Archaeologists' hands tied over Singosari site

The ball is in the central government’s court over whether a Malang regency mosque should be moved in order to better preserve a set of 12th-century walls, believed to be the remants of the Singosari kingdom.

Historic site languishes under mosque as govt looks away
Jakarta Post, 17 September 2008

Historic site languishes under mosque as govt looks away
Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Malang

Both the central government and the Malang regency authorities have yet to take measures to salvage and preserve highly valuable archaeological remains in a village in the regency.

Malang Vice Regent Rendra Kresna said his administration would not bypass central government authority in dealing with the discovery of old building work believed to be the remains of the walls of the 12th century Singosari Kingdom.

“We will not interfere in the matter until we are asked to do so. It is directly under the authority of the central government, although the historical site is located here in the regency,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The site is located in Pagentan village, Singosari district, under a mosque that is undergoing rehabilitation.

Archaeologists of the state Malang University have urged the government to relocate the mosque to a nearby area, thus allowing them to conduct further excavations and to reconstruct the ancient royal palace.

Rendra said his administration would play an active role, including to finance archaeologists to conduct excavations, but only if it was asked to do so by the central government.

“It is impossible for us to take further actions in the matter as everything related to cultural inheritance is in the central government’s authority,” he said.

He said the regency administration also had a special budget for the preservation of cultural heritage, but it was not as much as that of the Central Java regency of Sragen.

Sragen reportedly has allocated Rp 2 billion annually in its budget for cultural heritage preservation and the resettlement of local people from numerous historical sites in the regency.

Rendra said his administration could possibly help fence the historical site with metal fencing, but could not relocate the mosque to another area.

The regency administration, he said, had once proposed to put aside Rp 400 million to build a special lounge for public visitors at the Sumberawan Temple in the Singosari Temple compound, but central government had rejected this.

He therefore called on the House of Representatives to revise the 1992 cultural heritage law to give opportunities to local administrations to play a role in the preservation of heritage sites.

“We also want to be known worldwide for the Singosari historical site with its rich temples that can attract foreign visitors,” said Rendra referring to Magelang, Central Java, which is famous for its world heritage Borobudur Temple.
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

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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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