A thousand-year-old pottery tradition

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Potters in Masbagik, east of the island of Bali, continue a pottery tradition that is said to be a thousand years old. This would be an interesting subject for an ethnoarchaeological study – one of my colleagues is investigating the pottery making traditions from a certain region in East Malaysia, where the produced pottery forms have endured for 3,000 years!

History told in terracotta
Jakarta Post, 07 August 2009
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10th century Sanggurah Stone returns to Indonesia


A Javanese stone tablet that was taken by British colonialists in the early 19th century returns to Indonesia. The four-tonne stone dates to the Mataram Kingdom and carries an inscription in old Javanese. It is ascribed to the Javanese king, Sri Maharaja Rakai Pangkaja Dyah Wawa Sri Wijayalokanamottungga.

Ancient artifact to return to Indonesia
Jakarta Post, 24 Jan 2008

Indonesia negotiates return of ancient stone from Scotland
MSN News, 24 Jan 2008
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Tracking down traces of Mataram kingdom

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10 Aug 2007 (Jakarta Post) – An interesting article about the sultante of Mataram which existed during the 16th and 18th centuries, not to be confused with the kingdom of Mataram that existed in the 6th and 10th centuries.

Tracking down traces of Mataram kingdom

The 17th century Islamic kingdom of Mataram, under the leadership of Sultan Agung, used to be a major state known throughout the world. An inland kingdom located, Mataram still boasted a strong naval fleet.

Dutch national Jan Vos, who in 1924 visited Kerto Islamic Mataram — which still exists in Kerto, Pleret — wrote in his diary that Islamic Mataram, ruled by sultanic leadership, was a great and imposing kingdom.

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A short history of Indonesia

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13 July 2007 (Brunei Times) – Perhaps the Brunei Times is running a series about writing the short histories of different countries in Southeast Asia. Today, it publishes a short history of Indonesia – not particularly accurate, it gives a sense as if there were a series of empires that replaced one another, that Srivijaya was replaced by the Sailendra and the Mataram who in turn were replaced by the Majapahit. In reality, Srivijaya lasted all the way to the 12th century before getting run out of Sumatra by the Majapahit. (See my earlier article about Srivijaya.) The Sailendra empire also had dynastic links with Srivijaya. The article also makes no distinction between the shifts in centres of power between Sumatra (Srivijaya) and Java (Sailendra, Mataram and Majapahit). You might also want to look up the Indonesian timeline featured earlier in this site.

Indonesian history

The Dutch began to colonize Indonesia in the early 17th century; the islands were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. Indonesia declared its independence after Japan’s surrender, but it required four years before the Netherlands agreed to relinquish its colony.

Fossilized remains of Homo erectus, popularly known as the “Java Man”, suggest the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited two million to 500,000 years ago.

Austronesian peoplearrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE, and confined the native Melanesian peoples to the far eastern regions as they expanded.

Ideal agricultural conditions, and the mastering of rice cultivation allowed villages, towns, and small kingdoms to flourish by the first century CE.

Indonesian strategic sea-lane position fostered inter-island and international trade. For example, trade links with both Indian kingdoms and China were established several centuries BCE. Trade has since fundamentally shaped Indonesian history.

From the seventh century CE, the powerful Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished as a result of trade and the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism .

Between the eighth and 10th centuries CE, the agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties thrived and declined in inland Java, leaving grand religious monuments such as Borobudur and Prambanan.

Majapahit kingdom was founded in eastern Java in the late 13th century. Under Gajah Mada, its influence stretched over much of Indonesia. This period is often referred to as a “Golden Age” in Indonesian history.

Books about the history of Indonesia:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage

Merapi and the demise of the Mataram kingdom

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13 June 2006 (Jakarta Post) – Supplementary article to Merapi and Borobudur; talks about archaeological theories surrounding the fall of the Mataram Kingdom.

Merapi and the demise of the Mataram kingdom

Mount Merapi’s eruption in 1006 was also regarded as the cause of the demise of the Mataram-Hindu Kingdom and the shift to East Java.

Experts continue to propound their own theories and reasons for the demise of the kingdom. There are four possible theories proposed by archaeologists.

Related Books:

Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz

Categories: Indonesia


Borobudur and Merapi: What went on before?

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13 June 2006 (Jakarta Post) – An interesting discussion on the volcano Mount Merapi Borobodur, and whether Borobodur ever existed partly underwater or covered by ash.

Borobudur and Merapi: What went on before?

It all started with a theory proposed in 1933 by Dutch anthropologist WOJ Nieuwenkamp, who said that the temple was built on a hill surrounded by a lake.

That then triggered the curiosity of a Dutch geologist, Reinout Willem van Bemmelen, who carried out more research on the history of the temple.

Concurring with Nieuwenkamp’s theory, in the early 1950s, van Bemmelen proposed that the eruption in 1006 resulted in the burial of Borobudur temple and the ancient Mataram-Hindu kingdom, forcing it to relocate to East Java.

But should Merapi be blamed for all this? Dr. Sri Mulyaningsih, a geologist who wrote a dissertation for her doctorate degree at Bandung Institute of Technology on the impact of Merapi eruptions on the old temples at Yogyakarta, agrees with Nieuwenkamp’s theory but refutes van Bemmelen’s.

Related Books:
Borobudur by L. Frederic and J. Nou
Borobudur Projekt by H. Prager
Some architectural design principles of temples in Java: A study through the buildings projection on the reliefs of Borobudur Temple by P. Atmadi
The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)