Surakarta bunker undergoes excavation
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Excavation work began on Thursday on an ancient bunker located in the compound of Surakarta City Hall, Central Java, which was predicted to have its origins in the 1930s during the Dutch colonial era.
The excavation work has been conducted by a joint team comprising representatives from the Surakarta Municipal Spatial Planning Agency, the Central Java Prehistoric Legacy Conservation Center (BP3) and the Yogyakarta Archeological Center.
“The last time I saw the bunker intact was about 1960. At that time the City hall had not yet been built,” said Heru Basuki, 56, a witness who lived right outside the City Hall compound in Kampung Baru, Pasar Kliwon district.
He said that in the 1980s he could still see the bunker’s doors. It had two entrance doors, one at the west the other at the east. But at that time soil had begun to bury the bunker because a building was being erected in the surrounding complex.
Another eyewitness, Mujiyo, 82, also of Kampung Baru subdistrict, said he entered the bunker when he was 16 years old.
He said the upper part of the bunker was curved while the inside was an empty hall of 10 by 15 meters.
During the rainy season the hall was filled with rainwater, which local children used to play around and swim in. “At that time the complex was just a yard with walls where political prisoners used to be detained,” Mujiyo said.
Head of the City Spatial Planning Agency’s cultural heritage conservation division, Mufti Raharjo, said that the existence of the bunker at the city hall complex had long been acknowledged.
However, the excavation had only started on Thursday because his office had needed the required supporting data and literature. “Just a collection of testimonies from locals is not enough,” Mufti said.
He added that the excavation was given the go-ahead after the municipal administration agreed to allocate Rp 15 million (US$1,590) for the exploration activities of the bunker.
Quoting some literature, Mufti said that in the 1930s the complex that was now a city hall was a residential and office complex of Dutch colonial administration high ranking officials.
“Such heritage areas deserve preservation and development. We cannot just abandon them and let them disappear,” he said.
Researcher Muhammad Khawari of the Yogyakarta Archeological Center said the team would need some five days to finish the excavation work, as the whole structure of the bunker was buried.
“The problem is we don’t have any idea regarding how thick the soil above the bunker is. That’s why we aren’t using heavy equipment this time around,” he said.