Unearthed: An operator digs the mapped area, allegedly the location of the Dutch-legacy bunker, on Thursday. The digging process is being led by heritage and archaeological agencies from Surakarta and Yogyakarta. (JP/Kusumasari Ayuningtyas)
The Surakarta City Planning Agency (DTRK) has begun excavating an ancient bunker it recently found near the Surakarta City Hall complex in Central Java, allegedly a legacy from the Dutch rulers of the 1930s.
On Thursday, the team began working with the Yogyakarta Heritage Preservation and Archaeological agencies to unearth the bunker.
“The last time I saw the bunker was in the 1960s. Buildings near the City Hall were already built at that time,” said Heru Basuki, 56, a local who lives just outside the hall complex in Kampung Baru village, Pasar Kliwon district, Surakarta, on Thursday.
Heru, who worked as a civil servant at City Hall, said he could still see the bunker door in the 1980s. It had two entrance doors, one on the west, and one on the east side of the bunker. He said most parts of the bunker had been buried at that time because the land was used to build a Family Empowerment and Welfare Movement (PKK) building.
Meanwhile Mujiyo, 82, another local who also lives in Pasar Kliwon, said he once entered the 150 meter-square bunker when he was 16 years-old in 1946.
According to him, the bunker was around 3 meters in height and had stairs at the entrance. He described the bunker as having a curved roof with a door that was around 1 meters wide and 1.5 meters high.
During monsoons, local children used to play in the bunker when the area became a pool of water, he said.
“At that time, this complex [the City Hall] was just a fenced garden, used for detaining political inmates,” Mujiyo said.
The DTRK’s heritage conservation division head, Mufti Raharjo, said the existence of the bunker had long been acknowledged. However, the agency needed concrete records in order to start the excavation.
“Testimonies from people are not enough, we need documentary evidence,” Mufti said.
According to documents Mufti and his team had collected, the City Hall complex was used by high ranking officers of the Dutch colonial government as offices and a residence.
The Surakarta administration just agreed to provide Rp 15 million (US$1,586) from its 2012 regional budget to excavate the bunker this year.
“Heritage areas like this must be preserved and developed, don’t abandon them or let them disappear,” Mufti said.
A researcher from the Yogyakarta Archaeological Agency, Muhammad Khawari, said the excavation will require at least five days, with four diggers working. He said the excavation process would be done manually, using simple tools.
“The difficulty is that we have yet to know the depth of the soil covering this bunker, so we won’t use heavy equipment now,” said Khawari.(fzm)