Juni 06, 2014

Archaeology in the Sumatran Highlands

PENANG, 4 July 2013 – Evidence of economic and social linkages between the uplands and lowlands of Sumatra have been found during archaeological excavations, said Dr. Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz from Freie Universität, Berlin.

“We started with two projects in the Kerinci area on the Sumatran Highlands about 10 years ago to gain a better understanding of settlements’ development and their patterns that shaped the region during prehistory until the pre-colonial times,” she said at a presentation titled Settlement Archaeology in the Highlands of Sumatra, Indonesia today.

The site which is located in Jambi province, was the first project to establish a systematic archaeological research in the highlands for evidence of small scale settlements adopting forms of sedentary lives dating back to early second millennium B.C.

“Between the 10th to 14th century, there were distinct signs of village territoriality as evidenced by jar burial sites and megaliths related to settlement clusters,” she said, adding that the next step of development was characterised by new “materialisational power and prestige” which manifested in the form of the collection of earthen wares, metal working or gold processing, and valuable imports.

Besides shards of local earthenware, the excavation has yield imported ceramics from countries like China, Siam (now Thailand), Burma, Persia (now Iraq), and places around Southeast Asia.

The excavated pottery shards were dated using thermoluminescence and Carbon 14 methods.

Touching on the topic of jar burials and burial sites that have been excavated, she lamented that, to date, human remains have not been found because of the soil acidity.

Sumatra, since the 14th century, has a dense settlement pattern and a sophisticated trading society that evolved along the coastline and foreign commodities were brought up to the upland regions in exchange for gold and forest products.

“We can see that Bukit Gombak became a place of importance during the 14th and 17th century as it developed into a trading centre,” Mai Lin remarked.

She then added that there were three economic factors for the flourishing trade: it has a control over the trading network of the sub-region and access to gold resources and forest products, a surplus of rice obtained from successful wet rice cultivation (irrigated by a canal), and new technologies.

In the Jambi highlands, raids and competition between clans caused intervillage conflicts, leading to the development of fortified settlements.

“However, such conflicts were not found in West Sumatra,” Mai Lin said, adding that, on the contrary, territorial reconciliation took place leading to changes in trade patterns and material culture.

She concluded that the polity of the Minangkabau gained one of the very few internationally recognised highland communities of Sumatra.

Also present at the talk were Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) director Professor Dr. Mokhtar Saidin; CGAR Assoc. Professor Dr. Stephen Chia Ming Soon; and Visiting Lecturer Professor Dr. Hamzah Mohamad. [Text: Yong Check Yoon]


Source: Usm.my.

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