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Old 26th May 2021, 01:54 PM   #1
A. G. Maisey
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Default Origin & Age

I'm beginning to feel that our little keris discussion group has become a victim of the Covid Curse.

Here are two very poor photos of a keris.

This keris does not belong to me.

Would anybody care to hazard a guess as to what its place of origin might be, and approximately how old it is?
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Old 26th May 2021, 02:15 PM   #2
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I looks like it might be one of the early keris in a European museum, but I can't quite tell from the picture.

I suspect this is might be the point.

Thanks,
Leif
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Old 26th May 2021, 04:23 PM   #3
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Hello,
The handle is very close to my 17th century Keris which is also in the same style as that of Dresden and of a Keris by Jean.
The blade is also very close to several of those of the Keris which arrived very early in European collections.
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Old 26th May 2021, 04:44 PM   #4
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Hi Alan. Yep, i agree about the possible Covid malaise which seems to have descended upon the forum.
While i love a good guessing game i am afraid i would not want to say too much based upon what you have already identified as "very poor photos". I just can't see the details in this keris well enough to create any kind of an informed opinion.
Is the mendak upside down on this keris? I really can't tell for sure from the photos.
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Old 26th May 2021, 08:59 PM   #5
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You'd think it was an early West Javanese keris.
But because of the bad pictures, you can't be sure.
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Old 26th May 2021, 11:04 PM   #6
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Congratulations gentlemen.

In 1631 this keris entered the Medici collection in Firenze, and along with the rest of the extensive Urbino collection it remained a part of that collection until 1775.

If it existed in 1631 it seems to be highly likely that it pre-dates 1631 by at least some years. This would make it one of the earliest keris to enter Europe.

In the hand it is very substantial. Without the hilt it could easily be taken for a Balinese or Lombok-Bali keris from the 18th-19th century, however it is a keris that was very probably collected on the North Coast of Jawa, and prior to 1631.

Batavia was not founded until 1619, so this keris was most probably acquired in Jayakarta, the city that preceded Batavia, in the location of present day Jakarta.

The East Javanese kingdom of Majapahit finally imploded in 1525 --- or whatever date prior to that which can be reasonably supported --- and the physically stable elements of this keris can be read as representative of a Majapahit keris, or alternatively as a keris with Surakarta influences, however although the Surakarta keris does echo Majapahit style, Surakarta did not arise until long after this keris was made.

Lombok-Bali keris are Balinese keris that were made in Lombok, and sometimes display variations not found in mainline Balinese keris. Balinese keris entered Bali from Majapahit and East Jawa generally, prior to and immediately after the collapse of Majapahit. The Balinese keris has never been subjected to Islamic influence, so it may reasonably be assumed to be broadly representative of the Majapahit keris.

Following the collapse of Majapahit, and even during its years of dominance, smiths from Majapahit migrated along the North Coast of Jawa to as far as Banten, and even beyond, and the early North Coast and West Jawa keris resemble Balinese keris in many ways.

To my mind, this raises the question of exactly what the keris of Majapahit looked like when it was still new, and before the keris was subjected to Islamic influences that saw it changed in form and in nature.

I would welcome opinions & discussion relevant to this change from the early Modern Keris, to the Modern Keris of today. The term "Modern Keris" refers to the keris form that followed the Keris Buda.

About the quality of the photos.
Yes, the mendak is upside down.
When photographs have been hurriedly taken under very far from acceptable conditions, and with a shirt pocket camera, the result is sometimes unavoidably poor. Each of these photos has a minimum of 30 minutes Photoshop time in it, this was necessary because without that PS help about all that would have been able to be seen would have been that the photos were of a keris, no more.

Viewing on a good quality monitor vastly improves what is visible.

If I get time, I'll try to post some close-ups of the sorsoran.
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Old 26th May 2021, 11:43 PM   #7
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My guess prior to reading your post was Banten, but with little to inform it. The texture of the steel and carving made me lean that way. It's probably my brain unconsciously saying "I've seen ones like this, they were Banten, so this is Banten".
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Old 27th May 2021, 03:21 AM   #8
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Good morning gentlemen.

I think this keris is the same one in KrisDisk (Chapter 3 - Banten; pg. 26)?
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Old 27th May 2021, 09:03 AM   #9
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Hullo everybody!

- examples of above item (of same protocol) from as far back as early 16thC exist in vg condition and documented. Therefore, highly likely similar items , with the same protocol, existed even earlier.
- Banten existed, then, as a regional kingdom under SoendaPakwan.
Thus the item would've been manufactured under SoendaPakwan protocol.
Assuming the item shown, to be the real mccoy, it would, to me, be a Mahisah Toempeng.

Best,
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Old 27th May 2021, 01:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shieh View Post
Good morning gentlemen.

I think this keris is the same one in KrisDisk (Chapter 3 - Banten; pg. 26)?
Very well observed Eric, congrats!
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Old 27th May 2021, 02:09 PM   #11
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Eric, I'm sorry, but I can neither confirm nor deny your supposition.

However, what I can say is this:- if this blade were to be presented to me for classification today, and never having previously seen it with the hilt attached, it would be very difficult for me to classify it in accordance with the parameters set forth in the Solonese classification system ie, Tangguh.

Moreover, because of the superb condition of the blade it would be highly unlikely that I could bring myself to assume an age of more than a couple of hundred years at the most.

It is only because we have provenance for this keris that we can assign its true age & origin.

The blumbangan indicates Majapahit, the sirah cecak, which cannot be seen in the photographs is Majapahit, the buntut urang is rounded, garap could be accepted as either Bali or Surakarta, the distinct ada-ada is something I would expect to see in a Bali-Lombok blade; at 35cm in length it is perhaps a little shorter than we would expect a Balinese blade to be; the ron dha can probably be accepted as falling within Majapahit parameters.

The indicators present a rather confusing picture, and Central Jawa keris protocol does not recognise Banten, but it does recognise several variations of Pajajaran and Segaluh.

Stepping back from the restrictions of the Solonese system , and recognising the historical background of both keris development and of the keris under discussion, I feel it must be classified as Banten.

However, for me, that is a side issue, what I find to be of interest is the migration of characteristics associated with the Majapahit keris in a West Jawa keris at a point in time that was very close to the removal of the Hindu-Buddhist Kingdom of Majapahit.

Last edited by A. G. Maisey; 27th May 2021 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 27th May 2021, 07:40 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Eric, I'm sorry, but I can neither confirm nor deny your supposition.
To me a good indicator that the 2 blades are the same is the inverted mendak unless Alan has pics of other blades from the Florence museum with this odd configuration.
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Old 27th May 2021, 10:37 PM   #13
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Anything is a possibility Jean, but I am unable to comment further.
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Old 28th May 2021, 06:44 AM   #14
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Hi Amuk -
By Soenda Pakwan / Sunda Pakuan, are you referring to the seat of power/core of the Sunda Kingdom that is Pakuan Pakujajar, or something else?

Are you able to point me to somewhere I can learn more about the Soenda Pakwan protocol or pakem that you mentioned? This is a topic I'm interested to learn more about.

Alan -
The feature migration is indeed an interesting thing, which I guess is part of the "pande migration" theory.

Supposing it's true, it might indicate to me some things in relation to the questions I have for Amuk. Namely, that Sunda probably didn't have a protocol or "pakem" with regards to keris making. If it did, it seems unlikely that it would have accepted or recognised very obviously Majapahit elements. It would also entail that Sunda culture cared about keris making and the keris as a socio-spiritual artefact to a comparable degree compared to their Javanese neighbours, but I'm not sure that that is true.

I realise this is all circumstantial given the shortage of historical and other empirical sources, or maybe more reflective of my ignorance of them.

Nevertheless I'm interested in these topics and encourage discussion on it. Thanks to all contributors so far!
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Old 28th May 2021, 06:57 AM   #15
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Things might not be as simple as most of us seem to think Jaga. I've been working on something for a while now that when I publish will probably upset a lot of people. I suggest that it might not be a good idea to try to tie Amuk down to pakems & etc too tightly, all this pakem stuff came along much later.
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Old 28th May 2021, 07:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Things might not be as simple as most of us seem to think Jaga. I've been working on something for a while now that when I publish will probably upset a lot of people. I suggest that it might not be a good idea to try to tie Amuk down to pakems & etc too tightly, all this pakem stuff came along much later.
Thanks, Alan. Looking forward to it.

Yes upon reading my question more it does seem like I might be cornering Amuk somewhat, or at least constraining the discussion in a way that might not be helpful. Sorry about that Amuk - that wasn't my intention at all.

I'll leave the question up unedited for what it's worth.
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Old 28th May 2021, 09:48 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Things might not be as simple as most of us seem to think Jaga. I've been working on something for a while now that when I publish will probably upset a lot of people. I suggest that it might not be a good idea to try to tie Amuk down to pakems & etc too tightly, all this pakem stuff came along much later.
I do not know enough about the pakem 'system(s)' and yet what little I have gathered about it so far has had me confounded. Either I have to read up (much) more or I have to 'unlearn' everything and start over again.

So, I'm looking forward to what you are going to publish.
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Old 28th May 2021, 10:18 PM   #18
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Eric, a "pakem" is simply a guide book. We can have pakems for cooking, for cage birds, for keeping our financial affairs in order, for many things, and for the classification of a keris blade.

We classify keris blades jn accordance with the guidelines that have been accepted by some entity or other, and although these guidelines can vary from entity to entity, they are all broadly in agreement.

Using these guidelines we can then provide a personal opinion on what the classification of a keris blade might be. It is not certain, it is not inarguable, it is not carved in stone. It is just one person's opinion of the name that we can use to express our opinion. This is "Tangguh".

However, the actual meaning of the opinion we form might be somewhat different to that which many people believe it means.

Don't hold your breath for publication of what I am currently working on. From the first seed planted in my understanding of pre-Islamic Javanese keris, until my publication on this subject it took more than 30 years for the tree to grow --- and it is still growing. What I am now working on has very little to do with blade classification, it concerns development.
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Old 29th May 2021, 08:54 AM   #19
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Just a short comment about the origin of these blades: they were imported to Europe from Banten (or Blambangan according to Jensen) but is it certain that they were manufactured there?
There is a well-known drawing of the Banten port dating from the 17th century showing a kris-making workshop but is it a sufficient source of information?
Regards
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Old 29th May 2021, 09:56 AM   #20
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Banten is at one end of the Island of Jawa, Blambangan at the other. I have nominated Banten for two reasons, firstly it was the most likely place for such items keris to have been collected at that early point, secondly, the overall characteristics of the blade match other keris that some people classify as Banten. If Jensen wants it to be Blambangan I would never argue against this, Blambangan is right on the doorstep of Mojo, this keris displays some accepted Mojo characteristics.

However, no geographic location can be accurately affixed in the absence of personal observation of manufacture, so we are talking opinion, and just as I will not argue against Jenson's opinion, neither will I argue against any other opinion that places in somewhere in Jawa.

Perhaps the most sensible classification might be to give it an alpha numeric classification, say JN3, if we were to go this route we could chuck our precious tangguh system right out the door:- JN3, JN5, CJ23, CB6 --- the possibilities are endless.
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Old 29th May 2021, 09:50 PM   #21
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Hullo everybody!

Perhaps one can invite the good offices of our Portuguese friends, or anyone who has access to Portuguese sources, to investigate whether such items were gifted to:

- the Crown, circa 1512, 1521 & 1522

- Ruy de Brito Patalim, circa 1512

- Jorge de Albuquerque circa 1521 & 1522

- Enrique Leme circa 1522

That is all I can say on the matter.
I await developments.

Best,

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Old 30th May 2021, 09:55 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Just a short comment about the origin of these blades: they were imported to Europe from Banten (or Blambangan according to Jensen) but is it certain that they were manufactured there?
There is a well-known drawing of the Banten port dating from the 17th century showing a kris-making workshop but is it a sufficient source of information?
Regards
Sorry, I should have said Banten and Blambangan, Jensen distinguishes the 2 supposed locations of origin, the blades of these krisses are very similar but the hilts look a bit different.
Regards
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Old 30th May 2021, 01:49 PM   #23
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Jean, I should have made clear that anything I have commented upon in respect of this keris is related only to the keris, from the Javanese point of view it is only the blade that is the keris, only the blade that is the Gunungan, only the blade that is the representation of Mount Meru, which is of course Mount Kailas, only the blade that incorporates the icons of Siwa and only the blade that provides a link to the ancestors.

All these other things that collectors consider as a part of the keris are not sacred, the hilt is a guardian, as is the wrongko. From the traditional Javanese
perspective these other things are similar to a suit of clothes, they might indicate where a complete keris, the dhuwung, was worn or used, but they do not indicate the origin of the keris itself.

This encapsulates the difference in the way I consider the nature of the keris and the way people like Mr. Jensen thought about the keris:- others like Mr. Jensen consider everything they see as giving some indication of its origin, I consider only the keris itself, that is to say, the blade.

Please accept my apologies if my failure to express myself clearly has caused any confusion. With this keris I have paid not the smallest degree of attention to the hilt, for me, the hilt is irrelevant.
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