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Poso expedition traces past for sake of future 

Ruslan Sangadji

The Jakarta Post

Palu, Central Sulawesi  /  Wed, July 10, 2019  /  12:00 pm
Poso expedition traces past for sake of futureĀ 

During its first trip from May 15 to 22, an expedition team, accompanied by farmers and fishermen grouped under the Lake Poso Protector Alliance, explored Poso regency's lake, hills and forest areas and interviewed a number of local residents. (JP/Ruslan Sangadji)

An expedition to Poso regency in Central Sulawesi, which included a team of people with backgrounds in the fields of geology, archaeology, biology, anthropology, sociology and theology, came home with interesting findings from a prehistoric fault in West Poso on rare species of fish endemic to Lake Poso.

During its first trip from May 15 to 22, the team, accompanied by farmers and fishermen who are part of the Lake Poso Protector Alliance, explored the regency's lake, hills and forest areas and interviewed a number of local residents.

Among the locations visited by the team were the region's 17 villages, namely Bancea, Bo’e, Korobono, Leboni, Meko, Owini, Pandayora, Panjo, Pasir Putih, Pendolo, Salukaia, Taipa, Tindoli, Toinasa, Tokilo, Tolambo and Tonusu.

In Tindoli village, a team of archaeologists led by Iksam, curator of the Central Sulawesi Museum and member of the Indonesia Archaeologists Association, found cave paintings on the walls of the Kandela Cave. The cave art, possibly once more colorful, is entirely black.

In addition to the artwork, the cave is also where ceramics and hundreds of skeletons of the Tindoli people's ancestors were found. The tradition of storing human bones in caves, known as the “second funeral”, was practiced by locals in Poso before the arrival of the Samawi religion. 

According to Iksam, back then when someone died, instead of immediately burying them, the family of the deceased would first store the body in certain places, usually not far from home, to allow it to decompose. Only after it was reduced to a skeleton was the body stored in a coffin, to be taken to its final resting place in a cave or in a location considered safe and secluded.

Besides Kandela in Tindoli village, interesting archaeological findings in the form of coffins decorated with animal head motifs such as horses, buffaloes and cows, were also found in Watu Makio. These three animals symbolized the social class of the deceased occupant, according to Iksam.

Based on these findings, Iksam said cave sites on the edge of Lake Poso must be protected as they could help in the study of human civilization.

West Poso fault

The geology team also made the discovery of the West Poso fault in Watu Makilo after seeing two large broken stones with a pattern of fracture lines on their surfaces. The West Poso fault line is located right in the middle of these rocks. Both of these stones were found after a fairly steep one-hour climb in Bo'e village, South Pamona district.

After cross-checking GPS data with maps, it was determined that the West Poso fault is located on the north side of Watu Makilo. However, further research is needed to estimate the exact age of the fault.

Even so, Reza Permadi, a team member from the Indonesian Association of Geologists, said the discovery was important as it provided information on the characteristics of faults.

Meanwhile, the biology team, after plunging into coastal waters in the area, found various fish species that reflect the biodiversity of Lake Poso. In Tindoli and Tokilo, the team found transition zones where fish can breed and rest, which helps to maintain the ecosystem of Lake Poso.

Ichthyology expert from Sintuwu Maroso University, Meria Tirsa Gundo, said Buntinge and Bungu fish, species found in the area, were very rare, hence their conservation status as endangered.

"While observing the water in the Tokilo village area, all three [researchers] found a small fish that turned out to be of the Bungu species," said Meria.

However, Meria said the fish was a Bungu Masiwu fish, a species different from the rare, nearly extinct one.

While at the Saluopa waterfall, Evan and Kurniawan, members of the Poso expedition's biology team, had a long discussion on identifying a small fish they had found.

"After going back and forth, we agreed that the fish found was part of the Adrianichthys oophorus family," said Evan, referring to a family that includes the Buntinge and Buntingi fish species.

Evan and Kurniawan also stated that scientific analysis was needed to determine whether they correctly identified the fish, which was carefully stored in a container to be later analyzed in a laboratory.

Read also: Maritime expedition captures beauty, plight in eastern Indonesia

The story of a sunken village

Herry Yogaswara, an expert on the Poso team who is also an anthropologist, used his time in the expedition to trace the history of the past by listening to locals' stories. One of them is about the collapse of one village into Lake Poso.

According to a tale told on a peninsula in Bancea, local villagers were holding a party when the village suddenly collapsed into the lake. Legend has it, all the people turned into stone after they had laughed at a frog. The team, in trying to find out why the story was told, found large stone blocks that had collapsed into the lake.

According to Herry, folktales are important in studying disasters.

"Our parents used to tell tales of natural events that had happened through fairytales or folklore. Such is important in this expedition," said Herry.

The history of the Toinasa community, for instance, offers insight into locals’ disaster mitigation efforts. They previously lived in an area called Lindugi near Lake Poso, but later decided to move to a place further away after an earthquake had struck.

Every night after coming back from the field, the Poso expedition team talked to the locals, both children and adults. Through this dialogue, villagers learned about the team’s findings and asked about faults, earthquakes, tsunamis, liquefaction, landslides and any other findings discovered by the team.

Lian Gogali, head of the expedition, explained that the first achievement of the trip was finding out that the villages were all located along the fault. The findings, he said, would raise awareness about life on the fault and help formulate development policies in Poso related to disaster mitigation. 

All this time, he said, we had been developing recklessly, without any regard to cultural diversity, nature and the potential for disaster. The findings will be presented in a joint document that can be read by the residents and serve as a guide for future development plans in the village and the regency.

Lian is hopeful that the government will consider the results of the Poso expedition team in determining development policies in the regency – ones that truly focus on disaster mitigation. (nic/kes)