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Megalithic Traditions of Indonesia and East Timor

Megaliths in Sumba  | Megaliths in Nias  | Megaliths in Timor 



Figure 12:

View of a Sumba church (see fig.10) pew and sanctuary inside a wooden shack.




Figure 13:

This menhir is a supplement and decoration to a dolmen decorated with various geometric patterns, human figures, a gong, and animals. It has a beautiful shape and shows that the person buried underneath it was a king of very high status, much respected by his people [2].



Figure 14:


View of a menhir standing alongside a stone table.





Figure 15:
This menhir (see Fig. 14) is a supplement to a dolmen and is considered to be the guardian of the dead person’s ancestral spirit to protect the dead one’s spirits from dangers so that it can safely reach the world of spirits.

A menhir is called penji in the local dialect of Sumba. This menhir is 245 cm high, 70 cm wide and 24 cm thick. It is decorated with a carving of a human figure and geometric decorative patterns surrounding it. The figure is depicted as a strong person with its hands on its hips.




Figure 16:


View of a Timorese village with some residents and a megalith on the right foreground. 



Figure 17:

Stone tables situated in the center of the kampung or village indicates the centrality of ancestral veneration status and importance to village life and presence.




Figure 18:

A close up view of a stone table within the village. The presence of a dog (a ritually polluting animal for Muslims) shows the lack of strong Islamic concerns among the villagers.


Figure 19:

These traditional houses are built with high truncated pyramidal-shaped roofs rising from five to seven levels and topped with a projecting wooden beam at both ends. These roof beams are believed to be entrances for the ancestor spirits to come in and bless to their ancestor.



Figure 20:


Kerbau (water buffalo) horns adorn the ceilings of these sacred (?) huts. They are phallic symbols which symbolize the power and virility of the rulers.  



Figure 22:

There are four wooden posts (only two are pictured here) that support the house* from its roof to the top that are closely associated with ancestor worship rituals. Racks made of rattan and wood hanging from the posts serve as offering altars. The front post is where the rato carries out his rituals of divination by invoking the appropriate spirit to guide him into the future. A second front pillar symbolizes the female ancestors while two other rear pillars symbolize both the male and female ancestors and the symbol of fertility [3].

 

The Megalithic Tradition in Timor

Living megalithic traditions of Timor are found in Kewar, Takirin, and Lewalutas. The artifacts found in this area usually consists of ksadans of ceremonial venues for worshipping the powers considered to protect the safety of their lives. This is because the Timorese still worship their ancestors and other spiritual powers.
These ksadans are a collection of small and large stones arranged in a circle with one or two openings functioning as doors. Inside the ksadan, near or above the walls, standing stones or menhirs are found. The menhir usually functions as a sign of the chiefs when they have to make a decision in the ksadan. In other places, the ksadan has a whet-stone (scratched stone) called batu asah. According to the traditional chief, the batu asah was used to whet weapons used in war. Whetting stones on the stone would endow the weapon with spiritual powers allowing the wielder of the weapon to be victorious in battle. Sometimes, a mishbah or lantern which plays a role in every ceremony was also found.
Other functional uses of the megaliths occurs when the local Timorese carry out various ceremonies, such as planting seeds after harvesting, hunting, rain-making, after constructing a traditional house, and village cleaning.

References:
[1] Sukendar, Haris. 1997. Album of Megalithic Tradition in Indonesia. Transl. Dra. Frieda Dharmaperwira Amran Indonesia: Ministry of Education and Culture.
[2] Sukendar, 134.
[3] Kartik, Kalpana. 2005. The Monumental Stone Tombs of Sumba.
http://www.indonesiaphoto.com/content/view/25/48/

* As in many sacred architectural forms in Indonesia, the house is not only seen as a mere dwelling place, it is regarded as a symbol of the cosmos linking the divine world to that of man. In such places, the immaterial world and the material world are continuously interacting, and the harmony between the living and the world beyond is kept through rituals and offerings. As the invisible penetrates into the world of the living, so it needs to be identified in the material world. Each of the marupu spirits are given their appropriate attributes as tangible objects, and it is through these objects that they are identified during rituals. If the house is regarded as a living, heavenly altar on earth, ancestor worship is also common within the village and elsewhere needing blessings from the invisible forces.

A Warm Blankets report by John Cheong