Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Researchers unearth more of historic dam in Yogyakarta

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Archeologists examining the remains of what they believe was a dam built in the 19th century, have found that it was larger than expected, and plan to dig out the entire construction this week.

A team of researchers from the provincial archeological preservation office on Tuesday uncovered more of the ruins found in the village of Sidorejo in Bantul regency late last month.

The researchers excavated a 16-meter-long wing that stretches to the east from the ruins, of which previously only a 5.6-meter long and 3.4-meter wide section was visible.

Head of the archeological department at the local tourism and cultural office, Djoko Tiarso, said he expected to find another section of about the same length going westward.

"There are at least two points that we're trying to find from this week's excavation: The west edge and the bottom of the construction."

The discovery of the ruins came after a mudslide flushed out a deep trench nearly two-kilometers long and 25-meters wide through rice fields late last month.

Djoko said the ruins could be the remains of an irrigation dam built during the 1860s under the rule of Sultan Hamengku Buwono VII of the Yogyakarta Palace.

Another theory considers the ruins part of a water reservoir, which was built for sugar company PG Madukismo.

The state-owned company is located about 2.5 kilometers southeast of the site, and is still operating today.

Indeed, researchers had found the remains of another water- related construction near the company, but were unsure whether it was part of one uncovered by the mudslide.

"We have yet to make that connection (between the sugarcane factory and the dam)," said Indra Dewa Kusuma of Yogyakarta's archeological preservation office.

The mudslide uncovered a host of other objects, some of which locals consider sacred. These include a keris (traditional Javanese dagger), a dragon shaped stone and remains of tomb stones with Javanese inscriptions.

Other newer looking objects were black balls with fuses that looked like bombs, live ammunition, a torpedo, a headphone and a small boat.

Some of this mystery was lifted Tuesday when 81-year-old Sumaryoto Mertoatmodjo came forward to explain the site was once a testing ground for a torpedo launching ship.

Sumaryoto said the Indonesian Navy ordered state-owned Perusahaan Besi Indonesia in late 1947 to built three small and middle-sized ships, which could launch torpedoes.

"We finished the first ship, a six-meter long torpedo launcher, about four months later and took it to the dam to have it tested," said Sumaryoto, who headed the company's construction unit.

He said the irrigation dam was a good testing ground. It was about 50-meters wide and one-kilometer long. The ship, he added, passed the test.