Do stone buildings equal to 'advanced civilisation'?

I’m not quite sure what a news story is trying to say when, after looking at remains from the past, they declare that the ancient people had a higher level of civilisation than previously thought. This story seems to suggest that since the ancient (well, not that since it’s dated to about 14-17th C) people at Kota Batu new how to construct buildings with stones, they were an ‘advanced civilisation’. It’s probably an oversimplication of the idea that monumental architecture equals complex societies equals ‘civilisation’ – but I’d argue that the reverse is not true. The absence of monumental architecture may not necessarily mean that that a complex societal structure or ‘civilisation’ existed.

Kota Batu artefacts, Bru Direct 20110120

Kota Batu Archaeological Site Tells Of Brunei’s Advanced Civilisation
Bru Direct, 20 January 2011

The findings from the archaeological site of Kota Batu have revealed that the country had a higher and advanced civilisation that used stones to construct buildings.

The historical site has educational value for the younger generation to learn about the country’s advanced civilisation and also has commercial value in attracting tourists.

Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair bin Hj Abdullah, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, yesterday said this during a working visit to assess Kota Batu’s archaeological site as it will be open to the public and tourists in the near future.


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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.

2 thoughts on “Do stone buildings equal to 'advanced civilisation'?”

  1. If the simple presence of stone structures is equated with the achievement of ‘civilisation’ for that culture, then ‘civilisations’ as we know it may be many thousands of years older than what is currently acceptable. Alas, this is not the case. For example, despite the complexity of Stonehenge, scientists still do not normally equate its builders as having come from an ‘advanced civilisation’. In academia, the hallmarks of a ‘civilisation’ normally includes not only complex architecture, but also advancements in language, politics, economies, town planning etc.

    While Kota Batu should be treated as an interesting site because of its rarity within Brunei, it should not be trumpeted to be more than its real ‘archaeological’ worth (vis a vis worldwide sites) for the sake of bolstering nationalistic pride for the ‘depth’ of the nation’s coming-of-civility.

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