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An ivory-hilted kris luk dagger

Number

M30.232

Origin

Indonesia, Bali

Time

19th century (blade and hilt); second half of the 20th century (hilt cup)

Technique

Forging, chiseling, chasing, gem-setting

Material

Steel, silver, ruby, spinel, garnet, tanzanite, tourmaline, sapphirin, quartz, glass, ivory

Dimensions

Overall length 586 mm; blade length 471 mm

The pattern-welded blade features fifteen curves. The shape of the blade (dapur) is known as "carita buntala", which means “earthly legend”. The surface pattern (pamor) is called "beras wutah" (or "wos wutah"), literally "scattered rice grains". The typical Balinese figural hilt (togogan) is skillfully carved from elephant ivory in the form of Buta Nawasari (or Ngawa Sari), a demonic guard who supposed to frighten the enemy. He is in a characteristic dance position putting his right hand behind the head and putting out his right leg forward. Buta Nawasari holds a branch with the fruit of pandanus tree (pudak) in the right hand. The silver hilt cup (selut) is set with eight large cabochon-cut stones of different colors including a ruby, a pink spinel, a pomegranate, a tanzanite, a tourmaline, a sapphirine, a rock crystal and a milk quartz. The silver hilt ring (mendak) is set with small red-colored glass cabochons. No scabbard.

COMMENT. Kris is the specific asymmetrical thrusting dagger that is closely associated with the culture of Indonesia but also common in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the southern part of the Philippines. There are other local names for this peculiar weapon as well. The term "kris" is a European form of the Javanese word "keris", which in turn might have evolved from the Old Javanese "ngiris" meaning "to stab" or "to pierce". The kris was originated in Java probably around the 9th century and was common to the rest of the Malay Archipelago during the Majapahit era (1293-1520) through Javanese merchants and migrant craftsmen who contributed to the emergence of regional manufacturing centres and new styles. Although there are many kris variations, they all have common features. The most important and most valued part of the kris is the double-edged blade as a possessor of a certain magical power, which is related to its shape (dapur) and pattern (pamor). The relatively narrow blade features an asymmetrical wide base (sorsoran) and an integral but more often separate pointed cross-piece (ganja), which performs both protective and decorative functions. This feature distinguishes the kris from other types of edged weapons. The general shape of the blade can be either wavy (dapur luk) or straight (dapur lurus). The number of hilt forms is enormous, but almost all of them are curved and convenient for stabbing. The upper part of the scabbard, typically, is strongly expanded. Each part of the kris is an object of art and helps to characterize it in terms of origination, age, affiliation, and symbolic meaning. Apart from the surface pattern and the shape of the blade, the aesthetic value of the kris also includes the "tangguh" referring to its age and origin. The kris is not only an effective close combat weapon but also an important and inalienable element of Indonesian culture performing intricate practical, social and sacred functions.

Kris luk is the common name for the wave-bladed krises. The word "luk" means "curve". The number of curves on the kris blade is always odd and is varied from 3 to 29, but there may be more in practice. The last curve at the blade tip is sometimes difficult to distinguish. The maximum number of curves is 13 for "normal" blades, while the very rare blades with 15 or more curves were made in the past for individuals with outstanding physical or mental characteristics. The number of curves has a specific symbolic meaning. Such "abnormal" krises are called "palawijan" or "kalawijo". In addition, it is believed that the curves of the blade increase the severity of wounds inflicted upon a victim. A wavy blade dissects more blood vessels causing severe blood loss.

LITERATURE: Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 594-595, №252.