35 staff to look after 1,000 sites

East Java has another claim to archaeological fame other than Majapahit – the Bandowoso region is home to over a thousand megaliths, dating to 4,000 years old. What’s more notable is how stretched the archaeological office is in trying to protect and preserve the monuments – only 35 staff to look after 1,000 sites.

Monumental indifference to the care of megaliths
The Jakarta Post, 27 February 2009

According to records at the Trowulan Archaeological Office, there are thousands of monuments in Bondowoso, which is located 192 kilometers from Surabaya, dating back to the megalithic period.

In the Grujugan subdistrict, for example, more than 400 monuments of various types have been discovered. Meanwhile, in Maesan and Pujer subdistricts, there are 140 large stones.

There are also similar stones in Wringin, Tlogosari and Wonosari subdistricts where so far 60 more megaliths have been discovered.

“That funding stopped when Indonesia was hit by the monetary crisis during Megawati Soekarnoputri’s presidency. All this time, we *the staff members of the Trowulan Archaeological Office* have personally paid the tax,” Majelis said.

The situation has been aggravated by the activities of robbers who have been active at the monument sites. Usually it is the statue-shaped monuments that are the usual targets.

“Megalith thieves were really active in the 1980s. At that time the staff members had to keep watch and stay awake all night to prevent thieving,” Majelis said.


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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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