Megalithic Monuments of Java, Bondowoso, East Java

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These prehistoric monuments are situated in Bondowoso, East Java, Indonesia, adding the richness of Indonesia of ancient remains. The megalithic remains consists of a gigantic stones, set up hundreds of years ago with various of intentions. This site constitutes of stone tables (dolmens), standing stones (menhirs), sarcophagus (stone coffin), stone seats and stairways, statues, household goods such as mortar and pestles, also watu kenong for its similar shape with small gong-like instruments in traditional Javanese orchestra.

Other prehistoric remain found in Bondowoso area is pandhusa, which is an item like dolmen used as corpse funeral receptacle. Those pandhusas lay on a hilly area. A cluster of them was found in the vicinity of Gunung Ko’ong, a cone-shaped hill located on the west of Maesan District, notably situated in Dawuhan and Tanahwulan Village.

According to villagers, the technique of pandhusa constructions is : Firstly select a suitable large rock, then hollow out beneath the rock. Followed by periodically replace the eliminated soil with flat stone pillar, that yields a chamber of burial under the rocks where the deceased body would later be placed, and then sealed by another flat stone. Simple and unique method.

According to Mpu Tantular published inventory few years ago, the megalithic site in Bondowoso has 129 dolmens, 92 sarcophagi, and 95 watu kenong. This survey only limited in 5 districts among total 17 districts in Bondowoso that are allegedly contain prehistoric remains. Another survey from National Research Centre for Arhaeology in Jakarta, recorded 47 megalithic sites on Bondowoso plains and hill regions, ranging from Maesan to Prajekan. Still there is possibility of more sites hidden in other mountainous parts, who knows.

dolmen
dolmen

Bondowoso experts agree that the megalithic remains are categorized in neo-megalithic tradition. HR Van Hakeren in The Stone Age of Indonesia (1972) wrote that those dolmens were from around 2500-2000 BC. Dolmen in Bondowoso is local heritage, that it was not used as worship purpose but as funeral one. Inside there were funeral give, goods that were loved by the deceased. In the first development, dolmen was used to worship that the spirit of ancestors to come down to earth to bless and protect the community. Experts estimate that the one unit of dolmen construction took 1 to 2 years and this took expensive cost, so only privilege persons that were buried in this way.

Among the finding, the most unique finding is a statue of an anchestor found in Pakauman Village, Grujugan District. Hakkeren classified this as steattopigic or patung Menhir statue, and he also calls this statue as that of Polynesian ancestor. Local people call this Betoh Nyae. This steattopigic has 153 cm height, 60 cm bust size, and head size of 46 cm and located in private farm. The remains are scattered in local farms, even an active factory. There was a throne stone, local people call it pelinggihan, that is well-kept in a factory. This throne could be made for a spiritual leader, or community leader.

THe location of the site is hidden and not easily accessible can be considered as an adventure trek for visitors visiting Bondowoso, beside this will give benefit to local people and improve awareness of this important site to be preserved. Geographically, the remains sites are circled by Mr Argopuro, Keong, Krincing and Mt Gugur, on the west of Mt Raung, Lampe, Suket, Malung, Kalisat Jampit, lebang and Mt Ijen region.

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