Joseph Beal Steere collected this steel kris (pronounced “krees”) and sheath in Sulawesi, Indonesia, in the 1870s. This distinctive form of weapon was likely invented in Java as early as the 10th century AD, and was subsequently adopted throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Kris from all of these areas are included in UMMAA collections. This wavy form of the layered, metal alloy blade is characteristic of many kris, though straight-blade kris were also made. Along with their functional roles as weapons, kris are also objects of prestige and symbols of heroism. They are also spiritual objects and are believed to possess magical qualities. In recognition of their importance to Indonesian culture, UNESCO inscribed the kris on its “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” in 2005. The owner of this kris attached a colorful woven sash or belt with long fringe to the wooden sheath of his valued weapon.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.