Sat, 08 Mar 2003

Mudslide may reveal more Yogyakarta history

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

A team of government researchers were on Friday focusing on ruins unearthed by a recent mudslide in Yogyakarta.

"Literature has so far told us that an irrigation dam was built during the rule of Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII in the 19th century but we never knew where the dam was built. This may be the place," Djoko Tiarso, head of the provincial tourism and cultural office's archeological and historical study, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Heavy rain caused a mudslide in the Yogyakarta hamlet of Sidorejo in Bantul regency last week, flushing out a deep trench nearly two-kilometers long and 25-meters wide through rice fields.

Objects believed to be of historical value were found in the trench. They included the ruins, a small boat, two keris (dagger), a grenade, five black balls with fuses that were believed to be explosives, live ammunition, remains of tomb stones with Javanese writing and a small dragon-shaped stone.

The researchers said that based on a physical examination of the findings, except for the building remains, all were old.

"After examining the bricks and the spacing between bricks, all in the team have concluded that the construction was built between the 17th and 19th century," Indra Dewa Kusuma of the provincial archeological preservation office said.

He compared the construction to the one found in the old city of Kotagede on the southeastern outskirts of Yogyakarta, which usually have no spacing between the bricks. Buildings there were built by rubbing the bricks against one another with the help of water.

Earlier constructions, however, used limestone to attach the bricks, therefore forming spacing between them.

"But we still have to wait for the laboratory test results to make sure," said Djoko Tiarso. His team had taken samples for further tests, including for a comparison with nearby historical buildings, including pesanggrahan (recreational area) in Ambarbinangun, Sonopakis and Sonosewu.

By comparing the samples the team will be able to estimate the exact age of the remains as well as the period they belong to.

The research, according to Djoko, started last Tuesday with observations and interviews with local public figures. It was then continued with excavations of the surrounding area to get a picture of the possible structure of the construction.

"We have been conducting the excavation for the last two days," said Djoko, adding that the team had temporarily concluded that the remains might be parts of an artificial dam made in the 19th century.

"It was initially built for irrigation reasons, but later on was developed into a water recreation site. It was still there by the beginning of the 1960s. A rapid sedimentation process had eventually made it level with the surrounding areas in the late 1970s so that local people began to plant rice fields on it," Djoko said.

All the damaged site, covering 10 hectares previously used as rice fields and fishponds, belonged to the sultan, and thus further strengthened the idea the site may be that written about in the literature.