Sumatra's megaliths

A Jakarta Post story featuring the megaliths of Sumatra, reportedly the thrid largest concentration of such megaliths in the world, but also poorly understood as an archaeological phenomenon. The ones unearthed today have to fortune to be protected by superstition, and it sounds as if there are more megaliths around buried in the region – I wonder if anyone’s done any research on how the megaliths are landscape are related?

Sumatra’s ancient megaliths give insight to the past
Jakarta Post, 15 July 2009

The historical artifacts known as the megaliths are believed to date from the middle Stone Age.

Those in Tanah Pasemah are under the management of the Center for Conservation of Archaeological Relics (BP3) in Jambi, whose working area covers Jambi, South Sumatra, Bengkulu and Bangka-Belitung provinces.

It is believed that many such megaliths are still buried but financial constraints are preventing any excavations. The local administration is encouraging interested parties to get involved. As it is, the region’s stones have attracted experts at home and abroad, and are often the subject of international conferences.

“We welcome anyone who is interested to do it [excavate],” said Irfan Wintarto of Lahat province’s Historical and Archaeological Heritage Maintenance and Management, Tourism and Culture Agency. “Megaliths like these are rare and should be protected.”

The ancient stones from Tanah Pasemah are different to those found elsewhere. They are carved into various shapes, depicting such shapes as a man fighting a tiger, a woman carrying a child, and a man riding a beast.


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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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