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An ivory-mounted kris tajong dagger

Number

M30.247

Origin

Malay Peninsula, Kelantan (or Pattani)

Time

18th century

Technique

Forging, chiseling, chasing, gilding, gem-setting

Material

Steel, silver, topazes, glass, ivory

Dimensions

Overall length (without scabbard) 481 mm; blade length 415 mm; scabbard length 460 mm

The pattern-welded blade features thirteen curves. The shape of the blade (dapur) is known as "parung sari", which means "sinuous flower". The surface pattern (pamor) is called "ngulit semangka", literally "watermelon skin". The hilt is skillfully carved from elephant ivory in the distinctive pekaka style. The silver-gilt hilt cup (pendokok) is set with red-colored faceted glass beads. The scabbard is also carved from elephant ivory. It has a bulging shoe (buntut) and a wide upper part (sampir) in the jamprahan style, which is usually associated with Bali. The silver-gilt scabbard mounts are chased with scrolling foliage and inlaid with small faceted white and yellow topazes.

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 tajong is a type of the Malayan kris with a pekaka style hilt, which is typical for some regions of the Malay Peninsula, especially Pattani (Southern Thailand), Kelantan and Terengganu (Northern Malaysia), as well as Kepulauan Riau (Indonesia), Riau and Jambi (Sumatra Island, Indonesia), Sarawak (Borneo Island, Malaysia) and Brunei (Borneo Island). Other names are "kris pattani" and "kris pekaka". The word "pěkaka" (or "pěkakak") means "kingfisher" in the Malay language. Indeed, the pekaka hilt (hulu pekaka) represents a stylized bird head with a protruding beak. In fact, the tajong is the most common variation of the pekaka style. Unlike the coteng (or cho-teng) variation from Songhla Province of southern Thailand, it features a shorter, upward-curved beak.

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. 608-609, №259.