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Jakarta Post

Archaeologists slam excavation of Gunung Padang site

  • Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung | Wed, September 24 2014 | 10:03 am

Bandung Archaeological Center head Desril Riva Shanti has taken issue with the excavation process being carried out at Gunung Padang megalithic site in Cianjur regency, West Java, adding the process had not followed standard methods that were usually applied in archaeological projects.

'€œI'€™ve yet to go to the site but I can judge it from photographs. An archaeological excavation method shouldn'€™t have been carried out in that way,'€ Desril said on Monday.

She said an archaeological excavation should be carried out in stages and at a slow pace, by using tools smaller than a hoe.

Based on observations by The Jakarta Post, a number of Indonesian Military ( TNI ) soldiers had used hoes in the excavation at eastern and western parts of Gunung Padang, until the inner part of the site appeared.

A member of the National Team for the Preservation and Management of the Gunung Padang Site, Danny Hilman, said the excavation had revealed an underground room built by humans in the
pre-historic era.

'€œUnderneath, sand as thick as two meters was found between andesite rocks. The sand should have turned into fossil rock,'€ said Danny, who is also a researcher from the Geotechnology Research Center at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences ( LIPI ).

The team recently announced traces of a civilization from 5200 BC, estimated to be older than the civilization responsible for building the Egyptian pyramids.

The Gunung Padang site is believed to be a gigantic terraced tomb, which was part of the biggest megalithic culture in the archipelago.

NJ Krom, a Dutch researcher, recorded this finding in 1941. The area was uncovered again in 1979 by three local farmers.

The unlimited amount of research funding for the site has also become a focus for researchers, thanks to a budget allocation taken from the Education and Culture Ministry'€™s endowment funds.

The first disbursement of the fund was around Rp 3 billion ( about US$250,000 ).

  • Use of hoes in excavation process by TNI is criticized 
  • Researchers at Gunung Padang recently revealed traces of civilization thought to date back to 5200 BC 
  • Archaeologists at other sites bemoan lack of funding

Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh had also pledged to give unlimited funds to research at Gunung Padang.

Desril, who heads at least 12 researchers at the Bandung Archaeological Center, spoke of this year'€™s limited research funds at her institution, which only received Rp 4.6 billion to fund all activities, including employee salaries.

She compared Gunung Padang'€™s smooth funding process with pre-historic research at the Pawon Cave site in Cipatat, West Bandung regency, West Java.

Research at the site had been carried out since 2003, but was suspended at one point and later resumed in 2006 until now.

'€œThe budget [for the Pawon Cave site] was only enough for a six-strong team and the research was limited to around 14 days,'€ said Desril.

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Geology Agency head Surono said the budget for research was always limited at his institution, especially for the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center ( PVMBG ).

When he served as PVMBG head in 2012, Surono said he managed funds of Rp 122 billion, which were used for employee salaries and observation activities for 127 volcanoes.

'€œOur country is also prone to landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis, all of which are under my authority. That'€™s why researchers should not merely follow their own interests. We'€™re focusing on short term research to support disaster mitigation,'€ said Surono, who is overseeing 15 researchers and around 400 volcano observers.

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