The significance of horses in Indonesia

Liang Kobori, South Sulawesi. Source: Jakarta Post 20151208

A story about the history of horses in Indonesia, drawing on rock art and evidence from inscriptions from all over the region. Some depictions of horses on rock art suggest that horses may have been in Indonesia longer than the conventional 13th century, when horses were thought to be introduced with the Chinese. Some bits are speculative, but it is a fascinating read nonetheless.

Liang Kobori, South Sulawesi. Source: Jakarta Post 20151208
Liang Kobori, South Sulawesi. Source: Jakarta Post 20151208

A tale of prehistoric horses in South Sulawesi
Jakarta Post, 08 December 2015

Horses were once thought to have come to the Indonesian archipelago around the 13th century along with the arrival of the until-then invincible fleet of the Yuan Dynasty from China founded by Kublai Khan. The descendants of the mounted cavalry that established the largest empire in history came to impose their imperial supremacy on the Archipelago, specifically on Java, which was at the time witnessing the fall of the Singasari kingdom.

That mighty army was driven back to the sea by Raden Wijaya’s troops, who later established the Majapahit kingdom. In their retreat, the armada left many high-quality war horses behind. The descendants of those war horses still roam the Dieng Plateau and appear very similar to Mongolian horses.

But the perception that horses were first brought to the archipelago by the Mongol armada is a grave error. Horses were already found in the archipelago centuries before the arrival of the armies from the north. Borobudur and Prambanan Temples, built around the 9th century, are decorated with several panels depicting horses.

Outside of Java, historical remains and cultural artifacts featuring horses can be found in many places.

– See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/08/a-tale-prehistoric-horses-south-sulawesi.html#sthash.D5lwcHVs.dpuf

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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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