Indonesia Archaeology

Indonesia Archaeology

In the early days of Dutch colonial rule (17th century) the archaeological heritage of the Indonesian archipelago had not received that care which, albeit in a discontinuous way, had been reserved for the ancient monuments of India thanks to the intervention of the English authorities. The example of the British colonial governor Sir Th. Stamford Raffles, who ruled the island of Java during the short British interregnum (1811-16), was not followed by the Dutch colonial governors. The ancient temples were regularly dismantled for the construction of factories, according to a policy, also accepted in other fields of the administration, aiming at the maximum exploitation of the island with the minimum use of capital.

In the mid-nineteenth century the refinement of Dutch colonial policy led to an economic and cultural recovery in the Archipelago, but as far as the conservation of the archaeological heritage is concerned, we have to wait for our century. Excavations and research by Western scholars began in Indonesia at the beginning of the 19th century (H. Kern and JLA Brandes), but were only organized at the beginning of the 20th century by the Archaeological Service (Oudheidkunding Dienst) of the Dutch Indies. Before the establishment of this body in 1901, a Committee for research on the antiquities of Java and Madura had been set up (Commissie voor Oudheidkundig Onderzoek op Java en Madoera), in charge of collecting archaeological and architectural descriptions of the antiquities existing in the two islands, making drawings and photographs of the monuments not yet cataloged, preparing plaster casts and adopting the necessary measures to safeguard the cultural heritage.

The Committee, made up of three members including NJ Krom, was chaired by Brandes, who left numerous excellent jobs upon his death in 1905. Krom was responsible, in 1913 (the year of his death), for the birth of the aforementioned Archaeological Service, the body which was entrusted with the inventory and, in collaboration with the heads of local administrations, the supervision of archaeological antiquities located in the Dutch Indies, the evaluation and preparation of rules for the conservation of monuments and archaeological research in general, also in the epigraphic field. The task of the Archaeological Service was also the publication of a quarterly bulletin containing information on the activities in progress and the results achieved. The restoration work was mostly directed by T. van Erp. Krom’s successor, FDK Bosch.

The most used method in the restoration work was that of anastylosis. Patiently and skillfully practiced, it made it possible, in often difficult conditions, to reassemble many buildings stone by stone. The results were so happy that the Ecole Française d’Extrème-Orient followed the example of the Dutch Service and its technique. Thanks to this laborious work from the ruins and piles of stone, Indonesian monuments have been reborn in all their beauty and harmony.

A number of monuments, particularly those dating back to more ancient times, were found damaged and sometimes completely destroyed. In fact, they had suffered multiple plundering as a result of the abandonment due to the displacement of capitals and centers of culture or, above all, to the changes that occurred in religious beliefs. The vandalism of the residents who used the stones and bricks for their buildings was often added to the earthquakes and the invasion of vegetation. It took a long effort by numerous Dutch scholars and archaeologists to reconstruct the vestiges of Indonesian architecture and sculpture. The oldest megalithic monuments of the Archipelago, dating back to the 2nd millennium BC, have not yet been sufficiently studied,Sumatra: Pre- colonial period, XXXII, p. 987) and the megalithic tombs of East Java, all from the Bronze and Iron Ages. The ancient Hindu temples on the island of Java received greater attention, where two regions were subsequently important centers of artistic development: the central region from the end of the 8th to the mid-10th century, the eastern region from this period until the 16th century (see Java: Art, XVII, p. 90). In the north-central area of ​​the island almost all the temples are Scivaites, such as the group located on the Dieng, a mountainous plateau formed by a large extinct volcanic crater (see Java, XVII, plate xlvi). For Indonesia 1996, please check

A little further south of Dieng, in the Kedu plain, there are several Buddhist shrines and some Sciva, such as the Candi Pringapus, restored by the Archaeological Service in 1930. Further south, near Gebang, an ancient Sciva temple. The discovery of an image of Ganeśa, the base of which indicated that the sculpture must once have been located in the niche of a sanctuary, led the Archaeological Service to conduct the excavation of some trenches. Soon the base of the temple was found and with the material exhumed from the excavation, the small sanctuary could be almost completely rebuilt. In the years 1937-39 the Archaeological Service became interested in the excavation and restoration of an even older Sciva temple on the top of Gunung Wukir, near Muntilan.

Like many other sanctuaries in the area, also Borobudur (see VII, p. 505 and tables ci-cii) was once completely covered with earth and scrub. The first excavations date back to the 19th century; in 1885 it was discovered that the architectural project had been modified during construction: the original base had been covered by a large ambulatory that surrounded it with a compact additional terrace. The cause of this change still remains an unsolved problem. Despite van Erp’s major reconstruction work in the years 1907-11, the need for further work was realized half a century later. These finally began in 1973, thanks to international aid, under the direction of UNESCO. The monumental restoration of the temple ended in 1983; but at stūpa of the temple were severely damaged by terrorist bombs and promptly restored. Two ancient sculptures, the heads of two Buddha statues, once stolen from the Borobudur temple and kept in a Belgian museum, were returned in 1980 following a cultural agreement between Belgium and Indonesia.

After World War II, the attention of the Indonesian authorities turned in particular to the maintenance of another monument of the Indonesian artistic heritage: the mosque. In the interwar period, local governors, under the control of the Dutch colonial government, had intervened for a restoration or expansion of the oldest mosques, as in the case of the Sunan Ampel mosque (15th century) in Surabaya (Java northeastern) or the Sunan Sendang Duwur mosque in Sendang Duwur (west of Surabaya). Since the 1950s, numerous local institutes have been established throughout the national territory with the task of directing the continuous work, mostly of modifications, in the mosques.

Recently, under the direction of U. Tjandrasasmita, numerous excavations have been conducted in Java, such as those at the sites of the ancient capitals of the kingdom of Mataram (17th century) in Kuta Gede, Karta and Plered, near Yogyakarta, and in the kraton site(royal palace) of Pajang (17th century), near Surakarta, where in 1980 objects of great value were found. In the same year also in the outskirts of Jakarta, in the district of Pasar Ikan (the so-called “ Fish Market ”), during the construction of a canal, archaeological finds of extraordinary importance were made as testimony of the daily life of the ancient community. Indonesian. 4959 fragments of ceramic objects from various eras, shapes and origins have been unearthed, along with numerous metal objects (knives, rings, etc.), most of them locally produced. Also present are European and Persian glassware. The most interesting was the discovery of eight coins, very precious for the study of numismatics in Indonesia: a Spanish one bearing the date of 1636, another of the Dutch India Company dated 1790, the other six Chinese dating from the Ming and Ching dynasties of the 15th-18th centuries. The excavations carried out in the district of Pasar Ikan, the oldest part of the city, could be the beginning of a methodical urban archaeological research to shed light on the aspects of the old Batavia. Also in 1980 in southern Sumatra, in the central Lampung region, 35 km north of the port of Tanjungkarang, by chance there was the discovery of bronze objects that archaeologists date back to the 13th-14th centuries. It is a figurine of Śiva, some bells and an ax, probably once enclosed in an earthenware container whose fragments have been found scattered around.

The National Archaeological Congresses of Cibulan (February 1977), Jakarta (February 1980) and Ciloto (May 1983) demonstrated the constant development in Indonesia of archaeological research. In particular, the Ciloto congress highlighted the high level reached by Indonesian archaeological studies using the most modern research techniques: photogrammetry, archeometallurgy, underwater archeology. In recent years, the interest of archaeologists in Indonesia has turned above all to the most ancient periods, and also in this field, given the extension of the Archipelago, it is natural that there are privileged research areas such as Bali and Java; but southern Lombok should not be forgotten, where for some time fortunate excavations have been conducted which bring to light numerous finds of pottery dating back to the Neolithic period.

The ivNational Archaeological Congress, held in Jakarta from 3 to 9 March 1986, confirmed the growing interest of scholars for the reconstruction of daily life, for religious customs and beliefs, for the study of settlements from a geographical and economic point of view, from the Neolithic in the Islamic era, in a word for ” social archeology ”. It has also been noted that archaeological research in colonial times seemed to start from the assumption that changes and developments in social life occurred mainly thanks to the spread and migrations of populations, that is, according to a non-evolutionary model. Today archaeological research, in Indonesia independent, sees societies as dynamic organisms with the ability to manipulate and transform the surrounding environment.

Indonesia Archaeology

Comments are closed.