Culture History International Translation

Ancient weapon found in Wales, and it might be… a KERIS!?

PS: If you’d like more stories like this, please subscribe to our HARI INI DALAM SEJARAH Facebook group ?

(This article was originally written in BM. Click sini kalau nak baca!)

 

 

Over the years, Malaysian archaeologists have been discovering maaaany interesting historical artifacts, from a 200-year-old cannon in Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown to shipwrecks and even an 839-year-old tomb in Kedah!

Cannon found in Fort Cornwallis. Img from Berita Harian

Cannon found in Fort Cornwallis. Img from Berita Harian

Although these discoveries are pretty impressive, it may not be a total shocker la because these places are pretty historic anyway. Fort Cornwallis, for instance, was a war site while Kedah has the oldest civilisation in Southeast Asia.

So, what if someone tells you that an ancient Malaysian artifact was found somewhere… in Britain!? And it’s not just any artifact…

 

A Welsh fisherman found a dagger that might be… a KERIS

Okay la, an ang moh with a keris is not really new. Back in 2016, one of our writers brought a replica of a keris to Australia when he met Michael Fassbender and the cast of Assassin’s Creed.

A year later (yea, we know old news dy #ihatecilisos), a fisherman named Andrew Davies went fishing at Towy River, Wales. What was supposedly a normal night out fishing turned into an epic incident when he discovered a dagger stuck in his fishing nets. It’s a pretty odd coincidence, if you come to think of it, since Wales is associated with King Arthur who pulled out a sword from a stone.

Waitamin. Unedited images from Daily Mail UK

Waitamin. Unedited images from Daily Mail UK

“I took it (the dagger) straight up to the museum because I thought it would be good to get it checked and to find out anything about it. I’d love to know how did it end up in the Towy, it’s fascinating.” – Andrew told the Daily Mail.

When Andrew took the dagger to the Carmarthenshire County Museum, its curator Gavin Evans took a photo of the dagger and sent it to a museum in London where an investigation was conducted to find out how long the dagger has been in the river. Gavin initially thought the rusty dagger that was covered in mud was a Roman sword, which was commonly used in war.

In fact, some sources believe that the dagger was a Sundang sword which originated from the Javanese Majapahit Kingdom. Sundang was commonly used by Bugis soldiers who traveled across the South China Sea to Sumatera sometime in the 14th century. So, is the dagger found in Towy river a Roman sword, Sundang or keris??

Gavin (left) and Andrew with the mysterious dagger. Img from Wales Online

Gavin (left) and Andrew with the mysterious dagger. Img from Wales Online

And the answer is… a KERIS! Gavin mentioned that the keris might have originated from Malaysia, based on the carvings on the keris itself.

Typically, a keris’ handle would be made of wood, gold, silver or even ivory (yes, elephant’s tusk) but the handle of the keris found in the Towy River was made of wood with some copper-like material and… uh… bone!? It was apparently carved in the shape of a bird too.

“The wooden handle has survived, which would normally be expected to rot away and there is bone or ivory, I’m not sure which, that would have expected to decay.” – Gavin told The Independent.

But wait, how did it end up in Wales out of all places??

 

A Malay sailor might have accidentally dropped the keris in the river

Gavin actually came up with two possible theories as to how the keris might have ended up in Towy river. The first theory was that it was probably used as a murder weapon.

“There is always the possibility of a more sinister explanation. Could it be a murder weapon that was tossed into the river many many years ago?” – Gavin theorised, Daily Mail UK.

Although Gavin found this theory interesting, he also came up with another, more possible theory which was that it might have fallen off a boat… or a sailor might have been a bit clumsy and accidentally dropped it into the river. And this may be possible since Carmarthen was a well known port a long time ago.

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Just to give you a clearer picture as to where Towy River is, it is actually located somewhere between Carmarthen (the port) and Bristol (where the ships come from). So, boats that came in from Bristol would have sailed on Towy River to get to the port lor.

Carmarthen port, approximately in 1990. Img from carmarthentowncouncil.gov.uk

Carmarthen port, approximately in 1990. Img from carmarthentowncouncil.gov.uk

And the Malays have reportedly been traveling the world as early as 1519, with Enrique of Melaka possibly being the first man to have traveled the world. We mentioned ‘possibly’ because it is a theory and you can read more about it here.

Although the Malays were more commonly known as fishermen who also knew how to build and fix boats, they were also known to be traders. According to Mohd Yusoff Abdullah, former Director of the Terengganu museum, the Malays brought cinnamon bark to trade.

“The Malays were originally maritime people, they traveled all over the place because of trade. They were already known in New York in 1885 as the sea nomads. But when the steel ships came, they lost.” – Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim.

In fact, Malay sailors used to live in the Welsh capital of Cardiff (yes, the football team owned by Tan Sri Vincent Tan) before moving to the UK, where the Malay Sailors Club could be found.

 

But there’s another Malaysian artifact found in Wales!

Okay la, actually got TWO more to be exact – a pair of Malay manuscripts.

As we were researching as to how the keris ended up in Towy River, there was a comment on Quora from Yusrin Faidz Yusoff, who used to study in Cardiff between 1995 to 1996 (wah, this writer was born in that year leh).

What caught our attention from his comment was how two Malay manuscripts were actually part of a collection of the University of Wales in Lampeter. We’re talking about the manuscripts of Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals… no, not what you think) and Hikayat Hang Tuah (Epic of Hang Tuah).

Sejarah Melayu's first page. Img from British Library

Sejarah Melayu’s first page. Img from British Library

As it turns out, those two manuscripts have been in Lampeter for a very long time, probably as long as the Malay-Welsh connection, which is over 160 years. It’s a pretty huge deal that these manuscripts were in Lampeter as, according to Yusrin, they were pretty rare.

“These manuscripts are rare as there are probably 20 to 30 of its kind still in existence around the world.” – Yusrin wrote in Quora.

These two manuscripts were actually brought to Lampeter by Thomas Phillips, an East India Company surgeon. Thomas, who retired sometime in 1817, had probably bought these manuscripts from a bookseller or auctioneer, based on the labels that were found on both manuscripts. The Sejarah Melayu was said to be a copy of the long version that was copied in Melaka.

Based on a recent check from the University of Wales’ list though, Yusrin found out that both manuscripts were no longer under the care of the University. He claimed that the Malay manuscripts have been sold to the British Library.

Malay Killmonger when visiting the British Library.

Malay Killmonger when visiting the British Library.

In fact, the British Library digitised both manuscripts, so you can read Sejarah Melayu here and Hikayat Hang Tuah here.

 

Finding a keris might be rare, especially outside of Malaysia

At the time of writing, the keris found by Andrew was reportedly given back to him and the association he represented, the Carmarthen Coracle and Netsman Association. And there isn’t any news from the museum in London that was supposed to investigate how long the keris has been in the river. So, they aso dunno how old the keris is la.  :/

Apparently, Andrew wasn’t the only person to find a keris outside of Malaysia la. Back in 2003, Okinawa Prefecture Archaeological Centre found a keris near a 15th century Shurijo Castle, Japan. This discovery unraveled the ties between the Malays and Japanese peeper.

However, other than those two discoveries, it’s pretty safe to say that finding a keris outside of Malaysia may be rare.

 

PS: If you’d like more stories like this, please subscribe to our HARI INI DALAM SEJARAH Facebook group ?

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