The Central Java Cultural Heritage Preservation Center (BPCB) has begun restoring Sukuh temple in Karanganyar regency, Central Java, aiming to prevent existing structural damage in the centuries-old temple from worsening.
The pyramid-shaped temple, which was discovered in 1815, has sunk 20 centimeters on the northeastern side over the past few decades. Furthermore, stones are coming apart in extended areas of the southwestern side and on the stairs leading to the temple's main building.
BPCB restoration working group chief Sudarno said the extensive damage had put the whole structure of the temple in danger.
'The current damage is the accumulation of damage [from previous years] and it's dangerous. That's why we've had to prioritize the restoration of the temple this year,' Sudarno said.
The restoration work, he went on, had officially begun on June 18 and would last for two years. To carry out the major project, the BPCB is working with a joint team comprising Borobudur temple conservation experts, Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University (UGM) archeologists and structural engineering experts and geologists from the National Development University (UPN), also in Yogyakarta.
During the restoration, local authorities will close the temple's 5,440-square-meter compound to the public for security reasons.
Located in Sukuh village, around 35 kilometers east of Surakarta, Central Java, Sukuh temple is perched at around 910 meters above sea level on the western slopes of Mount Lawu.
Archeologists believe the Javanese-Hindu temple was constructed in the 15th century, probably at the end of the Majapahit Empire era (between 1293 and 1500 CE), thought to be represented in a relief depicting a giant eating a human.
The restoration of Sukuh will, according to Sudarno, be followed by the dismantling of the temple's main structure for research purposes. The center of the pyramid remained uncharted territory, he said.
The earliest book about the temple, Proveener Beschrijpten op Soekoh en Cetho, which was written by Dutch archaeologist Van der Vlis in the mid 19th century, reported that the temple's center was covered in concrete.
'So far we can only predict what is inside the central part of the temple, soil or stone,' Sudarno said.
This year, he added, the restoration work would be focused on dismantling and research, while next year was for reassembling. The estimated Rp 941 million (US$70,500) cost of this year's restoration work, according to Sudarno, is met by the state budget through the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Ministry.
The head of BPCB's cultural heritage protection, development and utilization section, Gutomo, said many temples in the region were in need of restoration following a devastating 2006 earthquake that hit Yogyakarta and parts of Central Java. Priority, he went on, was given to temples categorized as part of the national cultural heritage and those in dangerously poor condition.
Other temples undergoing restoration work this year include Plaosan, Sewu, Bubrah and Lumbung, all of which are located in the same area as Prambanan temple.
'These four temples are part of the Prambanan temple national heritage,' Gutomo said.