Archaeologists tasked with finding the Majapahit palace

Spurred by the discovery of the ancient Majapahit’s kingdom’s town square, the head of the Trowulan Conservation Centre is tasking the archaeologists to press on with locating the kingdom’s ancient royal palace.

Archeologists challenged to locate Majapahit palace
Jakarta Post, 22 September 2008

Archeologists challenged to locate Majapahit palace
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

Following the recent discovery of the Majapahit town square, archaeologists from various universities have been challenged to locate the palace of the ancient kingdom, believed to be the biggest across the archipelago.

I Made Kusumajaya, head of the conservation center (BP3) in Trowulan, Mojokerto, said his office had given out the challenge to the team of archaeologists excavating the site and told them to continue their work there.

“They should not just be satisfied with the current discovery. They must go on to locate the kingdom’s 20-square-kilometer palace in Segaran, Trowulan,” he told The Jakarta Post on the phone on Thursday.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Indonesia (Jakarta), Gadjah Mada University (Yogyakarta), Hasanuddin University (Makassar) and Udayana University (Denpasar) have discovered a historical site in Trowulan in August, believed to be the town square of a 99-square-kilometer town.

They also excavated an big old stone similar to a stupa (domed shrine) that functioned as part of a wall when the kingdom was under the reign of King Hayam Wuruk, Kusumajaya said.

“According to our further research, the wall was part of Hayam Wuruk’s strategy to protect his palace, whose center faced the sea,” he added said.

The excavation, according to Kusumajaya, has so far only uncovered 20 percent of the targeted area.

The team, he said, is also studying the Majapahit society’s behavior and comparing it with that of Balinese society, on the grounds that there are similarities between the two.

Authorities in Bojonegoro assumed that the heaps of old bricks buried in Jampet village, Ngasem subdistrict, were also part of the legacy of the 14th century kingdom, because they were located close to an historical site discovered by a villager recently.

Head of the historical affairs section at the Bojonegoro regency, Dari Suprayitno, said her office would make a database on all the findings and coordinate with local security authorities to closely supervise the site.

The heaps of bricks were discovered by Herry, a resident of Wadang village, when he dug a hole inside the home of a villager last week.

Udayana University archaeologist Nunung Dianawati who checked on the discovery earlier this week said the bricks were parts of the stairs and walls of a Majapahit trading center from between the 14th and 15th centuries.

“Similar bricks were also used for housing as they were discovered near the Khayangan fire in Sendangharjo village and at the Mlawatan site in Kalitidu district,” he said as quoted by Antara news agency.

He deplored the prevalent thefts of antiques such as jewelry, wooden plates and old machetes from these sites.

In a related development, historian Ichwan Azhari of the North Sumatra University in Medan called on the government to stop manipulating the Majapahit kingdom in the school curriculum.

He said the writing and teaching of national history starting with the Javanese historical texts could no longer be maintained and tolerated, since most tribes and regions were not connected with the ancient kingdom.

Ichwan expressed doubt that the Majapahit political system was behind the idea of an Indonesian unitary state, as has been taught in school. He said the presentation of Majapahit as a symbol of Indonesian national unity was misleading.

“The government has ignored the reservations of historians and defended the Majapahit hegemony as the basis for Indonesia’s unity. It has also rejected picking up the history of other tribes in the national history textbooks,” Antara quoted him as saying.

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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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