The centre of Majapahit, discovered

A team of archaeologists in Indonesia has discovered what is said to be the central palace of the Majapahit kingdom using a local well as a reference point, which was said to have been used by the kingdom’s founder in the 12th century. The kingdom was dominant in East Java from 1293 to 1528 and at its height replaced Srivijaya for dominance over the Southeast Asian seas. The centre of the Majapahit kingdom is held to be in the vicinity of Trowulan, a village in East Java.

Archeologists discover center of Majapahit kingdom in Mojokerto
Jakarta Post, 12 September 2008

Archeologists discover center of Majapahit kingdom in Mojokerto
Indra Harsaputra

After the discovery of the heart of the Singasari kingdom in Malang, a team of archaeologists from several universities has located the center of the Majapahit kingdom in Trowulan, Mojokerto regency.

The team, consisting of archeologists and historians from the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Hasanuddin University in Makassar and Udayana University in Denpasar, discovered the ruins of the old kingdom’s palace, water canals, relics and precious artifacts made of gold, following an intensive excavation at the historical site from July 29 to August 11.

Recently, a team from Malang State University unearthed the walls of a Singasari building, located precisely beneath a mosque undergoing renovation in a village in Singosari district in Malang regency.

Agus Aris Munandar, a member of the 50-strong Majapahit team, said they had discovered a vast wall surrounding a palace, with remnants of infrastructure and relics, although they were all buried rubble and damaged.

He said major finds included a Majapahit palace, which ancient Negarakertagama epigraphs say was surrounded by walls with underground canals.

“Despite finding this ancient construction, we have not been able to assess its age or when it was built, because it is in poor condition,” he said, adding the damage was caused by natural and human factors, including several eruptions of the nearby Mt. Kelud and illegal excavations by treasure hunters.

Agus added all the findings, including ancient tools and broken earthenware, ceramic and metal containers, would be taken to a laboratory for further analysis that could last several months.

“After a series of tests research, we will meet again before making a conclusion on whether the findings are remnants of the ancient Majapahit kingdom,” he said.

Agus said the discovery was the latest achievement by the team to document the ancient Majapahit kingdom, which was a major and powerful kingdom in southeast Asia.

The last excavation in the Trowulan site was conducted in 1996.

Agus said more work was needed to solve the mystery of an old well that, according to the epigraph, connected Mojokerto with Bali Island.

The old well is known as Sumur Upas and has a diameter of 80 centimeters. It was located near Kedaton Temple in Kedaton village, Sentonorejo district.

Local folklore says the well was once used by Raden Wijaya, founder of Majapahit Kingdom, who reigned from 1293 to 1309.

The temple has since become a reference point for archeologists seeking to prove the kingdom’s existence.

“Kedaton” stems from keraton (palace), and many experts identify the temple as a place of worship for kings. The Balinese Hindu community believes the temple was a central place for kings to make offerings, claiming this is why many Balinese Hindus visit the temple to pray during certain religious events.

Several graves have been found near the temple, with local folklore claiming the goddesses Murni and Pandansari are buried there. Dutch archeologist P.J. Veth named the cemetery Srengenge.

Local residents have filed several reports with police of illegal excavations at the historical sites. Many of the artifacts are smuggled abroad.

Related Books:
Java in the 14th Century: A Study in Cultural History the Nagara-Kertagama by Rakawi, Prapanca of Majapahit, 1356 A.D. by R. Prapantj
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage
Worshiping Siva and Buddha: The Temple Art of East Java by A. R. Kinney, M. J. Klokke and L. Kieven
Indonesia: Peoples and Histories by J. G. Taylor
Majapahit by J. Boisselier

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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