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:44 PM   #10
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Kino, thanks

Here's the continuation. Below are pics of Philippine gold hilts from the 10th to the 13th century. A little later, I'll post the comments of the southeast Asia expert from the Metropolitan Museum (NY) on these artifacts.

Kindly note that one of the hilts show the bird beak/ elephant trunk motif.
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:46 PM   #11
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In the same book (Philippine Ancestral Gold), the artifacts from Java and Philippines were compared from time to time, like below.
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:47 PM   #12
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The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (our central bank) has a few gold hilts as well, from the same era.
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:48 PM   #13
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This was how they must have looked when carried.
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:56 PM   #14
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I was blogging a related topic in my Facebook Page called Filhistory, and let me just post here the English translation of my slides there.
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Old 17th May 2011, 03:57 PM   #15
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Here's the 2nd slide:
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Old 17th May 2011, 04:00 PM   #16
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Here's the third slide. Please note that it was concluded by this expert from the Metropolitan Museum that Java and the Philippines were comparable, in terms of their excellence in goldworking tradition.
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Old 17th May 2011, 04:01 PM   #17
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Another observation from the same expert:
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Old 17th May 2011, 04:02 PM   #18
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Here's a second expert, expressing his opinion:
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Old 17th May 2011, 04:04 PM   #19
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I guess the conclusion in all these is that Philippines, like Java, were both quite competent in coming up with very good designs, in the olden days.
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Old 17th May 2011, 04:05 PM   #20
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And if anybody is interested in buying the books, the links are here.
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Old 17th May 2011, 05:07 PM   #21
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Hello Miguel Diaz,

Great and fascinating post - thank you for sharing it.

While I am no expert on the kris, Moro or otherwise, as Gustav so eloquently put it in an earlier post in another thread, "a serious collector should at least be an amateur ethnologist," or something to that effect, and it is in this light I humbly comment below.

If I understand correctly, Dr. Dizon was the archeologist who published this paper on the kris. By his own admission, the dating of the site was limited to and by the following factors:

1. Site (i.e., contextual content of the grave)
2. Type
3. Metallurgical treatment of the iron items

Now, by his estimation, these items are dated to the Period of Contact or Trade, i.e., the 10th-15th century, CE.

I think it deserves mention that there was likely extensive trading and exchange taking place by this period, not just within the Philippine archipelago, but by extension, throughout the Indonesian archipelago as well.

In other words, in light of additional evidence, there is no reason to exclude the possibility this individual item may have found its way to Bohol by trade. As evidenced by digs all over the world, there is no shortage of trade goods to be found in burial sites, as often such items held every bit as much (and sometimes more) prestige than indigenously-produced goods due to their relative scarcity.

In short, the presence of this example of this form in a grave in the Visayas is not, IMHO, a sufficient condition to refute existing and established opinions of the Indonesian origin of the form.
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Old 17th May 2011, 08:22 PM   #22
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Hello Lorenz,

Thanks a lot for your great compilation! I've been meaning to post some of the hilts more recently found in SEA ship wrecks for discussion. However, I believe we should be cautious - for the time being - to label these as keris hilts rather than daggers in general.

For this discussion I believe it's reasonable to refer to the Bohol find as keris while keeping in mind that this is a borderline example with not much in common with either the surviving early Indonesian proto-keris (aka keris buda; which do have a square tang and a roundish iron methuk - the latter not seen here) nor the early Moro kris. Having said that, it does seem to be closer to the Indonesian keris putut style than any known Moro kris.

One more point: I heavily question the dating for the Bohol keris since it lacks any stratigraphic info as well as any "hard" dating methods. I'd posit that we need stronger evidence than the efforts given for dating before we can utilize this example in discussions of time lines and keris evolution.

Will comment more later when I find time.

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Old 18th May 2011, 12:48 AM   #23
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laEspadaAncha, many thanks for the comments. And I agree with all of them. In particular, I certainly agree that that single evidence is not conclusive, as you nicely put it:

Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
In short, the presence of this example of this form in a grave in the Visayas is not, IMHO, a sufficient condition to refute existing and established opinions of the Indonesian origin of the form.
I guess we are like in a judicial court here, and we are merely trying to establish "beyond reasonable doubt" whether the specimen is indeed a Philippine kris or not. Either outcome is fine. We just want to establish the most plausible explanation.

Because for sure nobody can say that he is 100% sure that it came from Java or Indonesia.

On the other hand, nobody can likewise say that he is 100% certain that it is indeed a Philippine kris (due to the fact that raiding and trading were very much part of the culture then).

Thus to my mind we are working with probabilities here. So it's more like trying to establish if it's more like 20/80, or 50/50, or 80/20, etc. on whether it's Javanese/Indo. or Philippine ...
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Old 18th May 2011, 01:33 AM   #24
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Kai, many thanks also for your comments.

I agree with you that labeling the gold hilts as kris (as some of them were captioned in the book/s) may be premature.

On the dating method employed, the use of excavated associated Chinese ceramics and pottery is actually a well-accepted method.

In any case if I may recap the considerations discussed so far --

ARGUMENTS FOR A PHILIPPINE ORIGIN

[1] the specimen was found in the Philippines; thus at first blush it has to be regarded as Philippine, and the burden of proof is in proving otherwise

[2] in the dissertation, it is apparent that the panelists (the American university professors) concurred with the proponent (Dr. Dizon) that the specimen was a Philippine artifact

[3] one of the dissertation's key findings is that over time, the metallography of Phil. iron implements improved as expected -- now if the subject kris was an imported item, most probably its characteristics would not have synced (or is anachronistic) with this key finding

[4] linguistically and from time immemorial, "kalis", "keris", and "kris" have been established to be the Philippine's primary weapon, aside from the kampilan -- hence, the presence of an ancient kris in the Phils. should not come as a surprise (and the Indonesians and the Filipinos must have had a common linguistic ancestry: "sandata" [Fil.] and "senjata" [Indo.] both refer to weapon, "kalis/karis/kris" [Fil.] and "keris" [Indo.] all refer to the same blade genre, etc.)

[5] it was also seen above that experts from all over have noted that ancient Philippine craftsmanship (10th to 15th century) was at par with the Javanese - thus once again, the plausibility of the specimen being Filipino is very much there

[6] zooming in on the specimen itself, I think it's easier (at least for me) to imagine the thing to be morphing over time into a Moro sundang (kris), rather than it evolving into the more slender and pointy keris -- but perhaps this is a matter of opinion

[7] and then we have the square cross section of the tang, which is a distinguishing trait of the Philippine/Moro kris (vs. the predominantly round cross-section of kerises)

[8] then we also see in post no. 10 above the elephant's trunk/ bird beak in one of the gold hilts (plus the bird's head motif in the others) -- my point here is that these features as we all know are still present in Philippine krises, and thus we see a coherent picture over time.


ARGUMENTS FOR A JAVANESE OR INDO. ORIGIN

[1] raiding and trading were prevalent at the time; thus it's also very possible that the kris was obtained via those means

[2] of the 90 or so artifacts examined, there was only one specimen that is like the subject kris

[3] I suppose that there is a larger body of literature that pertains to the development of the keris as originating from Java

[4] though the keris' tang's cross-section is circular, a few early (or rare?) kerises had square cross-section.

Those are the pro-Java arguments I can think of. But the fewness of the points was certainly not to load the dice! It's more because of my unfamiliarity with the Javanese keris. Hopefully, some of the other experts can chime in as well

PS - If anybody has access to the writings per attached, I think Guthe's own account can shed some more light on the matter.
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Last edited by migueldiaz : 18th May 2011 at 07:03 AM. Reason: Grammar correction
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Old 18th May 2011, 02:58 AM   #25
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I have always thought that there was a common kris form that later changed in various ways in Indonesia and in the Philippines. A similar keris to this one was found in Java several years ago with nearly the exact same shape to this one found in Bohol.

I thus go with this being an ancestor to the Moro kris.

Also, I have always been fascinated by the gold work of the Philippines before the Spanish took it all.
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Old 18th May 2011, 04:30 PM   #26
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Battara, thanks for the comments! And hope that you can find that pic

Back to Javanese weapons from the 10th to the 15th century, here are some pics from Candi Panataran and from Candi Prambanan, for comparison with the subject kris.
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Old 18th May 2011, 11:11 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by migueldiaz
Battara, thanks for the comments! And hope that you can find that pic

Just found the link: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ht=keris+museum

And here is a picture of the 14th century keris blade in the Amsterdam Museum in the link:
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Old 19th May 2011, 12:26 AM   #28
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Battara, thanks! Below is the pic from the referenced website. Incidentally, there are much more better pics than the black & white one below if one googles 'knaud kris'.
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Old 19th May 2011, 01:46 AM   #29
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Yes I've always wondered if the buda type of keris was the ancestor to all keris and kris (seen also in the stone work). From there they diverged on their separate paths according to the varying martial environments of the Malay world (Indonesia/Malaysia/Philippines).
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Old 19th May 2011, 01:49 AM   #30
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That Knaud keris sure is interesting, to say the least. There are many pics on the Net and two are below. They came from here: knaud_1, knaud_2, knaud_3, knaud_4, knaud_5, and knaud_6. Thanks.
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