Tag Archives: archaeology

Borobudur Paleolake and the Cradle of Civilization

<Bahasa Indonesia>

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 18 October 2015

Progo Valley Civilization

Progo Valley, or sometimes called Kedu Valley, is the fertile volcanic plain that lies between the volcanoes, Mount Sumbing and Mount Sundoro to the west, and Mount Merbabu and Mount Merapi to the east of Central Java, Indonesia. The plain also borders the Menoreh hills in the southwest and Prambanan Plain in the southeast. The Progo River runs through the center of this plain, from its source on the slope of Mount Sumbing to the southern coast of Java facing the Indian Ocean. It has been a significant location in Central Javanese history for over a millennium, as it contains traces of the Sailendra dynasty as well as Borobudur and associated locations. According to local myth, the Progo Valley is a Javanese ‘sacred’ place and has been dubbed “the garden of Java” due to its high agricultural fertility.

The island of Java is an elongated stretch of land, more than 1000 km long and about 100 km from north to south. Its northern coast, facing the Java Sea, is bordered by an alluvial plain, the width of which may vary, in Central Java, from 40 km, to a few kilometers. Further inland, parallel to the coast, runs the impressive North Serayu Ridge. Its main summits are, from west to east, Slamet (3432 m), Ragajembangan (2177 m), Prahu (2565 m) and Ungaran (2050 m). The North Serayu Ridge is continued to the east by the Kendeng Hills, which reach 899 m. South of these mountains lies the central depression zone of Java, which encompasses plains of varying size, such as the plains of Purwokerto, Magelang, Yogyakarta, Solo, Purwodadi and Ngawi. The depression zone is partly capped by a series of high volcanoes: Mounts Sundoro (3155 m), Sumbing (3371 m), Merbabu (3145 m), Merapi (2947 m) and Lawu (3265m). The Central depression zone is further divided by the presence of the South Serayu Mountains and the Menoreh Hills. In most parts of the island, the Central depression zone is bordered to the south by the Southern Mountains, a steep mountainous chain that prevents access to the Indian Ocean.

In Central Java, however, with the exception of its easternmost part, the central depression zone is not bordered by mountains. The plains gently slope southward to the ocean. Historical Central Java, which encompasses the Progo Valley and its direct surroundings, constitutes a transition zone between the closed, mountainous landscape of the west and the open plains of the east. From a geographer’s point of view, it is the border between Central and East Java.

The Serayu River begins on Mount Sundoro and flows westwards through the Wonosobo-Purwokerto plain, until it reaches the Indian Ocean in the neighborhood of Cilacap. The Progo River is the main watercourse of historical Central Java. Unlike the other rivers that originate from the Central depression of Java and run east or westwards, the Progo River flows directly from north to south. Its source is located high on Mount Sundoro, while its main tributary, the Elo River, takes its source on Mt Merbabu.

The Progo Valley hosts a large number of Dharmist and Buddhist temples dated from the 8th to the 9th century. Because of this, the Progo Valley is considered the cradle of classic Indonesian civilization. The temples in the region include as follow.

Borobudur: The gigantic 8th century stone mandala Buddhist monument was built by the Sailendras.

Mendut: The 8th century Buddhist temple is housing three large stone statues of Vairocana, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani.

Pawon: The small 8th century Buddhist temple near the bank of Progo River is located between Mendut and Borobudur.

Ngawen: The 8th century Buddhist temple is located about 5 kilometers east of Mendut temple.

Banon: The ruins of a Dharmist temple; located several hundred meters north of Pawon temple. However, no significant remains of the temple have survived, thus, its reconstruction is impossible. Only the statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Agastya, and Ganesha have been discovered, which are now displayed at the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta.

Canggal: also known as Candi Gunung Wukir. One of the oldest Dharmist temples in the area. The temple is located in the Muntilan area, near the temple a Canggal inscription connected with Sri Sanjaya, the king of Medang Kingdom was discovered.

Gunung Sari: The ruins of a Dharmist temple on top of a hill, located near Candi Gunung Wukir, on the outskirts of Muntilan.

Umbul: in Grabag, Magelang; it served as a bathing and resting place for the kings of Mataram.

Distribution of Central Java Temples (2)

Figure 1.  Distribution of temples in central Java

More than 300 temple remains were once visible in Central Java, scattered all over the region. Today, however, a large part of these ruins has vanished. Some of them were used as stone quarries to build new houses, mosques or bridges. Others were simply victims of the ravages of time or were buried under residues from human activities. The situation is scarcely better for the majority of the remaining sites: many former temples have been reduced to a few dozen stones scattered in a field or along a road. On the other hand, certain buildings were relatively well preserved and anastylosis granted them a new life. Restored from top to bottom, these temples are now waiting to be visited and admired.

Borobudur Temple

The Borobudur Temple Compounds is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world, and was built in the 8th and 9th centuries AD during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty. The monument is located in the Progo Valley, in the southern part of Central Java, at the center of the island of Java, Indonesia.

Borobudur Temple

Figure 2.  Borobudur Temple

The main temple is a stupa built in three tiers around a hill which was a natural center: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,520 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha.

The vertical division of Borobudur Temple into base, body, and superstructure perfectly accords with the conception of the Universe in Buddhist cosmology. It is believed that the universe is divided into three superimposing spheres, kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatu, representing respectively the sphere of desires where we are bound to our desires, the sphere of forms where we abandon our desires but are still bound to name and form, and the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form. At Borobudur Temple, the kamadhatu is represented by the base, the rupadhatu by the five square terraces, and the arupadhatu by the three circular platforms as well as the big stupa. The whole structure shows a unique blending of the very central ideas of ancestor worship, related to the idea of a terraced mountain, combined with the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana.

The Temple should also be seen as an outstanding dynastic monument of the Sailendra Dynasty that ruled Java for around five centuries until the 10th century.

The Borobudur Temple Compounds consists of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples situated to the east on a straight axis to Borobudur. The two temples are Mendut Temple, whose depiction of Buddha is represented by a formidable monolith accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, and Pawon Temple, a smaller temple whose inner space does not reveal which deity might have been the object of worship. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana.

The temple was used as a Buddhist temple from its construction until sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries when it was abandoned. Since its re-discovery in the 19th century and restoration in the 20th century, it has been brought back into a Buddhist archaeological site.

Borobudur was mentioned in Serat Centhini, a twelve volume compilation of Javanese tales and teachings, written in verse and published in 1814. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction.

Potongan-candi-borobudur-2

Figure 3.  Cross section of Borobudur Temple. A: soil fill; B, C and D: horizon layers.

Mount Merapi Eruptions

Merapi (2911 m) is perhaps the best known volcano around Borobudur basin. It belongs to a group of four stratovolcanoes that includes Ungaran, Telomoyo and Merbabu volcanoes. Merapi is the most active volcano of the Indonesian archipelago and it is believed to be the most dangerous as well, with a virtually continuous activity that shades serious threats over local inhabitants (eg Newhall et al, 2000; Thouret et al, 2000). Hence, Merapi has been the object of numerous studies of its recent eruptions (eg Charbonnier and Gertisser, 2008; Gomez et al, 2008; Lavigne and Thouret, 2003), its evolution and eruptive history (eg Andreastuti et al, 2000; Camus et al, 2000; Gertisser and Keller, 2003a; Kalscheuer et al, 2007; Newhall et al, 2000; Voight et al, 2000), and associated hazards and risks (eg Lavigne et al, 2008; Thouret et al, 2000).

The collapse of an Old Merapi edifice was accompanied by a cataclysmic explosive eruption that laid waste to the surrounding countryside (van Bemmelen, 1949). Adopting an idea that was advanced first by Ijzerman (1891) and Scheltema (1912), and embellished by van Hinloopen Labberton (1922), van Bemmelen argued that the collapse and eruption occurred in 1006 AD and weakened the Medang civilization of Central Java, causing it to move from Central to East Java. Subsequent eruptions built a New Merapi that largely filled the collapse crater. Wirakusumah et al (1980, 1989) produced a geologic map that recognized the same Old and New Merapi, and added a preliminary radiocarbon chronology; Wirakusumah et al (1986), Bronto and Sayudi (1995), Bronto et al (1997) and Andreastuti et al (2000) added important stratigraphic details.

Geology of Merapi as inferred by van Bemmelen (1949) (2)

Figure 4.  Geology of Merapi as inferred by van Bemmelen (1949)

Geological Setting of Merapi

Figure 5. Geological Settings of Merapi (Rahardjo et al, 1977)

Merapi has a complex history with different stages, for which different explanations were proposed (eg Berthommier, 1990; Camus et al, 2000; Gertisser and Keller, 2003b; Newhall et al, 2000). In front of this diversity, we chose to adopt the following timeframe for practical purposes, even though the findings necessitate a re-evaluation of the age dates proposed in literature: (1) a first period from late Holocene to present; (2) Old Merapi from ~10.000 BP to HPS; (3) Proto-Merapi, for everything earlier than ≈10.000 BP, using ‘proto’ in its original meaning.

The most recent phase, on which all authors agree, is characterized by pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the active summit lava dome. Although historic events tend to stay on the flank of the edifice, Holocene pyroclastic-flow deposits cover wide areas and form most of the volcano’s apron.

This first period overlies thick basaltic andesite lavas intercalated with pyroclastic deposits of an older volcanic edifice, which scientists named Old Merapi. There is no precise dating of the beginning of the Old Merapi stage. Newhall et al (2000) propose a date of 9630 ± 60 years BP (14C dating) and Gertisser (2001) a slightly earlier date of 11,792 ± 90 years BP. Little is known about this period, however Andreastuti et al (2000) has identified for its late phase (3000 BP to 250 BP) a series of subplinian, plinian and volcanian eruptions, whilst present events are dominated by dome-collapse related events.

This older part of the volcano (Old Merapi) is characterized by a horseshoe-shaped Somma rim, oriented to the west, upon which the theory of one or several sector collapses and resulting debris avalanches is constructed. This idea was first suggested by Ijzerman (1891), then Scheltema (1912) and finally embellished by van Hinloopen Labberton (1922). In 1949, van Bemmelen adopted this idea and discussed the collapse of an Old Merapi edifice around 1006 AD, which would have been the cause for the Medang civilization’s shift of power towards the East. However, Newhall et al (2000) summarized archeological evidence that the decline of the kingdom of Medang in Central Java did not occur in 1006 AD, but almost a century earlier, and suggested a much older date for a Merapi flank collapse: 1900 ± 60 years BP. This date was challenged by Camus et al (2000), who proposed a collapse between 6700 and 2200 BP. It should be noted that all these attempts to constrain the timing of an Old Merapi collapse (and associated debris-avalanche deposits) are based on indirect evidence, as any debris avalanche deposit that could be associated with such an event is yet to be found. It may be that any debris-avalanche deposit, if it exists, may be buried under more recent deposits (Newhall et al, 2000). Indeed, Candi (temple in Indonesian) Sumbersari – 10 m high – was buried in less than a thousand years under clastic material, and 2.5 m of Candi Kedulan were buried in ~400 years. Thus, debris-avalanche deposits are not likely to appear in outcrops, if any.

The available literature also nurtured the idea of an early lake in the Borobudur basin, located to the west of Merapi Volcano, which would have been impounded around 660 ± 110 14C years BP (Newhall et al, 2000) by a potential debris avalanche. Murwanto et al (2004) embellished this idea based on a few 14C age determinations, extending the presence of a lake from the Holocene until historic times.

Volcanic activity at Merapi certainly began earlier than the Old Merapi stage described above. Berthommier (1990) and Camus et al (2000) argue that the volcanic development started as early as the late Pleistocene with an ‘Ancient Merapi’ stage (or ‘Proto-Merapi’ stage; Newhall et al, 2000), ~40.000 years BP, based on U-Th dating performed on basalts of Gunung Turgo/Plawangan.

This early stage of Merapi would have been built above an even older basaltic andesite volcanic structure, Gunung Bibi, dated by the K/Ar methods at 670,000 ± 250,000 years BP (Berthommier, 1990; Camus et al, 2000). This interpretation of an older volcanic edifice is still controversial, because it is based on a single age date only, with a significant error margin. In fact, Newhall et al (2000) argue that Gunung Bibi could be a young parasitic cone of Merapi.

Geology of Borobudur Basin

Located in central Java, 30 km to the North of Yogyakarta city, Borobudur basin is the depression that lies between Merapi and Merbabu volcanoes to the East, Sumbing volcano to the North and the Menoreh mountains to the West and the South. As a result, Borobudur basin is partially filled with clastic material intercalated with fluviatile (Figure 6) and lacustrine deposits (Murwanto et al, 2004; Newhall et al, 2000). The Progo River, and its main tributary, the Elo River, drains the Borobudur basin, cutting steep banks into the basin fluvio-lacustrine sediments and volcanic material.

Location of the Borobudur basin and location of the four deep cores (Gomez et al, 2010)

Figure 6. Location of the Borobudur basin and location of the four deep cores (after Gomez et al, 2010)

Geology of MerapiMurwanto & Subandrio (1997) (2)

Figure 7. Geological profile of Progo Valley (after Murwanto and Subandrio, 1997)

Alluvial plains in the middle of the valley, around the Silang and Progo rivers, comprise loose gray, blackish-brown material from the eruptions of Mt Mrapi and Mt Sumbing, and the frozen andesitic rocks of the Menoreh Mountain Range. The lithology (rock) of the Borobudur area at the north-west, north-east, and south-east is Quaternary rock from the Sumbing, Merbabu, and Merapi volcanoes respectively; on the northern side is the volcanic breccia of Mt Tidar. On the west side, there are diorite porphyry rocks and in the south is the volcanic breccia of old andesitic formation. Murwanto (1996) said that in the middle area, on the surrounding Borobudur hills, are clay sand materials, gray-blackish in color, formed by the Borobudur paleolake, which is covered by a pyroclastic layer of recent age from the Merapi volcano.

The sandy mudstones found in this area are lacustrine sediments, loaded with pollen from the plants of swamp habitats deposited in the Borobudur basin until the end of the 13th century. The sediments are exposed at the lower valleys of the Progo, Elo, and Sileng Rivers. On top of the sandy mudstone are deposited brownish-gray lapilli tuffs containing fragments of porous, compact pumice with a thickness of more than ten meters, due to Quaternary volcanic activity in the north (Murwanto 1996).

The ecosystem of the area is also affected by the mount of ‘Menoreh’, from an old Javanese word meaning ‘tower’ (Soekmono, 1976), part of the formation of the Kulon Progo mountains, an area that provides water to the Progo Valley. Menoreh hill is a Tertiary-age volcanic formation. The Menoreh hill soils are prone to land movement and landslides, especially in areas that are relatively steep, because they are composed of thick clay mixed with sandstone and weathering andesite breccia. In the dry season, the hill soils are porous and easily cracked. Moderate-intensity rainfall for two hours is enough to trigger landslides on the Menoreh hill.

Elevated land in the Borobudur area reaches an altitude of approximately 200 – 350 meters above sea level. The majority of land is relatively flat, with an undulating slope up to 0 – 7°. The steep areas with gradients of 25 – 40° are mostly located in the Menoreh Mountains.

The geomorphology of the Borobudur area, according to Van Bemmelen (1970), was formed by the tectonic processes of plio-pleistocene orogenesis in the late Tertiary period, around one to two million years ago. As a result of the ongoing process from the beginning until now, the Tertiary sedimentary basins of Kulonprogo folded, lifted, and faulted, forming the dome of Kulonprogo. On the northern side, the Kulonprogo dome structure is interrupted by multilevel normal faults and forms the canyon and cliff of the Menoreh Mountain, which extends east to west for nearly twenty kilometers. The fault of the northern part of the Kulonprogo dome block is immersed below sea level, while some of its top rises up, creating a row of isolated hills (ie the hills of Gendol, Sari, Pring, Borobudur, Dagi, and Mijil). The immersed areas in the Quaternary age developed further to be sedimentary basins of the Quaternary Borobudur.

At that time, the Borobudur basin both connected to the Indian Ocean through the crevice of BantuI Graben in the south and to the Java Sea in the north. The presence of salty water in the villages of Candirejo, Sigug, and Ngasinan (as in means salty), and also in the Karst of Menoreh, is evidence that the Borobudur area was once below sea level.

Close to the end of the plio-pleistocene orogenesis, magmatic activity began to appear on the north side of the Borobudur basin, forming a series of young volcanoes in the Quaternary period such as Sumbing, Sindoro, Tidar, Merbabu, and also Merapi. Even now, Merapi is the most active volcano in the world. Since then, the Borobudur basins gradually changed from the marine environment into lagoons. Along with the development of the growing volcanoes, which became higher and larger, the basins were entirely isolated from the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. Eventually, the basin of the Borobudur Inter Mountain was formed. It was surrounded by rows of young volcanoes and Menoreh mount on the south side. The basin is closed and is called an isolated basin (Sutikno et al, 2006). Furthermore, this area is suspected to have once been a lake. The sediments of the paleolake are closely related to the environment that formed the salt water contained in the black clay rocks from the sediments in the middle beneath the lake. The evidence of drilling results during the Borobudur restoration project in 1973 supports this. In the plane of the former lake there was salt water at depths of more than forty-five meters, which was allegedly formation water.

During the last 119,000 years, at least two major volcanic events are recorded in the Borobudur basin, but the basin has not been affected by any large debris avalanche from Merapi volcano, as proposed by several authors (van Bemmelen, 1949; Camus et al, 2000; Newhall et al, 2000). For the two recorded events, an age range of 119,000/115,000 years BP and 31,000 years BP is given based on new radiocarbon age determinations, though the source of the deposits remains elusive. Between both events, the volcanoes surrounding the Borobudur basin produced several significant explosions and pyroclastic flows that were deposited in the basin, eventually damming the hydrographic network and producing a least six paleolakes over the last 119,000 years. The most recent paleolake that we recorded was impounded before 27,000 years BP and existed until medieval times around the Sileng River close to Borobudur temple. The hydrographic network was strongly disrupted by volcanic activity, generating an alternation of fluviatile and lacustrine settings in the basin.

A study by Gomez et al (2010) corroborates interpretations of Murwanto et al (2004), that, before and after its construction, Borobudur temple stood next to a paleolake, and that this temple and the Medang civilization did not shift capital after an ambiguous 1006 AD (or 928 AD) eruption of Merapi, for which they did not find any supporting evidence. The study also put the emphasis on two important points: (1) the findings call for preparedness against the bigger risks of severe hazards anticipated in the future and (2) the importance of deriving conclusions from sound evidence, and clearly separating conclusions from hypotheses. For example, van Bemmelen’s (1949) hypothesis about a major eruption of Merapi about 1000 years ago and its consequences for the Medang kingdom in Central Java, have been reported regularly in the literature, until it became an accepted fact, while new evidence has not allowed to sustain most of the author’s conjectures.

Borobudur Paleolake Hypothesis

In 1931, a Dutch artist and scholar of Dharmist and Buddhist architecture, WOJ Nieuwenkamp, developed a theory that Progo Valley was once a lake and Borobudur initially represented a lotus flower floating on the lake. Lotus flowers are found in almost every Buddhist work of art, often serving as a throne for buddhas and base for stupas. The architecture of Borobudur itself suggests a lotus depiction, in which Buddha postures in Borobudur symbolize the Lotus Sutra, mostly found in many Mahayana Buddhism (a school of Buddhism widely spread in the east Asia region) texts. Three circular platforms on the top are also thought to represent a lotus petals.

Nieuwenkamp has suggested that the landscape near Borobudur included lakes, and that the temples were arranged around these lakes in form of flowers and mathematical patterns considered to be auspicious, and that the temples were connected by paved brick roads lined by walls. These lakes and roads were later filled with meters of volcanic ash from the multiple eruptions of Mt Merapi, which lies very closely to the east of the area.

Nieuwenkamp’s theory, however, was contested by many archaeologists, such as Dumarçay and Soekmono, arguing the natural environment surrounding the monument was dry land. This theory is controversial, but recent geological evidence supports Nieuwenkamp proposal.

Dumarçay together with Professor Thanikaimoni had taken soil samples in 1974 and again in 1977 from trial trenches that had been dug into the hill, as well as from the plain immediately to the south. These samples were later analyzed by Professor Thanikaimoni, who examined their pollen and spore content in order to identify the type of vegetation that had grown in the area around the time of Borobudur’s construction. They were unable to discover any pollen or spore samples that were characteristic of any vegetation known to grow in an aquatic environment. The area surrounding Borobudur appears to have been surrounded by agricultural land and palm trees at the time of the monument’s construction, as is still the case today.

Caesar Voûte and the geomorphologist JJ Nossin in 1985-86 field studies re-examined the Borobudur lake hypothesis and concluded the absence of a lake around Borobudur at the time of its construction and active use as a sanctuary.

In 2000s, geologists, on the other hand, support Nieuwenkamp’s view, pointing out clay sediments found near the site. A study of stratigraphy, sediment and pollen samples conducted in 2000 supports the existence of a paleolake environment near Borobudur, which tends to confirm Nieuwenkamp’s theory.

The lake area fluctuated with time and the study also proves that Borobudur was near the lake shore ca 13th and 14th centuries. River flows and volcanic activities shape the surrounding landscape, including the lake. One of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, Mt Merapi has been very active since the Pleistocene.

To reconcile among these findings, it seems that there was once a lake near Borobudur during its construction and at the time of its initial active use in the 9th century. However contrary to Nieuwenkamp’s theory – of Borobudur as a blossoming lotus in the center of the pond – the lake was not surrounding the whole Borobudur of the bedrock hill completely, but just some small sections of it.

It might be possible that the lower parts of the Progo Valley surrounding Borobudur near the river, was once naturally flooded and created a small shallow lake for at least until 13th to 14th century. The nearest portion of this elongated lake was estimated to be located around 500 meters south from Borobudur along the small river that drained to the southeast where it joins the Progo River. The lake just flooded the lower portion of the valley located in south and southeast from the temple, while the east, west and northern sides are dry lands probably cultivated as rice paddies, orchards and palm trees just like today. There were probably other lakes located several hundred meters south from Mendut temple on Progo and Elo rivers confluence, and north from Pawon temple along Progo River. These lakes existed until the 13th to 14th centuries, when Merapi’s volcanic activity, collapsed the natural dam barrier and finally drained the lake.

Newhall et al, 2000

At least 20 m of fine-sand to clay sediments extend up the Progo plain from a point west-southwest of Merapi (Purbohadiwidjojo and Sukardi, 1966; Nossin and Voûte, 1986; Murwanto, 1996) (Figure 4). The best exposures that can be seen are along Kali Sileng, tributary to Progo River. None of these deposits are classic white diatomaceous lake sediments; they consist of relatively fine clastic material, locally with fine-scale stratification. Two main units are recognized: a thicker, black to gray sequence deposited and kept in a reducing environment, overlain by a thinner yellow-brown sequence that was, either at deposition or subsequently, in an oxidizing environment. Wood from near the base of this sedimentary pile yielded and age of 3430 yr. Wood from the upper parts of this lacustrine sequence yielded ages of 860, 680 and 660 yr; dates from Murwanto, 1996.

The widely disparate ages might indicate: (a) a long-lived lake, first formed about 3430 yr BP; (b) two lakes, one formed and filled about 3430 yr BP and another formed and filled in the same area about 860 – 660 yr BP (about 1200 – 1400 AD); (c) one lake, formed and filled during the same, 1200 – 1400 AD period, into which a piece of much older wood was carried; or (d) a systematic and serious discrepancy between ages from the two laboratories involved.

Hypothesis (a) and (b) are possible; (c) is less likely because the dated wood was not abraded as one might expect in erosion and re-transport from Merapi. We have no reason to suspect (d), but we have not run split samples through both labs to confirm their consistency. Hypothesis (b) is similar to events at the foot of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines: a lake at the foot of Pinatubo that was impounded by lahars in 1991 has been filling with sediment since that time, and discovery of an ancient canoe in the same location suggests that a lake had formed after the previous eruption, too, and had been filled in before modern settlement (Umbal and Rodolfo, 1996 cited by Newhall et al, 2000).

Two blocking agents are possible: rapid volcaniclastic sedimentation (as described, for example, by Umbal and Rodolfo, 1996) or a debris avalanche dam (examples compiled by Siebert et al, 1987; Costa and Schuster, 1988). If Progo River itself were blocked, a relatively effective blocking agent such as a suddenly emplaced debris avalanche seems more likely.

Nossin and Voûte (1986) argued that any event that dammed Progo River and formed Borobudur Lake must have occurred “long” ago, because the lake had to fill with sediment, breach, and then the whole area had to be tectonically uplifted to create terraces that are cut in the lake deposits. However, experience with rapid sedimentation in impounded lakes at Pinatubo suggests a much simpler scenario: a lake can be impounded, filled and breached within only a few years to decades, perhaps centuries, and terraces form mainly during re-incision back down to base level. Tectonic uplift need not be invoked.

Three young radiocarbon ages from deposits of Lake Borobudur, ranging in age from 860 to 660 yr BP indicate either continued or renewed sedimentation in Lake Borobudur. As discussed in connection with Old Merapi, a nearly 3000 year spread in ages in these sediments might indicate: (a) a long-lived lake, lasting about 3430 – 660 yr BP; or (b) two lakes, one formed and filled about 3430 yr BP and another formed and filled in the same area about 860 – 660 yr BP (about 1200 – 1400 AD). The record of deposits is ambiguous. A change from black to yellow deposits indicates that by about 660 yr BP, conditions at the bottom of the lake were more oxidizing than previously, but the black sediment cannot be attributed to an early lake and the yellow sediment to a younger lake, because two of the young ages (860 and 680 yr BP) were also from black claystone.

The possibility that a (2nd generation?) Borobudur Lake existed before, during, and (or) soon after construction of Borobudur Temple is information that will surely interest archaeologists.

Murwanto et al, 2004

The stratigraphic, sediment and pollen characteristics of the claystone support the existence at Borobudur of an intermittent palaeolake between the late-Pleistocene glacial maximum and late-Mediaeval times. During the 22000 – 19000 yr BP interval, the lake extended far to the north and east. Around 3000 BC the lake area narrowed in a SE to NW direction due to an influx of volcanic material from the N-NE, with a few islands between the Sileng and Progo confluence. Habitat changes occurred repeatedly from standing water to dry land, although with a much higher frequency in the north (Elo core), which is more exposed to volcaniclastic outwash and high sediment concentrations in stream flow, than in the south (Sileng core). Here, lodged in a topographic low in the scarp-foot angle of the Menoreh Hills, lake conditions were relatively more permanent. This appears clearly during the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries AD, when the lake was separated into two parts (Figure 8). Periodic lakeshore retreat occurred under the impact of a Progo fandelta prograding in response to fluctuating sediment input further upstream.

Palaeolake Borobudur through space and time, a preliminary reconstruction.

Figure 8. Peliminary reconstruction of Borobudur Lake  (after Murwanto et al, 2003)

The unimodal <2 mm grain-size curves from the Elo and Sileng cores are typical of either hyperconcentrated (>20% volume sediment) or normal stream flow (<20% volume sediment). The core stratigraphy therefore show no evidence of massive airborne fallout from Mt Merapi. This burden of evidence thus challenges the received view that the lake is primarily the consequence of a single event after the construction of Borobudur, for instance damming by a catastrophic eruption or debris avalanche as originally proposed by van Bemmelen (1949). Compared to other parts of the tropics, the sediments are furthermore not characteristic of erosive events related to anthropogenic land clearance, even though the presence of Macaranga pollen, a secondary tree species, in the uppermost layers of the claystone is suggestive of human interference with the land cover after the fourteenth century.

Gomez et al (2010)

During the last 119,000 years, Gomez et al (2010) identified at least 6 different paleolake generations in the Borobudur basin. These paleolake deposits are always interfingered with volcanic material for the period preceding 31,000 years BP. This suggests that paleolakes were impounded by temporary dams of volcanic deposits and filled with new volcanic material. Only the oldest paleolacustrine deposit in core 4 (60 to 58 m) and the one at 45 m in core 4 are covered with a soil. This shows that, in general, paleolakes did not have time to dry up in between eruptions or that volcanic material eroded any existing soils prior to deposition.

After the second large volcanic event at 31,000 years BP, lacustrine clays of a large paleolake, dated at 27,640 years BP and 27,630 years BP, occur in cores 1, 2 and 3 and at the bottom of the confluence between the Elo and Progo Rivers. The spatial extension of these deposits points towards a large paleolake that shrunk away from the Elo and Progo Rivers. This paleolake eventually reappeared locally around the 13th century in the Elo River, but, during historic time, the paleolake was most certainly located inside streams or palaeochannels, because the presence of temples excludes the possibility of a large lake. This interpretation concurs with the observations of Newhall et al (2000) that the historic lake must have mostly been shallow, like a large swamp rather than a freshwater lake.

To the south of the basin, a paleolake seems to have been existed continuously from 19,650/19,520 years BP to the 13th century. This paleolake certainly existed before these dates, as 10 m of lacustrine fine sands and black clays were retrieved from the cores below the dated units. The thickness of this paleolake deposit concurs with observations of Newhall et al (2000), who also retrieved 20 m of lacustrine fine sand to clay sediments. Like deposits around the Elo and Progo Rivers, this part of the lake also appears to be shallow. Newhall et al (2000) described its sediments as “none classic white diatomaceous lake sediments”, with fine clastic material inside; a description that also matches Gomez et al observations.

The general ontogeny of this long-lived, shallow paleolake is consistent with results and part of the interpretation of Murwanto et al (2004). Indeed, Gomez et al (2010) concur with the conclusion of Murwanto et al (2004) of an intermittent paleolake that existed between the late Pleistocene and late Medieval times, and narrowed towards the west, most probably because of volcanic influx. However, the results suggest that the spatial extensions of the different paleolakes proposed by Murwanto et al (2004) are significantly overestimated. The temple locations do not agree with the author’s paleolake limits (the temples would have been drowned under water), and the paleolake deposits do not reflect large freshwater lakes, but rather limited shallow ones, which is also inconsistent with the paleolake limits proposed by Murwanto et al (2004). One of the reasons for the discrepancy between Gomez et al results and those of Murwanto et al (2004) might be that the latter based their limits of the different generations of paleolakes in the Borobudur basin on the present-day topography and present hydrographic system.

 Synthetic map of the Borobudur basin (Gomez et al, 2010)

Figure 9. Synthetic map of the Borobudur basin (after Gomez et al, 2010). (1) paleochannels and paleolake drainage channels; (2) terraces; (3) historic paleolake extension; (4) maximum paleolake extension; (5) Menoreh mountains; (6) old village locations that are named “across the lake” and “in the center of the lake” in Old Javanese; (7) continuations of paleochannels from topographic evidence; (8) probable continuation of paleochannels; (9) seismic faults; (10) present-day streams; (11) temple locations; (12) freshwater wells with sands inside – 8 to 12 m deep; (13) freshwater wells with black lacustrine clays inside and at the bottom – usually 6 m deep.

Murwanto et al, 2014

The existence of the paleolake is evidenced by the marsh sediment in the form of black clay containing pollen from swamp plants. Murwanto (1996) identified that the pollen on the black clay in the Borobudur plain among others contains Nymphaea stellata, Cyperaceae, Eleocharis, Commelina, Hydrocharis and some others. The distribution of black clay deposits is quite extensive and is now leaving the former swamp or lacustrine plains used by the community for agricultural activities.

Menoreh Mountain has an elevation of about 900 m, with many peaks that resemble the shape of towers, one of which is the Suroloyo peak. This mountain is located south of the hypothesized Borobudur paleolake with its lithology in the form of breccia from Old Andesite Formation (OAF). The morphological conditions of Menoreh show that the region had a very advanced level of erosion. This erosion rate was attributed to the presence of climate process and affected by the tectonic developed in the region. Climate and tectonics resulted Menoreh prone to landslides. Evidence of these landslides can be observed from the remnants in the field.

With the help of satellite imagery, straightness of fault escarpment with rows of triangular facets, shift off set of fault blocks, straightness and sharp bending of river flow patterns that developed in the structural zones can be detected. Appearance of the fault structures is clearly visible on Menoreh Mountains escarpment located south of Borobudur. Field observations indicate avalanche of Menoreh material (breccia OAF) with varying sizes. These materials are found in the Ngadiharjo and Karanganyar Villages, both on valleys and in the river. Volcanic materials are not found in the area. Tectonic activities and avalanche material are found in the Sileng River.

OAF materials and black clay outcrops were cut and lifted by tectonics activities. Based on stratigraphy observations, known that the black clay deposits were covered by the avalanche materials from Menoreh. Radiocarbon 14C tests of the samples resulted lacustrine ages of 22,140 ± 390 BP and 25,110 ± 560 BP.

Aluvial fan at Borobudur paleolake (Murwanto et al, 2013)

Figure 10. Aluvial fans covering Borobudur Lake  (after Murwanto et al, 2014)

The conclusion from this study is that south of the hypothesized Borobudur paleolake suffered sedimentation caused by tectonic activity and landslide from Menoreh. Records of tectonic activity observed in the field indicate that the area was controlled by the geological structure that changed the morphology and open paths of water to drain the lake. Tectonic activities resulted in landslides in Menoreh, also triggered by rainfalls and gravity. The existing geological structures have contributions in helping the acceleration of weathering of the rocks and landslide potential.

Place Names

The existence of the Borobudur paleolake is supported by place names in the area which have meanings associated with water. There are Bumisegoro meaning “land of waters”, Sabrangrowo meaning “across the swamp”, Tanjungan meaning “promontory”, Tanjungsari meaning “essence of a promontory” and Wanurejo meaning “water substantial”. The activities of people around the temple related to the paleolake are also reflected in the bas reliefs of Borobudur.

Author’s Reconstruction

Several avalanches from Menoreh are the most probable causes of damming the Sileng River. With its catchment area at Borobudur of only about 29 square kilometers, the average flow is approximately 1.5 m3/s and the 100-year return period flood is about 100 m3/s. The debris covering the Sileng River might not be eroded with these flows so that the lakes would be survived. The drying out of the lakes was due to sedimentation from the materials brought by the flow from its catchment and volcanic ash from Merapi eruptions.

It is not the case for Progo River. With its catchment area of about 1600 square kilometers, the average flow is more than 50 m3/s and the 100-year return period flood is almost 2000 m3/s. Damming the river by debris from the avalanches could create a lake, but breached within only a few years to decades, perhaps less than a century.

The author reconstructed the paleolake based on the existing hypotheses as shown on the following figure.

Borobudur Lake Map

Figure 11. Reconstruction of Borobudur paleolake by the author

Cradle of Civilization

Borobudur was built in the 9th century, constructed in the historic Progo Valley, a cradle of civilization on Java Island in the fertile slopes of Mount Merapi as the heart of the Medang i Bhumi Mataram kingdom. The earliest Sanjaya and Sailendra dynasties had their power base there.

The common people of Medang mostly made a living in agriculture, especially as rice farmers. However, some may have pursued other careers, such as hunter, trader, artisan, weaponsmith, sailor, soldier, dancer, musician, food or drink vendor, etc. Rich portrayals of daily life in 9th century Java can be seen in many temple bas-reliefs. Rice cultivation had become the base for the kingdom’s economy where the villages throughout the realm relied on their annual rice yield to pay taxes to the court. Exploiting the fertile volcanic soil of Central Java and the intensive wet rice cultivation enabled the population to grow significantly, which contributed to the availability of labor and workforce for the state’s public projects. Certain villages and lands were given the status as sima (tax free) lands awarded through royal edict written in inscriptions. The rice yields from sima lands usually were allocated for the maintenance of certain religious buildings.

Fossilized remnants of staple foods, comprising maize and rice still inside a bamboo basket, were found at Liyangan archaeological site on the slope of Mt Sundoro, also in the Progo Valley. They had also found many artifacts from other countries, especially China dating back to the Tang Dynasty from the 9th to 10th century. Based on 14C dating, burned tree trunks found at the site were dated back to 590 AD, much older than Borobudur.

An ancient boat, measuring 15.6 meters long and 4 meters wide was discovered in Punjulharjo village, in Rembang regency, northeast of the Progo Valley. Laboratory test results showed the boat was used sometime during 670 – 780 AD.

Kalingga, existed between the 6th and 7th centuries, was a kingdom on the north coast of Central Java. The Chinese sources date back to the Tang Dynasty. According to the Chinese Buddhist monk Yijing, in 664 a Chinese Buddhist monk named Huining had arrived in Heling (Kalingga) and stayed there for about three years. In 674 the kingdom was ruled by Queen Shima. According to Carita Parahyangan, a book composed in later period, Shima’s great-grandson is Sanjaya, who is the king of Sunda Kingdom and Galuh Kingdom, and also the founder of Medang Kingdom.

The Tritepusan inscription, discovered in Progo Valley dated from 842 CE, mentioned about the sima (tax-free) lands in Tritepusan village awarded by Sri Kahulunnan to ensure the funding and maintenance of a kamulan called Bhumi Sambhara Bhudhara. Kamulan itself from the word mula means “the place of origin”. The historian Casparis suggested that Bhumi Sambhara Bhudhara was the original name of Borobudur.

Allegedly, a civilization has existed in Borobudur Plain long before the establishment of kingdoms had their power base in the area. It was supported by the fertile Progo Valley, so the farm-based civilizations were easily developed. With the aim to spread Buddhism in the community, Sailendra dynasty built monuments, the Borobudur and the others. The magnitude of the Borobudur monument indicates that civilization in the area was really extensive and advanced.

The varying ancient cultures in the world separated by distance and time constructed various styles of earthen mounds collectively called Mound Builders for religious and ceremonial, burial and elite residential purposes. These cultures are widely found in the archipelago hereinafter developed into featured earth and stone step pyramid structures, referred to as punden berundak. The construction of step pyramids was based on the native belief that mountains and other high places are the abode of the spirits of the ancestors, or Hyangs. The step pyramid is the basic design of the Borobudur.

Restoration works of Borobudur between 1975 and 1982 found remnants of stones which allegedly formed a step pyramid prior the construction of the temple. It is an indication that a non Buddhism belief civilization has existed before.

Observing the area, the author found three mounds of almost the same size and height at the shore of the paleolake, identified as Gumuk Bakal, Gumuk Ndagi and Borobudur. “Gumuk” is a Javanese word for “mound”, “bakal” is for “candidate” and “ndagi” (from “undagi”) is for “artisan”. The temple of Borobudur was built on top of the existing mound. All the three mounds can become interesting objects for research on early civilization in the Progo Valley.

There is a theory that Borobudur stonework was probably done in the Gumuk Ndagi because of its meaning. It was said that there were two dwarapala (gatekeeper) statues on Gumuk Ndagi but then brought to Thailand by King Chulalongkorn in 1896, now exhibited in Bangkok National Museum. The place named Gopalan, from “gopala” a short appellation of dwarapala is alleged as the gate to enter Borobudur.

Borobudur Mounds

Figure 12. Three mounds around Borobudur at the shore of the paleolake: Gumuk Bakal, Gumuk Ndagi and Borobudur

References

D Karnawati, S Pramumijoyo, and H Hendrayana, Geology of Yogyakarta, Java: The dynamic volcanic arc city, IAEG2006 Paper number 363, 2006

Benjamin Clements, Robert Hall, Helen R Smyth and Michael A Cottam, Thrusting of a volcanic arc: a new structural model for Java, Petroleum Geoscience, Vol 15 2009, pp 159 – 174

Véronique Myriam Yvonne Degroot, Candi Space and Landscape: A Study on the Distribution, Orientation and Spatial Organization of Central Javanese Temple Remains, Thesis to afford the degree of Doctor from the University of Leiden, 2009

H Murwanto, Y Gunnell, S Suharsono, S Sutikno and F Lavigne, Borobudur monument (Java, Indonesia) stood by a natural lake: chronostratigraphic evidence and historical implications, The Holocene April 2004, 2004

CG Newhall, S Bronto, B Alloway, NG Banks, I Bahar, MA del Marmol, RD Hadisantono, RT Holcomb, J McGeehin, JN Miksic, M Rubin, SD Sayudi, R Sukhyar, S Andreastuti, RI Tilling, R Torley, D Trimble and AD Wirakusumah, 10,000 Years of explosive eruptions of Merapi Volcano, Central Java: archaeological and modern implications, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 100 (2000) pp 9 – 50, 2000

C Gomez a, M Janin, F Lavigne, R Gertisser, S Charbonnier, P Lahitte, SR Hadmoko, M Fort, P Wassmer, V Degroot and H Murwanto, Borobudur, a basin under volcanic influence: 361,000 years BP to present, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 196 (2010) pp 245 – 264, 2010

Helmy Murwanto, Ananta Purwoarminta and Darwin A Siregar, Pengaruh tektonik dan longsor lahan terhadap perubahan bentuklahan di bagian selatan Danau Purba Borobudur (“Tectonics and landslides control of the landform changes in the southern part of Borobudur ancient lake”), Jurnal Lingkungan dan Bencana Geologi, Vol 5 No 2 Agustus 2014 pp 143 – 158, 2014

***

Copyright © 2015, Dhani Irwanto

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Taprobana is not Sri Lanka nor Sumatera, but Kalimantan

<Bahasa Indonesia>

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 26 September 2015


Contents

Background
Trading with Southeast Asia
Early World Mapping
Ptolemy’s World Map
Definitions of India
The Island of Taprobana
Kalimantan Hypothesis for Taprobana
– World Map Development
– Geographic Conditions of Taprobana
– Ancient Maps of Kalimantan
– Geographic Names Identification
Taprobrana and The Search for Atlantis


Background

Taprobana (Ancient Greek: Ταπροβανᾶ) or Taprobane (Ταπροβανῆ) was the historical name for an island in the Indian Ocean. Onesicritus (ca 360 BC – ca 290 BC) was the first author that mentioned the island of Taprobana. The name was also reported to Europeans by the Greek geographer Megasthenes around 290 BC, and was later adopted by Ptolemy in his own geographical treatise to identify a relatively large island south of continental Asia. Though the exact place to which the name referred remains uncertain, some scholars consider it to be a wild misinterpretation of any one of several islands, including Sumatera and Sri Lanka.

The island entered European consciousness during the conquests of Alexander the Great. Alexander’s admirals Nearchus and Onesicritus described Taprobana in their reports to their king. Nearchus sailed around the southern tip of India, describing the smells of cinnamon that wafted from the fabulous island he passed along the way. Megasthenes, Seleucus’s ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, fleshed the place out a bit more. Several Roman cartographers and historians wrestled with the size, shape, and position of Taprobana before Claudius Ptolemy described an immense “Taprobana” in his Geographia, written about AD 150, six times the size of the Indian subcontinent and straddling the equator.

After the fall of Rome, European geography entered a Dark Age more profound than that of most other disciplines.  Like many ancient books and scholarly works, especially those housed at the Library at Alexandria, the work of Ptolemy was lost for over a thousand years in Western scholarship. At the end of the 1400s, after Renaissance scholars studying the writings of the Muslim scholars who had preserved much of the classical knowledge that had been lost to the West, his work was rediscovered and translated into Latin, a more commonly used language of Western scholars at the time. Geographia became popular once again and more than 40 editions were printed.

In his work Geographia, Ptolemy described and compiled all knowledge about the world’s geography in the Roman Empire of the 2nd century. A substantial undertaking in scholarship of the day, Geographia was written in eight volumes.  The first part discusses the problems of projections, that is, representing spherical item such as the earth on a flat sheet of paper. The second part included seven volumes and was composed entirely of atlas.

One problem modern historians have encountered when researching Ptolemy’s work is that his works were all copied by hand and redistributed. Many of his maps were not redrawn when copies were made and most copies known to exist today do not include his drawings; rather, the books include maps made many centuries later based on his descriptions or are missing maps altogether. One such source that points out this problem is an Arabian scholar by the name of al-Mas’udi who wrote around AD 956 that Ptolemy’s Geographia mentioned a colored map with more than 4,530 cities plotted and over 200 mountains. In Ptolemy’s world map he identifies many modern geographic areas including Taprobana and Aurea Chersoneus.

This has been the primary subject of debate over Taprobana. Each succeeding generation has read vague descriptions of the island left by their predecessors, and wrangled over what their predecessors really meant. 18th and 19th century scholars began to think that Ptolemy confused Sri Lanka with Sumatera, or even the lower peninsula of India. In the end, it is impossible to assign a single place with all of the qualities that have been labeled with the name “Taprobana” over the ages.

The name Taprobana had been applied to Sumatera from the fifteenth century onwards, after a misunderstanding by the Italian traveller Nicolo di Conti. Conti was the first European traveler who distinguished Sri Lanka from Taprobana and identified the latter as Sumatera, which it will be noted, athwart the equator. Subsequent geographers, historians, cosmographers and thinkers alike became engaged in a controversy over its proper identification. Considerable confusion began to exist as to whether Sri Lanka or Sumatera was the island of Taprobana and depicted in the Hereford, Ebstrof, Catalan Atlas’ Mappae Mundi and on Fra Mauro’s Planisphere and Martin Behaim’s Globe. The maps such as “Cantino”, “Caverio” and “Contarini” have misled the contemporary viewers who in their turn transmitted this confusion either through implicitly casual discussions or even deliberately explicit instructions to mapmakers who in their turn propagated it just as naively and with the same degree of intelligence as their informants through the documents they were producing for their immediate users.

The peculiar geographical vicissitudes of Taprobana drew the attention of leading figures from western history, Ramusio, Gossellin, Kant, and Cassini who concerned with the dilemma, attempted to resolve the question of Taprobana’s identification with countries ranging from Sumatera to Madagascar. Venetian geographer, historian and humanist Ramusio relying on an account of an anonymous Portuguese and based on geographical and astronomical data sought to reconcile the location and dimensions of Sumatera with the position and size of the island that Iambulus the Greek merchant claimed to have discovered. The aim of his argument thereby was to determine that this island was precisely the Taprobana of the classical authors.

Sebastian Munster’s map of Taprobana drawn in 1580 carries the German title, Sumatera Ein Grosser Insel (“Sumatera, a large island”). The old debate was settled earlier in favor of Sri Lanka, but the more recent display of Munster’s map with its title has reignited the debate. Munster’s map was “a fine example” of the difficulties Renaissance map makers had in placing the continents of the world. It showed the cartographic confusion that Europeans had trying to understand the geography of Asia.

What still baffles everyone is the exaggerated size of Taprobana if Ptolemy really meant the isle to represent present day Sri Lanka. In contrast, the sub-continent of India which is shown in the map is far smaller in dimensions. It was true that Sri Lanka by Ptolemy’s time was a well-known island as it was centrally situated in the Indian Ocean but India and her products were equally known from the pre-Christian era, starting with the Persian occupation of territory up to the river Sind and Alexander’s conquests following that as well as through sea-borne trade.

On the contrary, Taprobana, despite its sheer size, was assigned by Ptolemy with trade in elephants and golden spices. Both Sri Lanka and Sumatera were known for these two commodities, and the latter more so for spices but it is Sri Lanka which had better historical record for elephants. The intelligence displayed by Sri Lankan elephants and easier transport across the Indian continent perhaps, accounted for preference for them. Sri Lankan elephants began to be exploited in a big way only after the East African resources dwindled.

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Trading with Southeast Asia

Under the Mongol Empire’s hegemony over Asia (the Pax Mongolica, or Mongol peace), Europeans had long enjoyed a safe land passage, the Silk Road to India (the Indies, a far larger region than modern India) and China, which were sources of valuable goods such as spices and silk.

In the early centuries AD, Indians and Westerners called Southeast Asia the “Golden Peninsula”, the “Land of Gold”, and it was not long thereafter that the region became known for its pepper and the products of its rainforests, first aromatic woods and resins, and then the finest and rarest of spices. From the seventh to the tenth centuries Arabs and Chinese thought of Southeast Asia’s gold, as well as the spices that created it; by the fifteenth century sailors from ports on the Atlantic, at the opposite side of the hemisphere, would sail into unknown oceans in order to find these Spice Islands. They all knew that Southeast Asia was the spice capital of the world. From roughly 1000 AD until the nineteenth-century ‘industrial age’, all world trade was more or less governed by the ebb and flow of spices in and out of Southeast Asia.

Throughout these centuries the region and its products never lost their siren quality. Palm trees, gentle surf, wide beaches, steep mountain slopes covered with lush vegetation, birds and flowers of brilliant colors, as well as orange and golden tropical sunsets have enchanted its visitors as well as its own people through the ages. Indeed, it is said that when in the last years of the sixteenth century the first Dutch ship arrived at one of the islands of the Indonesian archipelago, the entire crew jumped ship, and it took their captain two years to gather them for the return trip to Holland.

In the international trading by land and water several major empires were involved. At the western end of the caravan and sea routes (the famous Silk Roads) was the Roman Empire, which at the time included the countries around the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Levant and Arabia. From there the trade routes ran east through the kingdoms of the Parthians and the Kushans in Central Asia and northern India, through the land of the Shaka (Indo-Scythians) and Shatavahana in northern and central India, to the South Indian kingdoms of the Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas and, continuing via Sri Lanka and the Bay of Bengal, to Funan in present-day South Vietnam and to China, at the eastern end of the Silk Roads. The Chinese Han dynasty traded indirectly with Rome, be it on the caravan routes that led through Central Asia to India, the Persian Gulf and finally to the eastern Mediterranean, be it across the oceans, from the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea as far as Alexandria and Rome. The Southeast Asian archipelago with its medicines, spices and aromatic substances, with precious timbers and tortoise shell was an important link in this far-reaching trade network, interconnecting continents.

With the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the land route to Asia became much more difficult and dangerous. Portuguese navigators tried to find a sea way to Asia. In 1470 the Florentine astronomer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli suggested to King Afonso V of Portugal that sailing west would be a quicker way to reach the Spice Islands, Cathay (China) and Cipangu (Japan) than the route round Africa. Afonso rejected his proposal. Portuguese explorers, under the leadership of King John II, then developed a passage to Asia by sailing around Africa. Major progress in this quest was achieved in 1488, when Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope, in what is now South Africa. Meanwhile, in the 1480s, the Columbus brothers had picked up Toscanelli’s suggestion and proposed a plan to reach the Indies (then construed roughly as all of south and east Asia) by sailing west across the “Ocean Sea”, ie the Atlantic. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of arriving at Japan as he had intended, Columbus reached the New World, landing on an island in the Bahamas archipelago that he named “San Salvador”. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming all of it for the Crown of Castile.

Portugal was the first European power to establish a bridgehead on the lucrative maritime Southeast Asia trade route, with the conquest of the Sultanate of Malaka in 1511. The Netherlands and Spain followed and soon superseded Portugal as the main European powers in the region. In 1599, Spain began to colonize the Philippines. In 1619, acting through the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch took the city of Sunda Kelapa, renamed it Batavia (now Jakarta) as a base for trading and expansion into the other parts of Java and the surrounding territory. In 1641, the Dutch took Malaka from the Portuguese. Economic opportunities attracted Overseas Chinese to the region in great numbers. In 1775, the Lanfang Republic, possibly the first republic in the region, was established in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, as a tributary state of the Qing Empire; the republic lasted until 1884, when it fell under Dutch occupation as Qing influence waned.

Englishmen of the United Kingdom, in the guise of the Honorable East India Company led by Josiah Child, had little interest or impact in the region, and were effectively expelled following the Siam-England war in 1687. Britain, in the guise of the British East India Company, turned their attention to the Bay of Bengal following the Peace with France and Spain in 1783. During the conflicts, Britain had struggled for naval superiority with the French, and the need of good harbors became evident. Penang Island had been brought to the attention of the Government of India by Francis Light. In 1786 a settlement was formed under the administration of Sir John Macpherson, which formally began British expansion into the Malay States of Southeast Asia.

The British also temporarily possessed Dutch territories during the Napoleonic Wars; and Spanish areas in the Seven Years’ War. In 1819, Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a key trading post for Britain in their rivalry with the Dutch. However, their rivalry cooled in 1824 when an Anglo-Dutch treaty demarcated their respective interests in Southeast Asia. British rule in Burma began with the first Anglo-Burmese War (1824 – 1826).

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Early World Mapping

Long before the era of global positioning satellites and multi-spectrum ortho-photography, ancient cartographers frequently had to rely on word of mouth to describe far-away places. Sometimes, they would draw sea-monsters on maps to fill in the empty spaces. Other times, they would expand the size of a place they had heard of, and add their own detail.

When the ancient mapmakers first began representing the earth’s surface on a map, they simply drew geographic features as they saw them or as travelers and explorers described them. Because so little was known about the world, information on maps was rather sparse and it was difficult to evaluate a map’s quality or accuracy. In fact, most maps created before the European Renaissance were so generalized and inaccurate that the mapmakers could have assumed we lived on a flat earth and it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to the map’s usefulness.

Hecataeus, a scholar of Miletus, probably produced the first book on geography in about 500 BC. A generation later Herodotus, from more extensive studies and wider travels, expanded upon it. A historian with geographic leanings, Herodotus recorded, among other things, an early circumnavigation of the African continent by Phoenicians. He also improved on the delineation of the shape and extent of the then-known regions of the world, and he declared the Caspian to be an inland sea, opposing the prevailing view that it was part of the “northern oceans”.

Hecataeus

Figure 1. Reconstruction of the world map according to Hecataeus (ca 500 BC).

Although Hecataeus regarded the Earth as a flat disk surrounded by ocean, Herodotus and his followers questioned the concept and proposed a number of other possible forms. Indeed, the philosophers and scholars of the time appear to have been preoccupied for a number of years with discussions on the nature and extent of the world. Some modern scholars attribute the first hypothesis of a spherical Earth to Pythagoras (6th century BC) or Parmenides (5th century). The idea gradually developed into a consensus over many years. In any case by the mid-4th century the theory of a spherical Earth was well accepted among Greek scholars, and about 350 BC Aristotle formulated six arguments to prove that the Earth was, in truth, a sphere. From that time forward, the idea of a spherical Earth was generally accepted among geographers and other scholars.

Herodotus

Figure 2. Reconstruction of the world map according to Herodotus (ca 430 BC).

About 300 BC, Dicaearchus, a disciple of Aristotle, placed an orientation line on the world map, running east and west through Gibraltar and Rhodes. Eratosthenes, Marinus of Tyre, and Ptolemy successively developed the reference-line principle until a reasonably comprehensive system of parallels and meridians, as well as methods of projecting them, had been achieved.

Dicaearchus

Figure 3. Reconstruction of the world map according to Dicaearchus (ca 300 BC).

Eratosthenes (276 – 194 BC) drew an improved world map, incorporating information from the campaigns of Alexander the Great and his successors. Asia became wider, reflecting the new understanding of the actual size of the continent. Eratosthenes was also the first geographer to incorporate parallels and meridians within his cartographic depictions, attesting to his understanding of the spherical nature of the earth.

Eratosthenes

Figure 4. 1883 reconstruction of Eratosthenes’ map

Posidonius (ca 150 – 130 BC) work “about the ocean and the adjacent areas” was a general geographical discussion, showing how all the forces had an effect on each other and applied also to human life. He measured the Earth’s circumference by reference to the position of the star Canopus. His measure of 240,000 stadia translates to 24,000 miles, close to the actual circumference of 24,901 miles. He was informed in his approach by Eratosthenes, who a century earlier used the elevation of the Sun at different latitudes. Both men’s figures for the Earth’s circumference were uncannily accurate, aided in each case by mutually compensating errors in measurement. However, the version of Posidonius’ calculation popularized by Strabo was revised by correcting the distance between Rhodes and Alexandria to 3,750 stadia, resulting in a circumference of 180,000 stadia, or 18,000 miles. Ptolemy discussed and favored this revised figure of Posidonius over Eratosthenes in his Geographia, and during the Middle Ages scholars divided into two camps regarding the circumference of the Earth, one side identifying with Eratosthenes’ calculation and the other with Posidonius’ 180,000 stadia measure. Depending on the value of the stadia that is adopted, it may be true that Posidonius, seeking to improve on Eratosthenes, underestimated the size of the earth, and this measurement, copied by Ptolemy, and was thereafter transmitted to Renaissance Europe.

Posidonius

Figure 5. A 1628 reconstruction of Posidonius ideas about the positions of continents

Strabo (ca 64 BC – 24 AD) is mostly famous for his 17-volume work Geographica, which presented a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era. The Geographica first appeared in Western Europe in Rome as a Latin translation issued around 1469. Although Strabo referenced the antique Greek astronomers Eratosthenes and Hipparchus and acknowledged their astronomical and mathematical efforts towards geography, he claimed that a descriptive approach was more practical. Geographica provides a valuable source of information on the ancient world, especially when this information is corroborated by other sources. Within the books of Geographica is a map of Europe. Whole world maps according to Strabo are reconstructions from his written text.

Strabo

Figure 6. A 1815 reconstruction of the world map according to Strabo

Pomponius Mela (ca 43 AD) is unique among ancient geographers in that, after dividing the earth into five zones, of which two only were habitable, he asserts the existence of antichthones, people inhabiting the southern temperate zone inaccessible to the folk of the northern temperate regions due to the unbearable heat of the intervening torrid belt. On the divisions and boundaries of Europe, Asia and Africa, he repeats Eratosthenes; like all classical geographers from Alexander the Great (except Ptolemy) he regards the Caspian Sea as an inlet of the Northern Ocean, corresponding to the Persian (Persian Gulf) and Arabian (Red Sea) gulfs on the south.

Pomponius Mela

Figure 7. A 1898 reconstruction of Pomponius Mela view of the World.

The greatest figure of the ancient world in the advancement of geography and cartography was Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy; 90 – 168 AD). An astronomer and mathematician, he spent many years studying at the library in Alexandria, the greatest repository of scientific knowledge at that time. He pioneered the use of curving parallels and converging meridians on maps. Ptolemy’s maps were “Mediterranean specific”, very generalized, and almost completely ignored the Southern Hemisphere. Still, they were a significant step forward in mapmaking and so far ahead of their time, they were used well into the Renaissance.

Ptolemy

Figure 8. Ptolemy’s map of the world by Johane Schnitzer (Ulm: Leinhart Holle, 1482). The original map was lost.

The Arab geographer, Muhammad Al-Idrisi (1154 AD), incorporated the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Arab merchants and explorers with the information inherited from the classical geographers to create the most accurate map of the world at the time. It remained the most accurate world map for the next three centuries. The Tabula Rogeriana was drawn by Al-Idrisi in 1154 for the Norman King Roger II of Sicily, after a stay of eighteen years at his court, where he worked on the commentaries and illustrations of the map. The map, written in Arabic, shows the Eurasian continent in its entirety, but only shows the northern part of the African continent.

Al-Idrisi

Figure 9. The Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by Al-Idrisi for Roger II of Sicily in 1154

Abraham Cresques of a family of Catalonian Jews who worked in Majorca created an atlas known as the Catalan Atlas  in 1375, as requested by King Charles V of France from Peter of Aragon at a time when the reputation of the Catalan chart makers was at its peak. Abraham Cresques is the patron of the best Majorcan mapmaker of the time. The atlas that resulted contained the latest information on Asia and China and has subsequently been called “the most complete picture of geographical knowledge as it stood in the later Middle Ages”.

The Catalan Atlas originally consisted of six vellum leaves folded down the middle, painted in various colors including gold and silver. The leaves are now cut in half. The first two leaves contain texts in Catalan covering cosmography, astronomy and astrology. The four remaining leaves make up the actual map, which is divided into two principal parts.

The first two leaves, forming the oriental portion of the Catalan Atlas, illustrate numerous religious references as well as a synthesis of medieval mappae mundi and the travel literature of the time, notably Marco Polo’s Book of Marvels and Mandeville’s Travels and Voyage of Sir John Mandeville. Many Indian and Chinese cities can be identified. South-east of the coast of Cathay are numerous islands – they number 7,548 – in which they are rich in gold, silver, spices and precious stones, so much so that “great ships of many different nations” trade in their waters. In the extreme corner is a portion of a great island which is named Taprobana (written as “Trapobana”). A legend states that it is the last island in the East, and is called by the Tartars ‘Great Caulij’.

1375_Atlas_Catalan_Abraham_Cresques

Figure 10. Rotated 1375 Catalan Atlas in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

A German cartographer and a Benedictine monk Andreas Walsperger created a a Latin Mappa Mundi in around 1448. The map is atypical in its depiction of Africa and in its placing a large castle in China, where others including Fra Mauro’s place their grand castle to the north.

Walsperger_-_Mappa_mundi 1448

Figure 11. Andreas Walsperger’s Latin Mappa Mundi (ca 1448)

The world map of Henricus Martellus Germanus (Heinrich Hammer), ca 1490, was remarkably similar to the terrestrial globe later produced by Martin Behaim in 1492, the Erdapfel. Both show heavy influences from Ptolemy, and both possibly derive from maps created around 1485 in Lisbon by Bartolomeo Columbus. Although Martellus is believed to have been born in Nuremberg, Behaim’s home town, he lived and worked in Florence from 1480 to 1496.

Martellus

Figure 12. Martellus world map (1490)

The Cantino planisphere or world map is the earliest surviving map showing Portuguese geographic discoveries in the east and west. It is named after Alberto Cantino, an agent for the Duke of Ferrara, who successfully smuggled it from Portugal to Italy in 1502. The map is particularly notable for portraying a fragmentary record of the Brazilian coast, discovered in 1500 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, and for depicting the African coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with a remarkable accuracy and detail. It was valuable at the beginning of the sixteenth century because it showed detailed and up-to-date strategic information in a time when geographic knowledge of the world was growing at a fast pace. It is important in our days because it contains unique historical information about the maritime exploration and the evolution of nautical cartography in a particularly interesting period. The Cantino planisphere is the earliest extant nautical chart where places (in Africa and parts of Brazil and India) are depicted according to their astronomically observed latitudes.

Cantino

Figure 13. Cantino planisphere (1502), Biblioteca Estense, Modena, Italy

The Caverio Map, also known as Caveri Map or Canerio Map, is a map drawn by Nicolay de Caveri, circa 1505. It is hand drawn on parchment and colored, being composed of ten sections or panels, measuring 2.25 by 1.15 meters (7.4 by 3.8 feet). Historians believe that this undated map signed with “Nicolay de Caveri Januensis” was completed in 1504 – 1505. It was probably either made in Lisbon by the Genoese Canveri, or copied by him in Genoa from the very similar Cantino map. It shows the east coast of North America with surprising detail, if the east coast of North America is compared with modern-day maps, we will be struck by its immediately noticeable similarity with the coastline stretching from Florida to the Delaware or Hudson River, when we consider the general belief that the Europeans neither saw nor set foot on the beaches in the southern states of the present-day USA. It was one of the primary sources used to make the Waldseemüller map in 1507. Caverio map is currently at Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.

Caverio

Figure 14. Caverio Map (ca 1505), Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

The story of the small group of Renaissance intellectuals that worked at San Die, a small city in the Alzace (France) from 1500 onwards is well known. The team was financed by Duc Rene II de Lorraine, represented in the team by Walter Ludd. Martin Ringmann was the writer and Martin Waldseemüller the geographer. They set themselves to analyze new geographical information coming from the earliest of voyages of discovery and integrate that information into existing maps and atlases. The effort led to the publication of an important booklet, Universalis Cosmographia (1507); one of the most important wall maps of the world ever published and a globe, published the same year. From this revolution in cartography a new line of editions of Ptolemy’s Geographia was born (1513; 1520; 1522; 1535; 1541) which brought together old with new knowledge of the world.

Waldseemüller’s large world map was the most exciting product of that research effort, and included data gathered during Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages of 1501 – 1502 to the New World. Waldseemüller christened the new lands “America” in recognition of Vespucci’s understanding that a new continent had been uncovered as a result of the voyages of Columbus and other explorers in the late fifteenth century. This is the only known surviving copy of the first printed edition of the map, which, it is believed, consisted of 1,000 copies.

Waldseemüller’s map supported Vespucci’s revolutionary concept by portraying the New World as a separate continent, which until then was unknown to the Europeans. It was the first map, printed or manuscript, to depict clearly a separate Western Hemisphere, with the Pacific as a separate ocean. The map represented a huge leap forward in knowledge, recognizing the newly found American landmass and forever changing the European understanding of a world divided into only three parts – Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Waldseemüller

Figure 15. Universalis Cosmographia, the Waldseemüller wall map, 1507

Lorenz Fries (ca 1490 – ca 1531 AD) was a physician, astrologer and geographer who is perhaps best-known to cartophiles for his re-working of Martin Waldseemüller’s maps from Claudius Ptolemy’s Geographia. Karrow suggests in his Mapmakers of The Sixteenth Century and Their Maps that Fries had studied at Vienna, Montpellier, Piacenza and Pavia before working in Schlettstadt, Colmar, Fribourg and Strasbourg. Fries’ early publications were related to medicine and he experienced some success in this field. His publisher was Gruninger, in Strasbourg, who was also known to have worked in collaboration with Waldseemuller on the Chronica Mundi, a cosmography planned for publication. It seems likely that this small volume was to help form Fries’ considerable involvement with Waldseemüller maps. The first of Waldseemüller’s map to receive a re-working by Fries, and also worked on by Peter Apian, was the Tipus Orbis Universalis in 1520, which was based on Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world.

Lorenz Fries and Peter Apian

Figure 16. Tipus Orbis Universalis, a re-working of Waldseemüller’s map by Lorenz Fries and Peter Apian, 1520

At the same time as this world map was being published, Fries was also working on an edition of Ptolemy’s “Geographia”. The aforementioned Chronica Mundi did not reach publication, perhaps because of Waldseemüller’s death in 1518, and Gruninger, the publisher, decided instead to have Fries work on an edition of Ptolemy using the maps that might have otherwise been included in the Chronica Mundi. Thus, Fries’ first edition of Waldseemüller’s Ptolemy appeared in Strasbourg in 1522 – it was very similar to Waldseemüller’s own 1513 version although Fries’ maps were cut at a slightly reduced size. Three maps were new to this edition (although were based on Waldseemüller’s map of 1507); the world, South-East Asia and eastern Asia (showing China and Tartary). Fries’ woodblocks were used again in three subsequent editions of 1525, published in Strasbourg and edited by Willibald Pirkheimer in 1535, published in Lyons and edited by Michael Servetus in 1541, also published in Lyons – a re-print of the 1535 edition.

Geographia, edited by Lorenz Fries

Figure 17. World map from Ptolemy, Geographia, edited by Lorenz Fries, 1522

Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598 AD) was conventionally recognized as the creator of the first modern atlas. In 1564 he published his first map, Typus Orbis Terrarum, an eight-leaved wall map of the world, on which he identified the Regio Patalis with Locach as a northward extension of the Terra Australis, reaching as far as New Guinea. Many of his atlas’ maps were based upon sources that no longer exist or are extremely rare. Ortelius appended a unique source list (the Catalogus Auctorum) identifying the names of contemporary cartographers, some of whom would otherwise have remained obscure.

Abraham Ortelius

Figure 18. Typus Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius (1564 AD)

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Ptolemy’s World Map

Claudius Ptolemaeus, better known as Ptolemy (ca 90 – 168 AD) made many important contributions to geography and spatial thought. A Greek by descent, he was a native of Alexandria in Egypt, and became known as the most wise and learned man of his time. Although little is known about Ptolemy’s life, he wrote on many topics, including geography, astrology, musical theory, optics, physics, and astronomy.

Ptolemy’s text reached Italy from Constantinople in about 1400 and was translated into Latin by Jacobus Angelus of Scarperia around 1406. The first printed edition with maps, published in 1477 in Bologna, was also the first printed book with engraved illustrations. Many editions followed (more often using woodcut in the early days), some following traditional versions of the maps, and others updating them. An edition printed at Ulm in 1482 was the first one printed north of the Alps. Also in 1482, Francesco Berlinghieri printed the first edition in vernacular Italian.

Ptolemy’s work in astronomy and geography have made him famous for the ages, despite the fact that many of his theories were in the following centuries proven wrong or changed. Ptolemy collected, analyzed, and presented geographical knowledge so that it could be preserved and perfected by future generations. These ideas include expressing locations by longitude and latitude, representing a spherical earth on a flat surface, and developing the first equal area map projection. Ptolemy’s accomplishments reflect his understanding of spatial relationships among places on earth and of the Earth’s spatial relationships to other celestial bodies.

The greatest contribution of Ptolemy was not the maps themselves but the concepts behind the maps. Geographia, a work of seven volumes, the standard geography textbook until the 15th century, transmitted a vast amount of topographical detail to Renaissance scholars, profoundly influencing their conception of the world. Containing instructions for drawing maps of the entire oikoumenè (inhabited world), Geographia was what we would now call an atlas. It included a world map, 26 regional maps, and 67 maps of smaller areas.

He illustrated three different methods for projecting the Earth’s surface on a map (an equal area projection, a stereographic projection, and a conic projection), and the calculation of coordinate locations for some eight thousand places on the Earth. He invented the concept of latitude and longitude, a mapping system still commonly used today. Latitude was measured horizontally from the equator, but Ptolemy preferred to express it as the length of the longest day rather than degrees of arc (the length of the mid-summer day increases from 12h to 24h as one goes from the equator to the polar circle), while longitude was measured from the westernmost landmass known to date, El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. Through his publications, Ptolemy dominated European cartography for nearly a millennium and inspired explorers like Christopher Columbus to test the spatial boundaries of the world. Ptolemy was well aware that he knew about only a quarter of the globe.

Ptolemy had mapped the whole world from the Fortunatae Insulae (Cape Verde or Canary Islands) eastward to the eastern shore of the Magnus Sinus. This known portion of the world was comprised within 180 degrees. In his extreme east Ptolemy placed Serica (the Land of Silk), the Sinarum Situs (the Port of the Sinae), and the emporium of Cattigara. On the 1489 map of the world by Henricus Martellus, which was based on Ptolemy’s work, Asia terminated in its southeastern point in a cape, the Cape of Cattigara. Cattigara was understood by Ptolemy to be a port on the Sinus Magnus, or Great Gulf, the actual Gulf of Thailand, at eight and a half degrees north of the Equator, on the coast of Cambodia, which is where he located it in his Canon of Famous Cities. It was the easternmost port reached by shipping trading from the Graeco-Roman world to the lands of the Far East.

His ability to take in and understand the incredible amount of information developed before his time, add to it, and synthesis it into a map or a book of maps changed how people understood, perceived, and represented the world. Copies and reprints of Ptolemy’s world maps made up the majority of navigation and factual maps for centuries to come, providing the base information for early European explorers. Ptolemy also standardized the orientation of maps, with North at the top and East on the right, thereby placing the known world in the upper left, a standard that remains to this day.

Geographia carried a list of the names of some 8,000 places and their approximate latitudes and longitudes. Except for a few that were made by observations, the greater numbers of these locations were determined from older maps, with approximations of distances and directions taken from travelers. In spite of the more accurate mapping of both Philo and Josephus 100 years earlier, Ptolemy carries on the long tradition of Greek geographers (Strabo, Eratosthenes, Herodotus, Hesiod and Hecataeus).

We know very little of Ptolemy’s life. He made astronomical observations from Alexandria in Egypt during the years 127 – 141 AD. The first observation which we can date exactly was made by Ptolemy on 26 March 127 while the last was made on 2 February 141. In fact there is no evidence that Ptolemy was ever anywhere other than Alexandria.

It is not surprising that the maps given by Ptolemy were quite inaccurate in many places for he could not be expected to do more than use the available data and this was of very poor quality for anything outside the Roman Empire, and even parts of the Roman Empire are severely distorted. One fundamental error that had far-reaching effects was attributed to Ptolemy – an underestimation of the size of the Earth. He showed Europe and Asia as extending over half of the globe, instead of the 130 degrees of their true extent. Similarly, the span of the Mediterranean ultimately was proved to be 20 degrees less than Ptolemy’s estimate. So lasting was Ptolemy’s influence that 13 centuries later Christopher Columbus underestimated the distances to Cathay and India partly from a recapitulation of this basic error.

The prevailing method of mapping in the ancient world was by means of topological itinerary maps and gazetteers that provided their users with useful travel guides. Of primary concern to most travelers was knowledge of definite and relatively unhazardous routes. The idea of a world map that placed locations relative to an independent spatial framework, whilst certainly a fascinating scientific curiosity, was both too inaccurate and too uninformative (of terrain, winds, sea currents, etc) to be of any practical use. Ptolemy was fully aware that copying a visual map was guaranteed to introduce a great quantity of error. It also makes vividly clear why attempts to correlate Ptolemy’s map with known locations are rendered more or less unviable. In order to reduce these problems of transmission, his Geographia is separated into two parts. The first, along with his methodology, describes how to draw a map according to two different projections. The second is a catalogue of locations, listing both towns and notable geographical features with their latitude and longitude.

The continents are given as Europe, Asia, and Libya (Africa). The World Ocean is only seen to the west. The map distinguishes two large enclosed seas: the Mediterranean and the Indian (Indicum Pelagus). Due to Marinus and Ptolemy’s mistaken measure of the circumference of the earth, the former is made to extend much too far in terms of degrees of arc; due to their reliance on Hipparchus, they mistakenly enclose the latter with an eastern and southern shore of unknown lands, which prevents the map from identifying the western coast of the World Ocean. India is bound by the Indus and Ganges Rivers, but its peninsula is much shortened. Sumatera is given as Aurea Chersonesus (“Golden Peninsula”) instead of the earlier “Golden Island”, which derived from the works of his predecessor Marinus of Tyre of the mines on Sumatera (or Kalimantan). Beyond the Aurea Chersonesus, the Great Gulf (Magnus Sinus) forms a combination of the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea which is bound by the unknown lands thought to enclose the Indian Sea. China is divided into two realms – the Qin (Sinae) and the Land of Silk (Serica) – owing to the different accounts received from the overland and maritime Silk Roads.

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Definitions of India

In medieval Europe the concept of “three Indias” was in common circulation. Greater India was the southern part of South Asia, Lesser India was the northern part of South Asia, and Middle India was the region around Ethiopia. The name Greater India (Portuguese: India Maior) was used at least from the mid-15th century. The term, which seems to have been used with variable precision, is sometimes meant only the Indian subcontinent; Europeans used a variety of terms related to South Asia to designate the South Asian peninsula, including High India, Greater India, Exterior India and India Aquosa.

However, in some accounts of European nautical voyages, Greater India (or India Major) extended from the Malabar Coast (present-day Kerala) to India extra Gangem (“India, beyond the Ganges”, but usually the East Indies, ie present-day Southeast Asian archipelago) and India Minor, from Malabar to Sind. Farther India was sometimes used to cover all of modern Southeast Asia and sometimes only the mainland portion.

In late 19th-century geography, “Greater India” referred to Hindustan (Northwestern Subcontinent) which included the Punjab, the Himalayas, and extended eastwards to Indochina (including Burma), parts of Indonesia (namely, the Sunda Islands, Kalimantan and Sulawesi), and the Philippines. German atlases sometimes distinguished Vorder-Indien (Anterior India) as the South Asian peninsula and Hinter-Indien as Southeast Asia.

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The Island of Taprobana

Taprobana, under the name of the “land of the Antichthones” or Opposite-Earth, was long looked upon as another world. The name was entirely unknown in Europe before the time Alexander the Great invaded India in in 327 BC. The writers who speak of Taprobana are Onesicritus, Eratosthenes, Megasthenes, Hipparchus, Strabo, and Pliny.

There are two distinct periods in which Taprobana is mentioned; and a third period when the site, with the name itself, have utterly vanished. The first period is that of the early and ancient writers from the time of Alexander the Great to that of the Emperor Claudius. It embraces notices from Onesicritus, Megasthenes, and Pliny. They all use no other name than that of Taprobana. The second period embraces the time from Ptolemy to that of Cosmas Indicopleustes, late on into the Christian era.

About twenty years after Alexander’s death, Megasthenes was sent as ambassador by Seleucus Nicator in 302 BC to Sandracottus (Chandragupta Maurya). From information derived at the court of Sandracottus, Megasthenes described Taprobana as a very fertile island divided by a river. One part was infested by wild beasts and elephants, and the other inhabited by Prachii colonists, and producing gold and gems.

Eratosthenes has also given the dimensions of this island, as being 7,000 stadia in length, and 5,000 in breadth. He states also that there were no cities, but villages to the number of 700. It began at the Eastern sea, and laid extended opposite to [Greater] India, east and west. This island was in former times supposed to be 20 days’ sail from the country of the Prasii, but in later times, whereas the navigation was formerly confined to vessels constructed of papyrus with the tackle peculiar to the Nile, the distance had been estimated at no more than 7 days sail, in reference to the speed which could be attained by vessels of their construction.

According to Pliny, in the reign of Claudius (41 – 54 AD), a freedman Annius Plocamus, who had farmed from the treasury the Red Sea revenues, while sailing around Arabia was carried away by gales of wind from the north beyond Carmania. In the course of 15 days he had been wafted to Hippuri, a port of Taprobana, where he was humanely received, hospitably entertained by the king, and having in six months time to acquire the language. This king, moreover, was so impressed with the character of the Romans, as exhibited by the fact that the denarii found in the possession of the freedman were all of equal weight, although the different figures on them plainly showed that they had been struck in the reigns of several emperors. He remained there sometime longer, and brought them acquainted with his own government. He dispatched the embassy in question to Rome, consisting of 4 ambassadors, of whom the chief was Rachia.

Strabo gathered many details from the ambassadors. Taprobana contained 500 towns and villages, and that there was a harbor that lies facing the south, and adjoining the city of Palaesimundus, 10 the most famous city in the isle, the king’s place of residence, and containing a population of 200,000.  There was a lake in the country called Megisba, 375 miles in circumference, from which one river called Palaesimundus, ran by the capital of that name, by 3 channels, the narrowest of which was 5 stadia in width, the largest 15; and the other, Cydara by name, northwards towards the coast of India. There were corals, pearls, and precious stones; the soil was fruitful; life was prolonged to more than a hundred years; there was a trade with China overland. The king wears the costume of Father Liber. Their festivals are celebrated with the chase, the most valued sports being the pursuit of the tiger and the elephant. The lands are carefully tilled; the vine is not cultivated there, but of other fruits there is great abundance. They take great delight in fishing, and especially in catching turtles; beneath the shells of which whole families find an abode, of such vast size are they to be found. The mode of trade and barter among the inhabitants themselves was peculiar, being done at night. The country and people were maritime and highly commercial. These ambassadors made one statement of the country enjoying two summers and two winters, which clearly show that the country embraced on both sides of the equator.

The inhabitants, who lived a hundred years, spent most of their time in hunting tigers and elephants, and fishing, especially catching turtles, whose shells were so enormous habitations were made of them. The ambassadors expressed great surprise at seeing the northern stars, and the sun rise on the left and set on the right hand. The nearest point of the [Greater] Indian coast was a promontory known as Coliacum, distant 4 days’ sail, and midway between them lay “the island of the Sun”; the sea was a greenish tint, having numerous trees (coral) growing in it, which the rudders of vessels broke off as they came in contact when sailing over it.

The sea that lies between the island and the mainland is full of shallows, not more than 6 paces in depth; but in certain channels it is of such extraordinary depth, that no anchor has ever found a bottom. For this reason it is that the vessels are constructed with prows at either end; so that there may be no necessity for tacking while navigating these channels, which are extremely narrow. The tonnage of these vessels is 3,000 amphorae. In traversing their seas, the people of Taprobana take no observations of the stars, and indeed the Greater Bear is not visible to them; but they carry birds out to sea, which they let go from time to time, and so follow their course as they make for the land. They devote only 4 months in the year to the pursuits of navigation, and are particularly careful not to trust themselves on the sea during the next 100 days after the summer solstice, for in those seas it is at that time the middle of winter.

Ptolemy, referring to Taprobana, states that its name had been altered to Salike. While Pliny gives very few names of places in Taprobana, Ptolemy, on the contrary, supplies a mass of information concerning the island, which is surprising by its copiousness, including not merely a complete periplus of its coasts, with the names of the headlands, rivers, and seaport towns, but also the names of many cities and tribes in the interior.

Taprobana

Figure 19. Ptolemy’s Taprobana as published in Cosmographia Claudii Ptolomaei Alexandrini, 1535

The Periplus Maris Erythraei (or “Voyage around the Erythraean Sea”), an anonymous work from around the middle of the first century AD written by a Greek speaking Egyptian merchant, indicates that the course trending toward the east, lying out at sea toward the west is the island Palaesimundu, called by the ancients Taprobana. The northern part is a day’s journey distant, the southern part trends gradually toward the west, and almost touches the shore of Azania. It produces pearls, transparent stones, muslins and tortoise-shell.

Cosmas Indicopleustes (Cosmas the Indian Voyager), who wrote The Christian Topography in the early 6th century, took especial care several times to impress it on his readers that the island called Serendib by the Indians was the Taprobana of the earlier Greeks. In the time of Cosmas the name Taprobana had vanished.

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Kalimantan Hypothesis for Taprobana

From the BC until the Middle Ages followed by the New World, a wide variety of world maps had been created and can be observed, which shows the development of the Western knowledge about the whole Earth, from the simple to the almost complete. The development was driven by the need for more accurate maps of trade routes heading to the world in the east, known as “The Silk Road”, that is from the Mediterranean Sea, followed by the Red Sea, the Erythraean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and ending in China. At the early century, only that trade route was the most widely known, while outside those regions only little information obtained that were from sailors who had visited them. Kalimantan Island is outside that route so that the location was not exactly known, or possibly deliberately kept in secret because this island has lucrative resources with superior quality that are very alluring for trade commodities. These become the subjects of the author to hypothesize that Taprobana is actually Kalimantan.

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World Map Development

The island of Taprobana is shown on the maps of Dicaearchus (300 BCE), Eratothenes (220 BCE), Strabo (18 CE), Pomponius Mela (43 CE), Ptolemy (150 CE), Al-Idrisi (1154 CE), Martellus (1490 CE), Cantino (1502 CE), Caverio (1505 CE), Waldseemüller (1507 CE), Lorenz Fries/Peter Apian (1520 CE) and edited Ptolemy’s by Lorenz Fries (1522 CE), while the Middle-Age maps by Abraham Ortelius (1570 CE) and after that do not show.

Maps prior to Ptolemy are without advancement of geography and cartography, so that information on maps are rather sparse, so generalized and far from accurate. Geographic features were drawn as they saw them or as travelers and explorers described them. As begun by Dicaearchus in the 3rd or 4th century BCE, Taprobana is shown, on the world map – as what they heard from what they saw or described by other travelers – in the Indian Ocean without knowing the exact position, at the south, west or further west of the Indian Peninsula.

Ptolemy’s map shows the whole world from the Fortunat Insulae eastward to China, spanned 180 degrees of longitude and about 80 degrees of latitude. His book Geographia carries a list of the names of some 8,000 places and their approximate latitudes and longitudes. The greater number of these locations are determined from older maps (Strabo, Eratosthenes, Herodotus, Hesiod and Hecataeus), with approximations of distances and directions taken from travelers and more accurate mapping of both Philo and Josephus 100 years earlier, except for a few that were made by observations. Ptolemy is well aware that he knows about only a quarter of the globe and can not do more as the available data was of very poor quality for anything outside the Roman Empire. These make the maps given by Ptolemy are inaccurate in many places. If we look his world map and compare it with the modern map, we can clearly see the tremendous deviations, much largely in the Asian portion. His error of underestimation of the size of the Earth is another contribution of the inaccuracy.

Ptolemy also includes 26 regional maps and 67 maps of smaller areas. These maps are at the grater located in and around the Roman Empire, with only a few regional maps are in the Greater India and China, where among them is Taprobana. These regional maps and smaller area data are of better accuracy, whether they are obtained from his observations or data from other travelers or explorers. Incorporating these regions and areas on an inaccurate world map derived from the older maps creates his confusions to locate their exact positions. Allegedly, he locates Taprobana based on the older maps of whether Eratothenes or Strabo, that actually no such island is in the position, or he deliberately puts it in the wrong place or floats its location so that not everyone can get there. However, so far ahead of their time, they were used well into the Renaissance until 13 centuries later Christopher Columbus underestimated the distances to Cathay and India.

With the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the land route to Asia became much more difficult and dangerous. This resulted in a lack of information of the area encompassed by the Indian Ocean, until the Portuguese explorers developed a passage to Asia by sailing around Africa and with the conquest of the Sultanate of Malaka in 1511. Thus, the Asian portion of the world maps after Ptolemy still continues to rely on his information found in the Geographia, incorporates the knowledge obtained from the Arab explores and unknown sources, as shown on the maps of Al-Idrisi, Martellus, Cantino, Caverio, Waldseemüller, Fries and Apian. Al-Idrisi incorporates the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Arab merchants and explorers. Martellus’ map shows heavy influences from Ptolemy but incorporates Africa. Cantino’s map portrays Brazilian coast and depicts African coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with a remarkable accuracy and detail. Caverio’s map shows the east coast of North America with surprising detail where its sources are still a mystery. Waldseemüller’s map is a new line of editions of Ptolemy’s Geographia with the integration of new geographical information coming from the earliest of voyages of discovery. Fries and Apian’s maps are the re-working of the Waldseemüller’s map. Most of these maps locate Taprobana more or less on the same position as Ptolemy’s map, except Cantino and Caverio’s maps which portray it as Sumatera.

Observing and comparing Ptolemy’s and Martellus’ maps, we can clearly see that there were confusions in mapping the Indian Peninsula. Ptolemy describes it in two major regions, India Intra Gangem – where there are Laricæ, Ariasa and Lymirca – in the west that does not show a major protruding peninsula, and India Extra Gangem – where there is Aurrea Chersonesus – in the east that shows a major protruding peninsula. He maps Indus and Ganges rivers on the west and east of India Intra Gangem, respectively, and Magnus Sinus and Cattigara on the further east. Martellus adds another peninsula on the east – where there is Cattigara – based on Ptolemy’s data, and keeps the others similar to Ptolemy’s. This peninsula is supposedly the Malay Peninsula so that the Indian Peninsula should be the Ptolemy’s India Extra Gangem. Maps thereafter by Cantino, Caveri, Waldseemüller, Fries and Apian confirm this.

Clarified Ptolemy's map

Figure 20. Clarified Ptolemy’s map

Clarified Martellus_ map

Figure 21. Clarified Martellus’ map

The Mela and Caveri’s map show two separate islands depicting Sri Lanka (“Solis”, “Seillam”) and Taprobana. The Ptolemy’s map show Barusæ, which is the present day Barus where it is located in Sumatera, and Taprobana separately. The Behaim, Waldseemüller, Fries and Apian’s maps show Sri Lanka (“Seilan”, “Seillam”, “Seyla”) and Sumatera (“Jaba Minor”, “Iava Minor”), beside Taprobana which is situated further west. These become indications that Taprobrana is not Sri Lanka nor Sumatera, and raise a presumption that it deliberately put on the wrong place or floated its location to make it a secrecy. It is allegedly that sailors tried to find Taprobana using Ptolemy based maps could not find it in the location but then sailed further, at the end they found Sumatera and assumed it as Taprobana. In spite of those, Taprobana is shown in the extreme southeast corner (Southeast Asia) on the Cresques’ Catalan Atlas (“Trapobana”), and in the Indian Ocean northeast of Java (“Argeria”) and Sumatera (“Crisa”) on the map of Walsperger (“Tapbana”).

Sri Lanka (“Zeilan”) and Sumatera (“Sumatra”) appear on the Ortelius’ map, but Taprobana disappears, and Kalimantan (“Burneo”) and other islands in the archipelago are added. Thus, it shows the incredibly improved knowledge of the cartographers in that time. A presumption raise that the knowledge of the archipelago have been understood since that time, and the cartographers should have found out that Taprobana is actually Kalimantan, making it disappear from the maps.

Various maps depicting Traprobana

Figure 22. Various locations of Taprobana on the ancient maps. Also shown Sri Lanka (“Solis”, “Seilan”, “Seillam”, “Seylam”, “Seyla” or “Zeilan”) and Sumatera (“Chryse”, “Aurea Chersonesus”, “Barusæ”, “Illa Iana”, “Jaba Minor”, “Iava Minor” or “Sumatra”)

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Geographic Conditions of Taprobana

Eratosthenes mentioned that Taprobana is located in Eastern sea, lies extended opposite to Greater India. He gave the dimensions of the island, as being 7,000 stadia (≈ 1,300 km) in length, and 5,000 (≈ 925 km) in width. When we measure the size of Kalimantan Island, we can find that these dimensions are highly accurate. The ambassadors dispatched to Rome, as written by Pliny and Strabo, made one statement of the country enjoying two summers and two winters, which clearly show that the country embraced on both sides of the equator. These become evidence that Eratosthenes, Pliny and Strabo are correct to refer Taprobana as Kalimantan.

Pliny and Strabo stated that the nearest point of the Greater Indian coast was a promontory known as Coliacum, distant 4 days’ sail, and midway between them laid “the island of the Sun”. The sea was a greenish tint, having numerous coral at the bottom, which the rudders of vessels broke off as they came in contact when sailing over it. The Coliacum promontory is allegedly the Malay Peninsula, probably they gave its name referring to Kelantan or its older name Kalantan located in east coast of the peninsula. The early history of Kelantan traces distinct human settlement dating back to prehistoric times, and became an important center of trade by the end of the 15th century.

Between Kalimantan and the Malay Peninsula lays the Karimata Strait, a shallow water which was a land mass during the Ice Age. Almost a hundred of islands and coral reefs are in this strait – administratively under the Riau Islands and Bangka-Belitung Provinces of Indonesia – with main islands among them are Natuna, Anambas, Bintan, Lingga, Bangka and Belitung. People in these islands are famous for their sun worshiping. The sea is shallow and reefs are on the bottom so that its color is greenish.

There are several islands around the Kalimantan Island. Those in the Java Sea and Karimata Strait, where they have shallow depth of about 20 to 50 meters, are a mix of real islands and coral reefs. In between islands or reefs, the depths are even shallower so that vessels have to be carefully prepared for such condition. These confirm Pliny’s and Strabo’s statements.

Sundaland - Taprobana

Figure 23. Kalimantan Island and its surroundings

The Dayak people inhabiting the Kalimantan Island are mostly hunters and farmers. Their leaders wear clothes and accessories just like Father Liber, as what Pliny and Strabo said. They have also the most ancient tradition of tattooing. Animals are abundant and the soil is fertile. The island is also rich of metal minerals such gold, silver and copper, and any kinds of precious stones. Oysters producing pearls are cultivated in the seas around the island, now become 40% of the world supply of pearl.

Elephants, tigers and turtles were abundant in the island as depicted by the Dayak traditions, languages and legends of how they aware of the habitat and habits of these animals, but because of their tradition of hunting these animals, their present populations are dwindled or extinct. Indonesia was the place of the ancient Stegodon, a large size elephant-like animal. DNA Analysis indicates that Asian elephants are native to Kalimantan (Fernando et al, 2003). The now endangered Kalimantan pigmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) are what remained in Kalimantan now, the same species in Java is already extinct some 200 years ago. Kalimantan, as well as Sumatera, are the habitat of giant turtles (Orlitia borneensis) and clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa). These facts confirm Pliny’s, Strabo’s and Ptolemy’s statements.

In daily life, helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil) are admired by the Dayaks in Kalimantan, for the lessons the community can learn from the behavior of the species. Using many different reverential names for the birds, the Dayak have many myths and legends in which hornbills are envoys of the gods with the task of conveying divine messages. In their beliefs, the birds give living examples of fidelity to a spouse and responsibility for family life. The Dayak teach their children not to hurt or kill the sacred birds. Such deeds are a taboo. Pliny and Strabo said that in traversing their seas, the people of Taprobana take no observations of the stars, but they carry birds out to sea, which they let go from time to time, and so follow their course as they make for the land. These birds were apparently the hornbill admired by the Dayak.

Pliny and Strabo stated that the island had a harbor at the south coast, adjoining the city of Palaesimundus. There was a large lake named Megisba from which Palaesimundus River ran by the city by 3 channels each having width of between 5 and 15 stadia (about 925 and 2775 meters), and the Cydara River laid north of the lake. These three rivers were allegedly the Barito, Kapuas-Murung and Kahayan Rivers. Barito River is nearly 3 kilometers, Kapuas-Murung River is about 1 kilometer and Kahayan river is about 1.5 kilometers in width, in those parts near the sea, that show cnformities with those stated by Pliny and Strabo. A large lake was probably formed on the plain region due to occurrence of a large flood from the mountains with higher flow velocity that could erode the upper part of the plain, but the lower part is flat and level so that the velocity was much reduced and the eroded material settled on that place forming a dam and a lake. A shallow lake on a flat plane may vanish only within hundreds of years. The existing condition now is a large swampy region.

According to the old maps, Tanjungpura located on the south coast of Kalimantan was a prominent city. Several ancient manuscripts mention also this name. Its literal meaning is “the city (pura) of Tanjung tree”. Tanjung tree (Mimusops elengi) is a medium-sized evergreen tree found in tropical forests in South Asia, Southeast Asia and northern Australia. English common names include Spanish cherry, medlar, and bullet wood. Its Sanskrit name is “bakula” so that an ancient manuscript from the Javanese Singasari Kingdom refers the city as Bakulapura. “Tanjung” can also mean “cape” or “peninsula” as used in some place names, but not for this case.

In the history records, there was a community near the present Tanjung town named Tanjungpuri. One of the remains is a Hindu temple Candi Agung located in Sungaimalang Village, Central Amuntai Sub-district, Hulu Sungai Utara Regency, South Kalimantan Province. Carbon dating to the remains resulted in around 200 BC. Tanjungpuri was probably the primordial Tanjungpura. The port of Hippuri mentioned by Pliny was probably Tanjungpuri.

At first, the indigenous people of Kalimantan did not apply the kingship system. Their social lives were based on customs and beliefs that were developed and transmitted from generation to generation. The community was formed from a small number of people and an amount of land necessary for living and farming. As the time over, they developed into a larger community that made their customs a more complex, and need more land too. Opening a new land would create a new community so that over time several communities were created but followed the same customs and inhabiting the same region. They called the whole community having the same socio-cultural practices and inhabiting in a region “banua”, meaning “world”, similar to “mundus” in Latin. The communities in Kalimantan strongly hold this “banua” concept until today.

Their social leader is called “raja” or “rajah”. The name of the chief of the embassy to Roman as stated by Pliny, Rachia, is probably this “rajah”. James Brooke was appointed as “rajah”, ruling the territory across the western regions of Sarawak in the 19th century.

Kingship was introduced into the indigenous by the Malay settlers from Sumatera around the 4th or 5th century. Tanjungpura was probably a “banua” in the early centuries and BC, so that the long name would be “Banua Tanjungpura”. Some old maps mention it as “Taiopuro”, which probably the European then called it with a long name “Taiopuro Banua”. To match the two consonants for each name, it was shortened to “Tapro Bana” and also to name the whole island, the same meaning as “Banua Tanjungpura”.

About the name of “Salike” given by Ptolemy, there is an Austronesian word “salaka” that means “white-colored metal”. This is probably a mixture of gold and silver, an electrum. This metal can be found naturally in southern Kalimantan region as a byproduct of gold mining. The word is applied to a cape name, Tanjung Salaka, located at the south coast of Kalimantan almost around the location of Tanjungpura.

The freedman Annius Plocamus was possibly stranded around the present-day Banjarmasin, in accordance with his statement that on the southern coast of Taprobana. It was also said that its territory was divided into two separated by a river. One part was infested by wild beasts and elephants, and the other inhabited by Prachii colonists, and producing gold and gems. The river was possibly the present-day Barito River and the Prachii colonists was the present-day Banjar people which were inherently colonists in several islands in Indonesia. On the ancient maps, the Banjar people were mentioned as Paco, Bancy, Biajo, Bander and Banjar, and by Ptolemy as Bacchi. Banjarmasin by Odoric of Pordenone (an Italian Franciscan friar) was mentioned as Thalamasyn. Banjarmasin by the Roman tongue was changed into Palaesi and added mundus (town) became Palaesimundus.

Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire possibly deliberately kept the actual name in secret and obscured it with another names because this island has lucrative resources with superior quality that are very alluring for trade commodities.

Besides some other classic names of the island, Kalimantan bore the name of Nusakencana, literally means “the island of gold”, as stated in the Jayabaya Prophecy from the Javanese Kediri Kingdom in the 12th century. The Muarakaman inscriptions found in the upper region of Mahakam River in east Kalimantan dated to 4th century also attest that the king of Mulawarman held a charity of much gold. The word “nusakencana” is an Austronesian language; its translation into Sanskrit is “suwarnadwipa”. Suwarnadwipa is widely known as the island of Sumatera by the historians but there is no such inscription that clearly refers it as the said island, so that other alternative of Suwarnadwipa is Kalimantan as this island is more abundant with gold than Sumatera. Moreover, Cosmas Indico-pleustes mentioned that “Serendip”, a European tongue of “Suwarnadwipa”, was the island of Taprobana.

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Ancient Maps of Kalimantan

The maps below show the development of Kalimantan maps from the 16th century until the 19th, starting from the map of Abraham Ortelius, which was the first modern atlas. The Ptolemy’s map of Taprobana is also included. We can see from these maps that the island of Kalimantan took its real map shape just in the middle of 19th century.

The cartographers of these maps should have known that Kalimantan was actually Taprobana, visible in the great similarities of the geographic names, layout, locations, features and descriptions of the island and its surroundings among Ptolemy’s and their maps.

150 Ptolemy

Figure 24. Ptolemy, Taprobana, 150 AD

1570 Abraham Ortelius

Figure 25. Abraham Ortelius, 1570 AD

1572 Abraham Ortelius

Figure 26. Abraham Ortelius, 1572 AD

1594 Petrus Plancius

Figure 27. Petrus Plancius, 1594 AD

1598 Petrus Plancius

Figure 28. Petrus Plancius, 1598 AD

1606 Hondius Jodocus

Figure 29. Hondius Jodocus, 1606 AD

1616 Petrus Bertius

Figure 30. Petrus Bertius, 1616 AD

1619 Gerard Mercator

Figure 31. Gerard Mercator, 1619 AD

1627 Bertius

Figure 32. Bertius, 1627 AD

1630 Ioão Teixeira

Figure 33. Ioão Teixeira, 1630 AD

1632 Johannes Cloppenburgh

Figure 34. Johannes Cloppenburgh, 1632 AD

1638 Joan Janssonius

Figure 35. Joan Janssonius, 1638 AD

1650 Willem Blaeu

Figure 36. Willem Blaeu, 1650 AD

1662 Frederik de Wit

Figure 37. Frederik de Wit, 1662 AD

1680 Pierre Duval

Figure 38. Pierre Duval, 1680 AD

1683 Alain Manesson Mallet

Figure 39. Alain Manesson Mallet, 1683 AD

1687 Giovanni Giacomo De Rossi

Figure 40. Giovanni Giacomo De Rossi, 1687 AD

1688 Robert Morden

Figure 41. Robert Morden, 1688 AD

1689 Vincenzo Maria Coronelli

Figure 42. Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, 1689 AD

1701 Bowrey

Figure 43. Bowrey, 1701 AD

1706 Pieter Vander

Figure 44. Pieter Vander, 1706 AD

1710 Ioachim Ottens

Figure 45. Ioachim Ottens, 1710 AD

1721 John Senex

Figure 46. John Senex, 1721 AD

1721 Nicholas de Fer and J Robbe

Figure 47. Nicholas de Fer and J Robbe, 1721 AD

1723 Chevigny

Figure 48. Chevigny, 1723 AD

1725 Pierre Vander

Figure 49. Pierre Vander, 1725 AD

1726 Herman Moll

Figure 50. Herman Moll, 1726 AD

1730 Christoph Homanno

Figure 51. Christoph Homanno, 1730 AD

1740 Isaac Tirion

Figure 52. Isaac Tirion, 1740 AD

1747 Nicolaus Bellin

Figure 53. Nicolaus Bellin, 1747 AD

1762 Robert de Vaugondy

Figure 54. Robert de Vaugondy, 1762 AD

1766 Thomas Salmon

Figure 55. Thomas Salmon, 1766 AD

1770 M Bonne

Figure 56. M Bonne, 1770 AD

1771 M Bonne

Figure 57. M Bonne, 1771 AD

1776 Antonio Zatta

Figure 58. Antonio Zatta, 1776 AD

1778 Thomas Jefferys

Figure 59. Thomas Jefferys, 1778 AD

1780 M Bonne

Figure 60. M Bonne, 1780 AD

1799 Clement Cruttwell

Figure 61. Clement Cruttwell, 1799 AD

1801 John Cary

Figure 62. John Cary, 1801 AD

1810 Ambrosse Tardieu

Figure 63. Ambrosse Tardieu, 1810 AD

1818 Pinkerton

Figure 64. Pinkerton, 1818 AD

1835 David H Burr

Figure 65. David H Burr, 1835 AD

1851 Tallis

Figure 66. Tallis, 1851 AD

1855 Joseph Hutchins Colton

Figure 67. Joseph Hutchins Colton, 1855 AD

1893 JH de Bussy

Figure 68. JH de Bussy, 1893 AD

1895 Richard Andree

Figure 69. Richard Andree, 1895 AD

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Geographic Names Identification

The author identifies the geographic names and locations as mentioned by Ptolemy by correlating with those in the old maps and their modern names. Compass was not invented in the Ptolemy’s time so that the map has very low quality in terms of scale, orientation and geographic locations. Below are the identified names. We can see that numerous names as well as their locations are in close resemblance with those of Ptolemy’s. These are the so many proofs that Taprobana is actually Kalimantan.

  • Cetęum, promontorium → (Cotan, Catalan, Satalang, Salaton, Salatan) → Tanjung Selatan

“Tanjung” means “cape”, “promontory” or “peninsula”. Tanjung Selatan is a significant promontory located at the southeastern part of Kalimantan.

  • Nanigiri, region → (Nagara, Nagarra) → Negara

Negara was a known place name and frequently mentioned in the old maps, now a village and a river name in South Kalimantan Province.

  • Baracus, fluvius → Barito River

Some maps show Barito River as Banjar River, Banjarmasin River or misplaced as Sukadana River.

  • Nacaduma, place → Mandoemai → Mandomai

Mandoemai is mentioned on the 1896 Dutch map. Mandomai is now a village in the region of Kapuas Barat Subdistrict, Kapuas Regency, Central Kalimantan Province.

  • Bachi, civitas → (Paco, Bancy, Biajo, Bander, Banjar) → Banjar

Banjar is an ethnic group in southern Kalimantan and formed a kingdom of Banjarmasin from 1520 to 1860. Banjarmasin is now a capital city of South Kalimantan Province. Some maps show Banjarmasin as Bandarmassin, Bendermassin, Bendermaβin, Bandermachri, Bendarmafsin, Bindermasin, Baniarmafseen, Brandermassin, Banjarmassen, Banjar Massin or Banjarmaffen. Odoric of Pordenone mentioned it as Thalamasyn.

Banjar people were travellers; some of them had travelled to many places in the archipelago and set up pockets of settlement. Megasthenes described Taprobana was inhabited by Prachii colonists, this could be the Banjar people.

  • Corcobara, place → (Tamiampura, Taiampura, Taiapura, Taiaopura, Taiaopuro, Tanjapura) → Tanjungpura

Tanjungpura is a name of an ancient kingdom. Based on the old maps, its location was not static but mostly at the south and southwest coast of Kalimantan.

  • Orneon, extrema → (Simanauw) → Sebangau

“Orneo”, “ornis” and “ornêon” in Latin mean “bird”, “fowl” or “heron”. “Bangau” in local language means “hern”, “heron”, “stork” or “egret”. Sebangau is now the name of a river and a bay at the southern coast of Kalimantan.

  • Azanus, fluvius → Kayan, Kahayan River

There are several rivers with the name of Kayan (or Kahayan), in western, southern and eastern Kalimantan. Kayan is also the name of several Dayak tribes. Azanus River is probably the Kahayan River in Central Kalimantan.

The Periplus Maris Erythraei indicates that the southern part of the region trends gradually toward the west, and almost touches the shore of Azania (or Azanus).

  • Louis, extrema → (Lao, Lave, Laue, Lava, Laua, Lawa) → Lawi, Lawai

Lawi or Lawai is an ancient city in the Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan Province. The name is frequently mentioned on the old maps but the exact location is controverted. Tomé Pires, a Portuguese explorer, described it as an area rich of diamonds, four-day shipping distance from Tanjompure (Tanjungpura). Lawi is also the name of a river, a tributary of Kayan River. Lawi is sometimes associated with Melawi, a regency in West Kalimantan Province.

  • Nubartha, civitas → (Sambuer, Sambaur, Sambor, Sobar, Sambar, Sambahar, Sambbae, Samban) → Tanjung Sambar

Tanjung Sambar is a cape in the Muara Kandawangan National Park.

  • Malea, mons → (Melahoei, Melawai) → Melawi

Melawi is the name of a regency in West Kalimantan Province, also the name of a river, located and has its headwaters on the Schwaner-Muller, a mountain range with highest peaks in Kalimantan.

  • Anubingara, place → (Matan, Mattan, Ketapan) → Ketapang

Ketapang is the oldest town in the western Kalimantan, was once the center of the kingdom of Tanjungpura situated at Matan. Ketapang is the capital of the Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan Province.

  • Priapides, portus → (Tamaratas, Tamaratos, Tamarates, Tameorato, Iamanatos, Hormata, Carimata) → Cempedak, Karimata

Cempedak is now the names of the two islands, off the coast of the port Siduk, Sukadana. Tamaratos and Hormata are frequently mentioned in the old maps, these are probably the modern town of Ketapang. Karimata is now the name of an island off the coast of Ketapang and a strait separating Kalimantan and Sumatera.

  • Sindocanda, civitas; Sandocandę, region → (Succadano, Succaduno, Succudana, Succadana, Socadana, Sucadana) → Sukadana

Sukadana is frequently mentioned in the old maps, it was an ancient kingdom with its products are diamonds and iron. Sukadana is now the capital city of North Kayong Regency, West Kalimantan Province.

  • Poduce, place → (Landa, Salimbau) → Sekadau

Landa is frequently mentioned in the old maps, this is probably Sekadau located at the bank of Kapuas River. Sekadau is now the names of a regency and also its capital, in West Kalimantan Province.

  • Soana, fluvius; Soani, region → (Sonee, Senar, Soné, Sone, Sona, Soengi) → [Sungai] Sambas

The above names are found on the 18th and 19th century maps indicating the three rivers (or places) around the Main Sambas River, literary mean “river” (“sungai”). These are written as Sone Sambas, Sone Luban and Sone Napor, probably the closely neighboured Sambas Kecil, Teberau and Subah Rivers. Sambas was a kingdom from before 14th century to 1950 AD, now the capital city of Sambas Regency in West Kalimantan Province.

  • Anaris, promontorium → (Sisar, Soric, Siric) → Tanjung Sirik

Tanjung Sirik is a cape located in Sarikei Division, Sarawak

  • Anurogrammum, place, Anurogrammi, region → Dayak people

Anurogrammum is in close resemblance to Anurognathus, a genus of small pterosaur. The indigenous Dayak people are hornbill admirers, have many myths and legends in which hornbills are envoys of the gods with the task of conveying divine messages. The Anurogrammum is allegedly meant “hornbill admirer”, ie the Dayak people.

  • Iogana, civitas → (Malano, Malona, Melanoege) → Melanau

Melanau people are an ethnic group native to Sarawak, the fifth largest group (after Iban, Chinese, Malays and Bidayuh), but forms a large part of Sarawak’s political sphere. The Melanau are considered among the earliest settlers in Sarawak, at first settled in scattered communities along the main tributaries of the Rajang River in Central Sarawak.

  • Margana, civitas → Miri

Miri town is named after a minority ethnic group called “Jatti Meirek” or simply “Mirek”, or “Miriek”. This ethnic group is the earliest settlers in the region of Miri Division, Sarawak.

  • Galiba, extrema; Galibi, region; Galibi, montres → (Balaba, Balabac) → Balabac

Balabac is the southern-most island of the Palawan province in the Philippines, only about 50 kilometres north from Sabah, Malaysia, across the Balabac Strait. The Molbogs, which is also referred to as Molebugan or Molebuganon are concentrated in the island. The Molbogs allegedly migrated from North Borneo, related to the Tidung or Tirum people, an indigenous group found in the northeast coast of Sabah since they have similar dialect and socio-cultural practices.

The names of Sabah, Balambangan Island and Teluk Labuk might also be derived from the same name.

  • Talakori, emporium → (Cancirao, Cancyra, Canciaro, Cancerao, Cancorao, Cancirau) → Keningau

This place is frequently mentioned in the 17th- and 18th-century maps. The exact place is not known, possibly Keningau, a district in the Interior Division, Sabah. It is the oldest and largest town in the interior part of Sabah. During the British colonial era, Keningau was one of the most important administrative centres in British North Borneo.

  • Modutti, emporium; Mudutti, region → (Marudo, Malloodoo) → Marudu or Murut people

Marudu is a town and a district located in the Kudat Division of the state of Sabah.

The Murut are an indigenous ethnic group, inhabiting northern inland regions of Borneo, literally means “hill people”. A large percentage of the Murut communities are in the southwest interior of Sabah, specifically the districts of Keningau, Tenom, Nabawan and Pensiangan, along the Sapulut and Padas rivers. The Murut were the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting.

  • Phasis, fluvius → (Sisar, Sisor) → Kinabatangan River

Kinabatangan River is located in Sabah, the second longest river in Malaysia, its headwaters are in the mountains of southwest Sabah, its outlet is at the Sulu Sea, east of Sandakan.

  • Anubingara, civitas → Lun Bawang people

The Lun Bawang (formerly known as Southern Murut) is an ethnic group found in Central Northern Borneo. They are indigenous to the highlands of North Kalimantan (Krayan, Malinau and Long Bawan), Brunei (Temburong District), southwest of Sabah (Interior Division) and northern region of Sarawak (Limbang Division).

  • Nagadiba, civitas → Negaradipa

Negaradipa was a kingdom located in the interior of South Kalimantan. Its capital was originally at Candi Laras, Margasari, near the downstream of Bahan River at its tributary, then they moved to the upstream of the at Candi Agung, Amuntai. As well as some tribes in Borneo, before establishing their empire they were tribal societies. Possibly, Negaradipa was a tribe before establishing their kingdom. The tribes in Kalimantan are generally nomadic and the tribe of Negaradipa was not necessarily located at the kingdom of Negaradipa.

  • Maagrammum, metropolis; Ganges, fluvius → (Bamcamanican, Pomanakam, Markaman) → Muarakaman and Mahakam River

Muarakaman, located in Kutai Kartanegara Regency, East Kalimantan Province, is known as the existence of stone manuscripts dated around 4th century AD, written on seven stone pillars in the Pallava alphabet and the Sanskrit language, considered as the oldest inscription existing in Indonesia. A Brahmin (Hindu) kingdom is attested by the manuscripts, located in Muarakaman, precisely in the bank of Mahakam River. There is no inscription that clearly mentions the name of this kingdom, but popularly known as Kutai Martadipura as has been given by the scholars.

Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of rivers and named the rivers as Ganges. Mahakam River where Muarakaman is located in its bank was most likely considered as the Ganges.

  • Spatana, portus → Bontang

Bontang is a port town in East Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan Province, located at the eastern coast of Kalimantan.

  • Procuri, civitas → (Pasir, Pafsir, Passier, Passeir, Passir) → Dayak Paser people

The Dayak Paser is an indigenous ethnic group found in southeastern Kalimantan. Dayak Paser people are possibility have alliance with the Dayak Lawangan, a clump of the Dayak Ot Danum. They formed a kingdom namely Sadungaras (later Pasir Sultanate) from the 16th to the early 20th centuries. Paser is now a regency in East Kalimantan Province.

  • Cumara, island → Semaras, Laut Island

Semaras is a place name located in western coast of Laut Island, South Kalimantan Province.

  • Alaba, island → (Alambai, Calamba, Calambua, Calaubua, Calabo) → Kalambau Islands

Kalambau are islands located off the south coast of Kalimantan in the Java Sea. Administratively, the islands belong to the province of South Kalimantan.

  • Arana, island → (Arents, Arentes, Arantel, Keramian) → Karamian Islands

Karamian is an atoll island located off the south coast of Kalimantan in the Java Sea. Administratively, the island belongs to the province of East Java.

  • Balaca, island → (Balachaia, Balacuan, Blacana, Ciombra, Solambo, Solonbo, Solombo, Somanbo) → Masalembo Islands

Masalembo are islands located off the south coast of Kalimantan in the Java Sea. Administratively, the islands belong to the province of East Java.

  • Bassa, island → (Lubok, Lubeck, Lubec, Lubek, Baboan, Bawean) → Bawean Island

Bawean is an island located off the south coast of Kalimantan and northern Java, in the Java Sea. Administratively, the island belongs to the province of East Java.

  • Calandradua, island → (Quirimanjaba, Quirimajaba, Cariman Iava, Carimun Iava, Carimao Iava, Carimoon Iava, Carimon Java, Carmon Java, Karimoen Djawa) → Karimunjawa Island

Karimunjawa are islands located off the north coast of Java, in the Java Sea. Administratively, the islands belong to the province of Central Java.

  • Erene, island → (Clemencia, Klein Enkhnysen, Enkhnysen) → Enkhnysen Reef

Enkhnysen Reef is a group of coral reefs located in Java Sea off the Tanjung Sambar peninsula near Mangkup Island.

  • Carcus, island → (Banca, Banka, Bangka) → Bangka
  • Phelicus, island → (Bibilitam, Billetoon, Billiton, Belitoeng) → Belitung

The Bangka-Belitung Islands are a province lying off Sumatera. The province comprises two main islands, Bangka and Belitung, and several smaller ones. The Bangka Strait separates Sumatera and Bangka, and the Gaspar Strait separates Bangka and Belitung. The South China Sea is to the north, the Java Sea is to the south, and the province is separated from Kalimantan in the east by the Karimata Strait.

  • Ammine, island → (Anamba, Anambas; Natuna, Naima, Natuma) → Anambas and Natuna Islands

The Anambas and Natuna Islands are located in the South China Sea, off the northwest coast of Kalimantan. Administratively, the islands constitute a regency within the Riau Islands Province.

  • Monache, island → (Timao, Timaon, Timor, Timmoon, Timon, Timoan) → Tioman Island

Tioman Island is an island in Pahang, located off the east coast of the state.

  • Cory, island → (Pulo Ciri, Pulo Cecir, Pulo Cili, Pulo Siri, Pulo Seir) → Cu Lao Re or Ly Son Island

Cu Lao Re or Ly Son is an island off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea.

  • Trinesia, island → (Pulo Tigao, Pulo Tigaon, Tigan) → Pulau Tiga

Pulau Tiga (Tiga Islands) is a group of three small uninhabited islands off the western coast of Sabah, Malaysia that make up Tiga Island National Park.

  • Orneon, island → (Pulo Condor, Pulo Cador, Pulo Condore, Poulo Condore) → Côn Đảo/Condor Islands

“Orneo”, “ornis” and “ornêon” in Latin mean “bird”, “fowl” or “heron”. Côn Đảo Islands are an archipelago of Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province, in the Southeast region of Vietnam, and a district of this province. Marco Polo mentioned the islands in the description of his 1292 voyage from China to India under the name Sondur and Condur. The name was interpreted as Condor, the Chinese mythological eagle.

  • Susuara, island → (Paragoa, Paragua, Paragoya, Paragoy, Paragou, Parago, Palohan, Palawan) → Palawan Island

Palawan Island is the largest island of the Palawan Province, Philippines. The northern coast of the island is along the South China Sea, while the southern coast forms part of the northern limit of the Sulu Sea.

  • Nagadiba, island → (Baqueiraon, Biqueram, Boquerano, Bequeraon, Siboetoe) → Sibutu Island

Sibutu is an island in the province of Tawi-Tawi, Philippines. It lies east of the coast of Sabah, Malaysia.

  • Zibala, island → (Celebra, Celebus, Celebes, Cellebes) → Sulawesi Island

Sulawesi is an Island located east of Kalimantan Island. This is the closest large island that can be seen from the eastern coast of Kalimantan. Several maps mention Celebes also as a place name at the west coast of Sulawesi, but the modern name of this place can not be identified. Ptolemy apparently only get one coordinate point on this island so the map drafter drew it as a small island on the map.

  • Zaba, island → (Paternosters, Chapelat, Sebelasanak) → Sabalana Islands

The Sabalana Islands are an atoll in the Flores Sea, lying just north of the Lesser Sunda Islands, closer to Sumbawa than Sulawesi. Administratively, the atoll belongs to the province of South Sulawesi.

Taprobana

Figure 70. Identified geographic names

Table 1. Identified geographic names

No Ptolemy Ancient maps Modern
1 Cetęum Cotan, Catalan, Satalang, Salaton, Salatan Tanjung Selatan
2 Nanigiri Nagara, Nagarra Negara
3 Baracus Banjar, Banjarmasin Barito
4 Nacaduma Mandoemai Mandomai
5 Bachi Paco, Bancy, Biajo, Bander, Banjar Banjar
6 Corcobara Tamiampura, Taiampura, Taiapura, Taiaopura, Taiaopuro, Tanjapura Tanjungpura
7 Orneon (bird, fowl or heron) Simanauw Sebangau
8 Azanus Kayan, Kahayan
9 Louis Lao, Lave, Laue, Lava, Laua, Lawa Lawi, Lawai
10 Nubartha Sambuer, Sambaur, Sambor, Sobar, Sambar, Sambahar, Sambbae, Samban Tanjung Sambar
11 Malea Melahoei, Melawai Melawi
12 Anubingara Matan, Mattan, Ketapan Ketapang
13 Priapides Tamaratas, Tamaratos, Tamarates, Tameorato, Iamanatos, Hormata, Carimata Cempedak, Karimata
14 Sindocanda, Sandocandę Succadano, Succaduno, Succudana, Succadana, Socadana, Sucadana Sukadana
15 Poduce Landa, Salimbau Sekadau
16 Soana, Soani Sonee, Senar, Soné, Sone, Sona, Soengi [Sungai] Sambas
17 Anaris Sisar, Soric, Siric Tanjung Sirik
18 Anurogrammum, Anurogrammi Dayak
19 Iogana Malano, Malona, Melanoege Melanau
20 Margana Miri
21 Galiba, Galibi Balaba, Balabac Balabac, Sabah, Balambangan, Teluk Labuk
22 Talakori Cancirao, Cancyra, Canciaro, Cancerao, Cancorao, Cancirau Keningau
23 Modutti, Mudutti Marudo, Malloodoo Marudu, Murut
24 Phasis Sisar, Sisor Kinabatangan (River)
25 Anubingara Lun Bawang
26 Nagadiba Negaradipa
27 Maagrammum, Ganges (holy river) Bamcamanican, Pomanakam, Markaman Muarakaman, Mahakam River
28 Spatana Bontang
29 Procuri Pasir, Pafsir, Passier, Passeir, Passir Paser
30 Cumara Semaras
31 Alaba Alambai, Calamba, Calambua, Calaubua, Calabo Kalambau
32 Arana Arents, Arentes, Arantel, Keramian Karamian
33 Balaca Balachaia, Balacuan, Blacana, Ciombra, Solambo, Solonbo, Solombo, Somanbo Masalembo
34 Bassa Lubok, Lubeck, Lubec, Lubek, Baboan, Bawean Bawean
35 Calandradua Quirimanjaba, Quirimajaba, Cariman Iava, Carimun Iava, Carimao Iava, Carimoon Iava, Carimon Java, Carmon Java, Karimoen Djawa Karimunjawa
36 Erene Clemencia, Klein Enkhnysen, Enkhnysen Enkhnysen
37 Carcus Banca, Banka, Bangka Bangka
38 Phelicus Bibilitam, Billetoon, Billiton, Belitoeng Belitung
39 Ammine Anamba, Anambas Anambas
40 Monache Timao, Timaon, Timor, Timmoon, Timon, Timoan Tioman
41 Cory Pulo Ciri, Pulo Cecir, Pulo Cili, Pulo Siri, Pulo Seir Cu Lao Re
42 Trinesia Pulo Tigao, Pulo Tigaon, Tigan Pulau Tiga
43 Orneon Pulo Condor, Pulo Cador, Pulo Condore, Poulo Condore Côn Đảo/Condor
44 Susuara Paragoa, Paragua, Paragoya, Paragoy, Paragou, Parago, Palohan, Palawan Palawan
45 Nagadiba Baqueiraon, Biqueram, Boquerano, Bequeraon, Siboetoe Sibutu
46 Zibala Celebra, Celebus, Celebes, Cellebes Sulawesi
47 Zaba Paternosters, Chapelat, Sebelasanak Sabalana

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Taprobrana and The Search for Atlantis

Plato told the story of Atlantis around 360 BC. About 30 years later, Alexander the Great invaded India and Nearchus and Onesicritus who accompanied him on his campaigns described Taprobana for the first time. About another 30 years later Seleucus Nicator sent Megasthenes as ambassador to Sandracottus (Chandragupta Maurya) in 302 BC where Taprobana was also described.

The story of Atlantis has been an object of fascination among western philosophers and historians. Of course, Alexander the Great was not lost his attention on the supreme land. Alexander was the student of Aristotle, a student of Plato. The descriptions of Atlantis by Plato were very clear and in details, but the search for Atlantis around the Mediterranean Sea did not return any results. It can be presumed that Alexander thought that Atlantis was not in the area but in Far East, in the Indian Ocean. During his invasion to India, Atlantis was allegedly discovered, but this discovery was kept into confidential and obscured with other name, Taprobana by Nearchus and Onesicritus, including its location. His conquering for India was defeated by Chandragupta but an alliance was formed. After his death, Seleucus continued the alliance and the secrecy of Atlantis and Taprobana were still kept. Megasthenes described Taprobana in a little more detailed.

In the reign of Claudius, four people from the island of Taprobana were dispatched as embassy to the Roman. Again, Claudius and the former emperors should not have lost his attention about Atlantis. Being described very clearly and in details, he could think that Taprobana was part of the Atlantis.

The following emperors should know that Taprobana was part of Atlantis but they kept on continuing the secrecy. Taprobana was spoken by some writers during this time. In the reign of Antoninus Pius (138 – 161 AD), Taprobana was mapped in details by Ptolemy. Again, the Roman Empire possibly deliberately kept the location in secret and obscured it. The last part of Critias, a Plato’s dialogue, which allegedly describes more detailed information about Atlantis have been lost. The original maps of Ptolemy were also lost, an indication that they wanted to hide.

In the 6th century AD, the name Taprobana had vanished. After the fall of Rome, European geography entered a dark age more profound than that of most other disciplines, and facts about Taprobana and Atlantis were buried. Many ancient books and scholarly works, especially those housed at the Library at Alexandria, was lost for over a thousand years. At the end of the 1400s, Plato and Ptolemy’s works were rediscovered; Atlantis and Taprobana became popular once again.

The Western colonialization in Asia involving Britain, France, Portugal and the Netherlands was allegedly inspired by the allurement of Taprobana as well as Atlantis. This was sparked early in the 15th century by the search for trade routes to the Far East that led directly to the Age of Discovery, and the introduction of early modern warfare. By the early 16th century, the Age of Sail greatly expanded Western European influence and development of the Spice Trade under colonialism. The cartographers of this era should have known that Taprobrana is Kalimantan, visible in the great similarities of the geographic layout, locations, features, names and descriptions of the island and its surroundings among Ptolemy’s and their maps.

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***

Copyright © Dhani Irwanto, 2015. All rights reserved.

Hyang Concept, an Ancestor Worshipping

<Bahasa Indonesia>

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 9 September 2015

Hyang or personified as Sang Hyang (Kawi, Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese) is an unseen spiritual entity that has supernatural power in ancient Nusantara mythology. This spirit can be either divine or ancestral. In modern Nusantara this term tends to be associated with gods, dewata or God, widely associated with Indonesian Dharmism developed in ancient Java and Bali for more than a millennium ago. However this term actually has an older origin, it has its root in indigenous animism and dynamism beliefs of Austronesian people that inhabit the Nusantara archipelago. The Hyang concept is indigenously developed in archipelago and considered not originated from Indian dharmic religions.

Before the adoption of Dharmism, Buddhism and Islam, the natives of Nusantara archipelago believe in the powerful but unseen spiritual entity that can be either benevolent or malevolent. They also believe that the deceased ancestors are not gone away or disappear completely. The ancestral spirit may gain god-like spiritual power and still involved in their offspring’s worldly affairs. That is why the veneration and reverence to honor ancestor is an important element in the belief system of native ethnic groups, such as Nias, Dayak, Batak, Toraja, Papuan, as well as many other ethnic groups in Nusantara.

The etymology of Hyang is alive in modern affairs. Sanghyang and rahyang refer to gods. Dahyang, danyang or dayang refers to the guardian spirits of certain sacred or haunted places. The Javanese word tiyang means “person” is believed to be derived from the words ti and hyang means the descendant of Hyang. Parahyangan or priangan means the abode of the noble Hyangs. Mojang Priangan refers to a girl from Priangan. Dieng Plateau in Central Java is composed from combined words of dihyang means Hyang’s place in a height. Gunung Padang in West Java is from pada-hyang means the sacred place of Hyangs. The word sembahyang, a synonym with Islamic shalat ritual is originated from combined words sembahhyang means worshipping the Hyang. Some Javanese people believe that the word wayang, an antiquity theater, was derived from the words ma and hyang means towards the Hyang. Some figures of gods and deities in the wayang story have their noble titles beginning with Sang Hyang. The term Negeri Kahyangan means the Land of Hyangs or the heaven land. Sangeang Api (or Sanghyang Api), an active volcano complex in Nusatenggara Islands, was found in 14th century Majapahit script of Nagarakretagama.

Spreads of Hyang Concept
Kahyangan (from kahyangan, a place for the Hyangs), in another term is swarga or surga means heaven, is somewhere in the realm that is trusted by the adherents of some beliefs as the abode of the Hyangs. The term Kahyangan is popular in Java, Bali and Lombok in their doctrines of Kejawen, Sunda Wiwitan and Balinese Dharmism as well as in their antiquity story of the wayang. Kahyangan is similar to Banua Ginjang in the Batak and Kaharingan in the Dayak mythologies.

Java

In central and eastern Javanese mythology, Hyang is an unseen spiritual entity that has supernatural power associated with gods. Batara Guru is a Hyang that rules Kahyangan (from ka-hyang-an, the realm of the Hyangs). He gives revelations, gifts and abilities. Batara Guru has a consort named Dewi Uma and begat some children. In wayang kulit (the antiquity shadow-puppet), Batara Guru is the only character whose feet face forward, with four hands, pointed canine teeth, a blue neck and paralyzed legs. He always rides Lembu Andini the divine cow, and is also known by several names including Sang Hyang Manikmaya, Sang Hyang Caturbuja, Sang Hyang Otipati, Sang Hyang Jagadnata, Sang Hyang Nilakanta, Sang Hyang Trinetra and Sang Hyang Girinata. Batara Guru has two brothers, Sang Hyang Maha Punggung and Sang Hyang Ismaya. Their parents are Sang Hyang Tunggal and Dewi Rekatawati. Batara Guru is the father of Dewi Sri, the Rice Goddess in native Javanese mythology.

Batara Guru

Sunda

For the Sunda Wiwitan beliefs of the Sundanese (western Java), a supreme god named Sang Hyang Kersa created the universe and also other gods such as mother goddess Batari Sunan Ambu and Batara Guru. Batara Guru rules the Kahyangan or swargaloka as the king of gods, while Sang Hyang Kersa remains unseen. According to Sundanese legends, the Parahyangan (from parahyangan, the place for the noble Hyangs) highland, also known as Priangan, was magically created when the Hyangs (gods) are happy and smiling. To fill the land, Sang Hyang Kersa created animals and demons, while the myth of Sang Hyang Sri (also known as Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Asri) explains the origin of rice and plants on earth as told in Wawacan Sulanjana, an ancient Sundanese manuscript contains the Sundanese mythology. According to the Sundanese legend, the Priangan Plateau was primordially a lake called Danau Hyang (“Hyang Lake”).

Sunda Batara Guru

Bali

Balinese Dharmism adherers believe that all the creations of Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa will face the cycle of birth, life and death. The essence of power of Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa is expressed in a set of shrines called Sanggah Pemerajan at outside of every dharmic house. The empty seat (palinggih) at the top of the Padmasana, the main seat, is for Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.In Balinese Dharmism perspective, the supreme god is known as Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (also known as Acintya or Sang Hyang Tunggal), which means the Almighty God. Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa is associated with the concept of Brahman, that their religion had a single god, though there are various manifestations. Three well known manifestations of Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa, namely Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa, which are named as Tri Murti; Brahma is the creator (utpatti), Wisnu is the caretaker (sthiti) and Siwa is the destroyer (praline). Other noted manifestation is Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice.

Acintya_BaliSanggah Pamerajan

Dayak

In Kaharingan, a folk religion professed by many Dayaks in Kalimantan, their supreme God is called Ranying Hatalla Langit, their ancestral spirits (divine man) Sangiang, their ancient language Sangen and their ancestors Tato-hiang. In addition, Kaharingan has ritual offerings called Tiwah, place of worshipping called Balai Basarah or Balai Kaharingan and holy books called Panaturan, Talatah Basarah (group of prayers) and Tawar (a guide to seek God’s help by giving rice). The main festival of Kaharingan is the Tiwah festival, which lasts for thirty days, and involves the sacrifice of many animals like buffalos, cows, pigs, and chickens as offerings to the Supreme God.

In their religion, the universe is divided into three divisions of life: underworld, human nature and heaven, as symbolized in a tree called Batang Garing.

Batang Garing

Among the many tribes of Dayaks in Kalimantan, those living in the upper reaches of the rivers in the province of Central Kalimantan are the Dayak Ngaju, the Lawangan, the Ma’anyan and the Ot Danum, known as the Barito Dayaks, named after the large Barito river. Among these, the most dominant are the Ngaju, who inhabit the Kahayan river basin by the present city of Palangkaraya. In practice the Ngaju focus on the supernatural world of spirits, including ancestral spirits.

The Kaharingan religion is correlated to the Hyang concept. The names Ranying, Sangiang, Sangen, Tato-hiang and Kahayan are phonetically in close resemblance to and derived from the words “hyang”, “ra-hyang”, “sang-hyang” and “ka-hyang-an”.

Bugis

The Buginese (southern Sulawesi) developed an extraordinary creation myth called Galigo. According to Sure’ Galigo (an epic of creation myth of the Bugis), Datu Patoto’ is the supreme god; with his wife Datu Palinge’ begat Batara Guru who was sent to earth to cultivate it as human being. His divine name was La Toge’ Langi’. He had at least ten children from his five concubines, but only one son from his beloved consort, We Nyili’ Timo’. He is the father of Batara Lattu’ and grand father of Sawerigading, the main characters in the Buginese Sure’ Galigo. He is also the father of Sangiang Serri, the goddess of rice and fertility in Buginese mythology. However, mankind does not descend from them but from their servants and the servants of other divine rulers.

Sawerigading

The present of Batara Guru and Sangiang Serri in the Buginese mythology at least shows its correlation to the Hyang concept.

Toraja

In the Torajan (central Sulawesi) mythology, their ancestors came down from heaven using stairs, which were then used by the Torajans as a communication medium with Puang Matua, the creator and supreme god. The cosmos, according to aluk (the way), is divided into the upper world (heaven), the world of man (earth), and the underworld. At first, heaven and earth were married, and then there was darkness, a separation, and finally the light. Animals live in the underworld, which is represented by rectangular space enclosed by pillars, the earth is for mankind, and the heaven world is located above, covered with a saddle-shaped roof. Other Torajan gods include Pong Banggai di Rante (god of Earth), Indo’ Ongon-Ongon (a goddess who can cause earthquakes), Pong Lalondong (god of death), and Indo’ Belo Tumbang (goddess of medicine); and there are many more.

Batak

In Batak (northern Sumatera) mythology, the universe is divided into three worlds, namely the upper world called Banua Ginjang, the middle world called Banua Tonga and the underworld called Banua Toru. The middle world, where humans live, is also an intermediary between the upper world and the underworld. The upper world is the abode of the gods, while the underworld is the abode of demons and spirits of the earth and fertility. Colors commonly used by the Batak people for household appliances, Hauduk, Ulos cloth and wood carvings are white, red and black are symbols of the three-world.

The creator of the world in the Batak mythology is Mulajadi na Bolon, assisted by a series of other deities which are divided into seven levels in the upper world. Mulajadi na Bolon has three children namely Debata Guru, Debata Soripada and Debata Mangala Bulan; they are known as Debata Sitolu Sada (three gods in one) or Debata na Tolu (three gods). The three gods are under the control of the supreme god Mulajadi na Bolon. It was told that Mulajadi na Bolon sent his daughter Tapionda to earth at the foot of Pusuk Buhit mountain. Tapionda later became the mother of the first king of Batak.

Other noted gods are Debata Idup (the god of life) and Pane na Bolon who rules the middle world. Many other gods are associated with the dharmic gods; among others are Boraspati ni Nato and Boru Saniang Naga. In addition, there are spirits that abode lakes, rivers and mountains.

The term debata is identical to dewata or hyang and there is single supreme god so that the Batak mythology is correlated to the Hyang concept. The present of Debata Guru in the Batak mythology at least shows its correlation to the concept.

Rejang

Rejangese is one of the oldest ethnic groups in Sumatera living mainly on the southwest coast of the island, on the cool-weather slopes of the Barisan mountain range, in the province of Bengkulu, Indonesia. Most of the Rejangese inhabit the regions of Rejang Lebong, Kepahiang, Central Bengkulu, North Bengkulu and Lebong Regencies. Megalithic sites are ubiquitous in this area influenced by the Basemah culture in southwestern Sumatera.

The Rejangese called them Hejang. Rejangese language is not obviously close to other Malayo-Polynesian languages. Rejangese have their script, known as the Rejang Kaganga alphabet, somewhat similar to Phoenician alphabet. There is no connection to the Dayak Rejang inhabiting eastern and northern Kalimantan.

In their culture, rituals are performed on the occasion of the opening of forest land for slash-and-burn farming (a ritual called kedurai agung) and during the rest of the cycle of rice cultivation. The most important ritual, kedurai mundang biniak, is performed just before the sowing of rice. On this occasion the rice goddess, Nyang Serai, leave the rice and the village and goes to heaven in order to take care of the rainfall. The festivities include a dance performed every evening by seven boys and seven girls from different clans as an expression of clan exogamy. Mundang biniak is held over seven days, and use to be performed only once every three to seven years. In other years seed is blessed by a smaller ritual, membasuh biniak. The ritual cycle ends at the harvest, when Nyang Serai returns to the village and ensures that the rice spirit will not leave the rice being stored in the barns.

The Rejang culture is correlated to the Hyang concept that in the rituals they worshipping the rice goddess, Nyang Serai, identical to Sanghyang Sri, Sangiang Serri and Dewi Sri in other cultures. Some people believe that Rejang is derived from the words ra and hyang, meaning the noble Hyang. A region named Kepahiang as well as Hiang (in the neighboring Kerinci region) having the same pre-historic age also can be correlated.

Nias

Nias is an island off the western coast of Sumatera. In their mythology, the universe is made of three superposed worlds. The upper world, Tetehöli Ana’a, is the model, the place of origin of the gods, in the sky, in the clouds and long ago near the earth. That world has several villages with different people who are often opposed to each other. Lowalangi is the god of this upper world. Silewe Nazarata, his sister and/or wife, gave knowledge to humans: she taught them how to cultivate fields, build houses and carve statues. The underworld is dark, sometimes identified with a cave or a large hole peopled with evil spirits. From it come earthquakes. It is the home of Lature Danö, the elder brother of Lowalangi. The middle world, or world of humans, was created by the gods or in certain versions by one of them by means of their skin scales.

***

Copyright © Dhani Irwanto, 2015. All rights reserved.

The Biblical Garden of Eden was in Kalimantan Island

<Bahasa Indonesia>

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 7 September 2015


Contents

Background
The Garden of Eden
The Four Rivers of Paradise
The Noah Flood
End Note


Background

In Genesis 2:10-14: “And a river ‘going out’ of Eden to water the garden; and from there was parted, and became into four ‘heads’. The name of the first is Phison: that it winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is ‘bedolach’ and the ‘gemstone’. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same that it winds the whole land of Kush. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that it goes in front of Asshur. And the fourth river is Perat.

The quest for pinpointing the exact location of the Biblical Garden of Eden and the four rivers is lasting more than two millennia, almost rivals the quest for the location of Atlantis, both in theory and in practice. Those searches for Eden had proven difficult due to uncertainty in identifying the rivers. Nobody had been able to look at modern maps of the regions mentioned in Genesis and figure out exactly where the Garden of Eden was.

At the head of the Persian Gulf by the present topography, only one river of the four, the Euphrates (Perat), is known by the same name in modern times. It presently originates in the mountains of Turkey and terminates when it merges with the Tigris River near the Iraq/Kuwait border region. Many have speculated that the Tigris is the river Hiddekel. This has led to speculation that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in Turkey. This is assumed because the present headwaters of the Euphrates River originate in Turkey, as do the headwaters of the Tigris. Others have proposed that the other end of the Euphrates River, where it meets the Tigris, may be the true location. This requires interpreting the Tigris river as one of the other three (ie the Hiddekel), then interpreting a tributary confluence of rivers as a river head, and then locating at least two more rivers (or old river beds) as the other missing two. Having done so, they then claim that the Garden of Eden was near present day Kuwait. This is a convenient solution, but not one supported by the literal wording of the Bible or the geological and geographical realities of what river “head” means, ie headwaters or source of origin.

Several clues indicate that the Pishon and Gihon were located in Egypt or Arabia. The name Havilah, where the Pishon river is said to flow, means “sandy land” (Sarna, 1991). To an ancient Israelite audience, the explicit reference to an abundance of gold and precious stones evokes images of the Egyptian royalty from which they were birthed. This association also fits with the reference to “Kush”, identified later in Genesis as one ancestor of the Egyptians, hence it is believed the Gihon to be the famous Nile River. However, if these were indeed the Pison and Gihon rivers, two of four that flowed out of the Garden of Eden, they do not correspond with the present-day headwater source of the Euphrates or Tigris up in Turkey. The respective watersheds of the Tigris/Euphrates and Nile rivers are separated by hundreds of miles, and these rivers are fed by completely different mountain ranges.

So, where was the Biblical Garden of Eden located?

It was in Southeast Asia that man, after emigrating from the semi-deserted savannas of Africa, first found the ideal climatic conditions for development, and it was there that he invented agriculture and civilization. All this took place during the Pleistocene, the last of the geological eras, which ended a scant 11,600 years ago. With the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, the immense glaciers that covered the whole of the northern half of North America and Eurasia melted away. Their waters drained to the sea, whose level rose by the estimated amount of about 100 – 150 meters (dos Santos, 2005).

As the Ice Age ended, there was sea water rise drowned forever the huge continental shelf of Southeast Asia, namely the Sundaland, and caused a population dispersal which fertilized the Neolithic cultures of China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, thus creating the first civilizations. There were three catastrophic and rapid rises in sea level. The last of these, which finished shortly before the start of civilization in Mesopotamia, may have been the one that was remembered. The Southeast Asian contributions to the building of the first cities in Mesopotamia may not have been solely technological. While they may have brought the new ideas and skills of megalithic construction cereal domestication, sea-faring, astronomy, navigation, trade and commerce, they may also have introduced the tools to harness and control the labor of the farmers and artisans. These included magic, religion, and concepts of state, kingship and social hierarchy. Uniquely shared folklore shows that counterparts and originals for nearly every Middle Eastern and European mythological archetype, including the Flood, can be found in the islands of Indonesia and the southwest Pacific. Southeast Asia is revealed as the original Garden of Eden and the Flood as the force which drove people from Paradise (Oppenheimer, 1997).

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The Garden of Eden

In Genesis 2:8: “The Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” and in Genesis 11:2: “And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

The land of Shinar is identified as Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Hebrew Shene neharot (“two rivers”), Hebrew Shene arim (“two cities”), or Akkadian Shumeru. The people of Mesopotamia were a dispersal from Southeast Asia (“the east”) caused by catastrophic and rapid rises of sea level in Sundaland (“they journeyed from the east”). Their land of origins, Eden, was therefore in Sundaland (“a garden in the east, in Eden”).

In Genesis 2:9: “Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

In Genesis 2:19-20: “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

The Lord God created the Garden of Eden specifically for Adam, the first man, whom Lord God had formed. Thus, the Garden of Eden was perfect. It offered both beauty and sustenance, being home to every tree “that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” and a source of freshwater from the river to drink.

The Garden of Eden could not be found because everyone had been looking in the wrong place. In a hypothesis, the author identifies a location of the Garden of Eden as a vast plain surrounded by mountain ranges in southern part of Kalimantan Island, as shown on the figure below.

4 Rivers of Paradise_75%

The Indonesian territory of Kalimantan makes up 2/3 of Kalimantan Island. Well known for its tropical forests, rich natural resources; and exotic, endemic and diverse flora and fauna, Kalimantan offers a unique, unexplored world of its own. This territory has a number of nature reserves to protect its unique flora and fauna. Kersikluway is where the very rare Black Orchid (Colongenia Pandurata) grows, located upstreams the Mahakam River, East Kalimantan. Bontang, in the regency of Kutai, has rare flora and fauna. The Kutai National Park near Bontang is worth visiting to see scenery especially those at Berasbasah. Tanjungputing National Park in Central Kalimantan is the oldest conservation site of Kalimantan’s flora and fauna. The park is inhabited by Orangutans, Owa-owa, Bekantan and other primates. Also found here the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center which is supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In West Kalimantan, Gunungpalung National Park located in the Ketapang regency is home to miscellaneous flora and fauna. The Rayapasi mountain located in the Singkawang regency is also an interesting place to visit to see the Rafflesia or giant flower. Singkawang is also a nature reserve. The forest of Sanggau is worth a visit where hot springs, lakes and caves can be found. The other nature reserves are the forests of Baning and Kelam Hill in the Sintang regency. While in Kapuashulu, there is the Bentuang forest. In South Kalimantan, there is the Kaget island, home to a wide variety of birds and monkeys, most notably the humorous longnosed proboscis monkeys.

The region hypothesized as the Garden of Eden is populated by the Dayaks, the indigenous inhabitants of Kalimantan. The center of the region is covered with tropical forest, which produces rattan, resin and valuable timber such as Ulin and Meranti. The southern lowlands are dominated by peatland swamps that intersect with many rivers.

The region’s climate is wet weather equatorial zone with an eight-month rainy season, and 4 months of dry season. Rainfall or precipitation is 2,800 – 3,400 mm per year with an average of 145 rainy days annually.

The Muller-Schwaner Mountains stretch from the north-east of the region to the south-west, 80% of which is covered in dense forest, peatland swamps, mangroves, rivers, and traditional agriculture land. Highland areas in the north-east are remote and not easily accessible. Non-volcanic mounts are scattered in this area including Kengkabang, Samiajang, Liangpahang and Ulugedang. The Meratus Mountains are situated approximately along the eastern part of the region. The mountains have mist-laced, river-crossed peaks, dense jungles, steep valleys and jagged karst formations. The mountains are inhabited by the “semi-nomadic” Meratus Dayak people, whose strong religious customs play to the soundtrack of the shaman’s drum.

The above descriptions indicate that the region deserves to be called as the Garden of Eden as in the Bible.

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The Four Rivers of Paradise

The Bible says that “a river ‘going out’ of Eden” and then does something that most rivers do not do; specifically, split into four separate ‘heads’ or rivers that flowed downstream, all fed from a common single river source. Almost all rivers start from a single source or are fed by multiple sources (tributaries). The verb in Hebrew is a present participle instead of the imperfect. Also, a noun phrase at the beginning of a verse is unusual. Again, the words “and from there” come before the verb “was parted” show that this verb has no subject expressed.

Those singularities are perceived because the verse is interpreted verbatim. The present participle form of the verb implies that the words are in a phrase, the “river going out of a region (‘Eden’)”, that can be interpreted as the “hydrographical region”, the “hydrological region” or the “river catchment region”. The next phrases again affirm this interpretation, “from there was parted, and became into four ‘heads’”, that can be interpreted as “which consisted of four main river sub-catchments (sub-regions)”. The interpreted phrases were seemingly not found in the original language of the verse. So, the verse can be interpreted as “The hydrological region of Eden consists of four main river sub-catchments.”

The naming of the Biblical rivers was allegedly derived from the geographical alignment of the rivers. The numbering of the rivers was also in accordance with the order, from west to east. The simple present form of the verbs denotes that the conditions are not changed overtime. The four rivers are identified as Kahayan for Pishon, Kapuas for Gihon, Barito for Hiddekel and Negara for Perat as in the above figure, as discussed below.

  1. Phison

In Genesis 2:11-12: “The name of the first is Phison: that it winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is ‘bedolach’ and the ‘gemstone’.

The Hebrew name for Phison is Pîšōn (פִּישׁוֹן) which means “increase” (noun) and could be derived from pûsh (פּוּשׁ) which means “to spring about”, “to be dispersed”, “to be scattered” or “to be spread”. When applied in the alignment of the river, this could mean that the river is “dispersed”, “refracted” or “deflected”. Looking at the geography of the region, the Kahayan River is deflected westward, as seen from downstream side.

At about the middle of Kahayan River, that part of the river is winding. The winding of a river signify that the topography where the river traverses is flat and tends to be used as a center of community.  So that Havilah could be at this site. Havilah is described in lengthiest in Bible compared to the other places in the Eden, implies that this place is the most important or populated among the others. This place can be easily accessible from the southern coast through Kahayan River for the outsiders to visit. The present capital of Central Kalimantan Province, Palangkaraya, is situated in the area too.

The Bible says that there is gold in Kavilah and the gold is good. Kahayan River is renowned for its gold mining. A place named Gunungmas, meaning “the hill of gold”, in the middle of Kahayan River, is rich of gold and some other minerals such as silver, copper, iron, zinc, tin, platinum and zircon. Today, the gold reserves in the area are approximately 45 million tons. Besides some other classic names of the island, Kalimantan bore the name of Nusa Kencana meaning “the island of gold”, probably at Gunungmas as this site is easily accessible from the southern coast through Kahayan River. Gold and zircon are abundant in southern Kalimantan as these are the mainstay of the region at this time.

The Bible mentions “bedolach” as a product of Kavilah. Its Hebrew word is bedôlach (בּדלח), probably derived from bâdal (בּדל) meaning “to divide” (in various senses literally or figuratively, “separate”, “distinguish”, “differ”, “select”, etc) or a foreign word. “Bedolach” is among the Biblical words which the meanings are unclear. According to the Septuagint, is the carbuncle or crystal; according to others, the pearl, or a particular kind of gum. The last is the more probable, regarding the various Greek forms of the word bdella (Βδέλλα) and bdellion (Βδέλλιον), a semi-transparent oleo-gum resin.

Southern Kalimantan is renowned for its producer of natural gum sap locally known as “jelutung” (Malaysian “jelutong”) tapped from the same name of trees (Dyera spp) and is the largest exporter of the commodity in the world. Its natural distribution is scattered locales in low-elevation tropical evergreen forest. The kind of tree which grows in the swamp (Dyera pollyphylla) is an important source of chewing gum. Besides, “jelutung” sap is an industrial material for adhesives, varnishes, racing tires, waterproofing and insulating materials.

This region is also famous for a gutta-percha tree locally known as “nyatoh” or “nyatu” (Palaquium spp). Its habitat is coastal, lowland mixed dipterocarp, swamp and montane forests. Dayak communities in the region utilizing “nyatu” sap as a raw material for making handicrafts, from an epithet that can only be found in the region.

PIC_0024

The Bible mentions “gemstone”, also as a product of Kavilah. Its Hebrew word in the Bible is shôham (שׁהם) from an unused root probably meaning “to blanch”; “a gem” or “a precious stone”.

The story of Kalimantan’s rich gemstone resources has reached worldwide fame. Kalimantan, as they are known in the past and the West, is indeed the sources of many natural gemstones and have been documented well in many literatures. Amethyst or locally named “kecubung”, a violet jewel, is specifically found and renowned in southern Kalimantan. A place named Martapura located in the region is famous from the early past for its jewelry industry. Zircon – a gemstone with natural colors varies between colorless, yellow-golden, red, brown, blue, and green – is abundantly found along the alluvial deposits of inland rivers in southern and western Kalimantan, as a byproduct of gold mining activities.

190236_374443_batu_permata

  1. Gihon

In Genesis 2:13: “The name of the second river is Gihon; the same that it winds the whole land of Kush.

The Hebrew name for Gihon is gı̂ychôn or gichôn (גּחון גּיחון) which means “bursting forth”, could be derived from primitive root of gı̂yach or gôach (גּח גּיח) which means “to gush forth (as water)”, “to burst forth”, “to draw forth”, “to bring forth” or “to break forth”. When applied in the alignment of the river, this could mean that the river is multiply “broken forth”, “come apart”, “divided” or “branched”. Looking at the geography of the region, the Kapuas River is evenly branched into three tributaries that look like a burst.

At the confluence of the tributaries and at a distance downstream, that part of the river is winding. Kush could be at this site and could become the second important place after Kavilah.

  1. Hiddekel

In Genesis 2:14: “The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it goes in front of Asshur.

The Hebrew name for Hiddekel is chiddeqel (חדּקל) which means “rapid” or “darting”, probably derived from chad dékel (דֶּקֶל חַד) meaning “a sharp and swift arrow” (Keil and Delitzsch), or of foreign origin. When applied in the alignment of the river, this could mean “a swift arrow trajectory”, “a long and direct trajectory” or simply “long and direct”. Looking at the geography of the region, the Barito River is long, direct and almost straightly aligned. The verb “goes” is applied instead of “winds” as in the other two rivers, implies that the river is in direct or straight alignment.

The Bible says that Hiddekel goes in front of Asshur. The Hebrew word qidmâh (קדמה) can mean “in front of”, “over against” or “on the east of”. So, instead of “goes in front of Asshur” the phrase can be interpreted as “goes on the east of Asshur”.

  1. Perat

In Genesis 2:14: “The fourth river is the Perat.

The Hebrew name for Perat is perâth (פּרת) which means “to break forth”. When applied in the alignment of the river, this could mean “to diverge” or “to branch”. Looking at the geography of the region, Negara River is a branch or tributary of the Barito River.

The Bible decreases the description of this river, without explanation of the alignment or a nearby place name, and puts it in the last order. This could mean that Perat is the least important river compared to the other three in the region.

Perat is generally associated with the Euphrates, the Greek manner of pronouncing the Hebrew perâth, the first syllable being simply a help in sounding the double consonant. Also, Perat finds its equivalent in the Assyrian Purattu and the Old Persian Ufratu. Names similar to these may be found in various places. They cannot prove much more than resemblance in language, and that may be sometimes very remote. Several like names occur in profane history. Geography affords numerous examples of the transference of names from one place to another along the line of migration. We may therefore expect names to travel with the tribes that bear them or love them, until they come to their final settlements.

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The Noah Flood

The Genesis flood narrative makes up chapters 6–9. The narrative indicates that God intended to return the Earth to its pre-Creation state of watery chaos by flooding the Earth because of humanity’s misdeeds and then remake it using the microcosm of Noah’s ark. Noah in Hebrew is nôakh (נוח), from the root n-w-ḥ (נ־ו־ח) or n-ḥ (נ־ח); and pronounced Aramaic nuħ.

It is highly probable that Noah and Manu, the name of the flood hero in the traditions of India, were the same individual. Manu, like Noah, is said to have built an ark in which eight people were saved. Manu and Noah were both the father of all post-flood mankind. The Noah Flood story in Genesis matches the Gilgamesh flood myth so closely that “few doubt that it derives from a Mesopotamian account”.

The word Manu is related to the Germanic Mannus, the founder of the West Germanic peoples, mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Germania. Mannus is also the name of the Lithuanian Noah. The same name may even be reflected in the Egyptian Menes (founder of the first dynasty of Egypt) and Minos (founder and first king of Crete). Minos was also said in Greek mythology to be the son of Zeus and ruler of the sea. Anu appears in Sumerian as the god of the firmament, and the rainbow was called “the great bow of Anu”, which seems a clear reference to Noah. In Egyptian mythology Nu was the god of waters who sent an inundation to destroy mankind. In southern Kalimantan folklore, Maharaja Bunu is the first man who inhabited the region.

The Sanskrit form manusa, Indonesian manusia, Swedish manniska, Gothic manna and English man are closely related, meaning “human being”. The aboriginals of Japan are called Ainu, a word which also means “man”.

In the Sioux language, it took the form minne, meaning “water”. In the Assiniboine language, minnetoba meant “water prairie”. However, this word may also have been derived from the Cree and Ojibiva-Saulteaux languages, which meant “the place of the Great Spirit”. Manitou (“the Great Spirit”) was the chief god among Algonquins. The name of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, comes from the Nahuatl managuac, which means “surrounded by ponds”. The ancient Javanese banu and the Dayak Barito banyu mean “water”. There is Ino, a sea-goddess in Greek mythology, and the Greek word naiade, meaning “river nymph”. Further, Baruna or Waruna in the Indonesian archipelago which given the title of the Water God, is the ruler of the seas and oceans – in later time considered as a manifestation of Brahman in dharmic mythology.

The original Sanskrit word for “ship” is nau. This root has developed even in English into such words as “navy”, “nautical”, “nausea”, etc. In Norse mythology, Njord was the god of ships, living at Noatun, the harbor of ships. In this language, the syllable “noa” is related to the Icelandic nor, meaning “ship”.

Thus, Noah and the waters of the great Flood are not only recalled in the ancient traditions of all nations, but their names have also become incorporated in many and varied ways into the very languages of his descendants. The trails are tenuous and often almost obliterated, so that some of the inferred connections are speculative and possibly mistaken, but the correlations are too numerous to be only coincidental, thus adding yet one more evidence for the historicity of the worldwide flood.

The local folklore of southern Kalimantan tells a story resembles the Noah. In Panaturan, the sacred folklore of Ngaju Dayak inhabiting southern Kalimantan region, the first human who descended to this world is named Maharaja Bunu. At first he lived in a divine world at Lewu Nindan Tarung with his triplets namely Maharaja Sangiang and Maharaja Sangen. The triplets are the children of Manyamei Tunggul Garing Janjahunan Laut and his wife Kameloh Putak Bulau Janjulen Karangan, the first humans that were created by Ranying Mahatala Langit, the supreme God. Maharaja Bunu was descended to Pantai Danum Kalunen (this world) using a ship namely Palangka Bulau Lambayung Nyahu or simply Palangka, on Samatuan Hill, from where his descendants were spread out to fill the earth. According to Panaturan, the hill is located between Kahayan Rotot and Kahayan Katining. The Palangka was loaded with supplies necessaries for life, such as farming and hunting tools, weapon making tools, rice seeds, fruit and plants seedlings, as well as livestock breeds. Palangkaraya, meaning the Great Palangka, is now the capital of Central Kalimantan Province.

A vast plain dominates the topography of the southern Kalimantan region which is level, smooth and even. The slope of the ground surface is mostly less than 1% declining southward towards the Java Sea and almost no visible mound on the whole plain. The area of the plain is located in a tropical rain forest region, has high precipitation rate over the year, has warm temperature over the year, mostly swampy and has many large rivers and tributaries so that the region is fertile and rich of food and daily necessity resources.

Rivers are flowing on the plain; Barito, Kapuas, Murung, Kahayan and Sebangau Rivers are among them. The regimes of these rivers should have been changed over the past thousands of years due to processes of flooding, sedimentation, river bed movement and meandering on a very flat plain. Interchanges of flows and orders among the rivers might also occur. Numerous transverse passages connecting one river to the other exist in the region, some of them were built or rehabilited in recent times. The passage is known locally as “anjir”, a canal linking two rivers as part of the transportation network. The canals are also used as primary tidal swamp irrigation canals supplying water to and draining from the cultivated lands.

The plain is elevated from 0 to about 40 meters above the average sea water level.  Being in a flat and low plain, the tidal affect of the sea may reach as far as 160 kilometers away from the coast.

In Genesis 7:12: “The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.

In Genesis 7:12-20: “The flood was on the earth forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose up above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed upward and the hills were covered fifteen cubits deep.” 15 cubits is approximately 23 feet or 6.8 meters.

Kalimantan Island is among the regions on the Earth having the highest yearlong rainfall. The probabilistic study of rainfall in the region of southern Kalimantan showed that it may reach as high as 500 millimeters per day for a 100-year return period and even higher on the mountainous regions. Its rainfall catchment region is a bulb-like shape where the mountainous upstream area is wider – with highest rainfall – and the downstream, on the plain, is narrower. Therefore, flood catastrophe risk on this plain is extremely high, aggravated by its catchment shape, rainfall distribution, rainfall intensity; level, even, smooth and low plain; and farther reach of sea tides. Everyone can imagine how worst was the extraordinary Biblical Flood from a 40-day and 40-night rainfall on this region.  The Noah Flood could have happened here.

Due to the high level of flood risk in the region, it was possible that the floods had several times repeated for the recent thousands of years. Civilization that grew back after the flood will be swept back in the next flood, returned to its original nature and humanity who survived spread to other parts of the world.

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End Note

Garden of Eden and Atlantis are among the memories by the Mesopotamian and Egyptian about the land of origin of the first civilization, before population dispersal caused by catastrophic and rapid rises in sea level in the Pleistocene Ice Age. Mesopotamia and Egypt are among the oldest civilizations after the Ice Age which had writing traditions. Other civilizations continue their memories with myths and legends that collectively share the same stories across distances and time.

Bill Hanson (2006) has written a work that links the Garden of Eden with Atlantis. He identifies five similarities between the two accounts:
• Both prehistoric locations are regarded as “lost paradises”
• The four rivers of Eden are reflected in the four waterways of Poseidon the island capital of Atlantis.
• Atlantis started with ten kings and the Bible speaks of ten patriarchs.
• Zeus destroyed Atlantis because mortals and gods mated, whereas the Bible records the mating of the “sons of God” and human females.
• Atlantis was flooded just as the Age of the Patriarchs ended with the flood of Noah.

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***

Copyright © Dhani Irwanto, 2015. All rights reserved.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 31 August 2015

From Plato’s Timaeus Sections 25c and 25d: “But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.

From Plato’s Critias Section 108e: “and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.

In Timaeus, Plato mentioned that the island of Atlantis was beset by an earthquake and a flood, and sank into a muddy sea. Plato did not recognize “tsunami” so he equated it to “flood”. The Greek historian Thucydides suggested in his late-5th century BC History of the Peloponnesian War, that tsunamis were related to submarine earthquakes, but the understanding of a tsunami’s nature remained slim until the 20th century and much remains unknown.

A tsunami, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, generally an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Tsunami waves do not resemble normal sea waves, because their wavelength is far longer. Rather than appearing as breaking waves, tsunamis may instead initially resemble rapidly rising tides, and for this reason they are often referred to as tidal waves.

Banda Arc

The Banda Arc, a west facing horse-shoe shaped arc in eastern Indonesia situated west of Papua and in the easternmost extension of the Sunda subduction zone system, defines the locus of three converging and colliding major plates, the Indo-Australian Plate, the Pacific Plate and the Eurasian Plate, and reveals a characteristic bowl-shaped geometry in seismic tomographic images. Splinters of the Mesozoic southern Tethyan crust now form the base of the Banda Sea. On the surrounding islands, dismembered ophiolites can be found in high mountains. Recent studies in the metamorphic aureoles at the base of these ophiolites have revealed a new alternative for the explanation of the complex tectonic development of the arc, ie by invoking obduction as being the major mechanism in the emplacement of southern Tethyan crust onto the passive Australian continental margin.

Banda Sea Plate

The Banda Sea encircled by the Banda Arc occupies the main portion of the Banda Sea Plate. Frequent and significant earthquakes, tsunamis and volcano eruptions took place in one of the most complex tectonic regions on Earth, in the general framework of the triple collision of continental Australia plate, oceanic Pacific plates and the southernmost tip of the Eurasian plate, called ‘Sundaland’. The region is composed of a large number of geological provinces. In particular, the eastern termination of the Banda Sea features a number of strongly curved, concentric tectonic provinces.

Banda Sea

The USGS records of the largest earthquakes in the world since 1900 show that the earthquake in Banda Sea on February 1, 1938 with a magnitude of 8.5 is among them. Another at least 10 occurrences of large earthquakes in this region between 17th and 20th centuries are also known (Wichmann, 1918, 1923; Harris and Major, 2012). The NOAA records of the world’s deadliest tsunamis from 1650 BC to 2010 AD cited from the National Geophysical Data Center show that 3 occurrences of deadliest tsunamis in the region are among them: in 1674, 1899 and 1992. Unfortunately, no investigation of deposits of ancient tsunamis is carried out in the region. Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, caused global climate anomalies that included the phenomenon known as “volcanic winter”: 1816 became known as the “year without a summer” because of the effect on North American and European weather. Crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.

Banda Sea Tsunami

Locations for recorded historical tsunamis. Year of occurrence is indicated for some events. Yellow markers indicate non-seismic or unknown sources, red markers indicate seismic sources. Large stars display magnitudes M ≥ 8.5, small stars 8.5 > M ≥ 8.0, squares 8.0 > M ≥ 7.5, circles M < 7.5, an asterisk means that no magnitude is reported. Upward-pointing triangles indicate volcanoes or combinations of volcanoes and other sources, and downward-pointing triangles indicate landslides or combined landslides/earthquakes. Diamonds indicate unknown sources.

Dynamics of Tsunami

Tsunamis, like the ordinary wind waves, can undergo shoaling, refraction, reflection and diffraction. Most tsunami generated by large earthquakes travel in wave trains containing several large waves. In some cases, the waves in a tsunami wave train consist of an initial peak that then tapers off in height exponentially over 4 to 6 times. In other cases, the tsunami wave train consists of a maximum wave peak well back in the wave sequence.

The time it takes for a pair of wave crests to pass by a point is termed the wave period. This is a crucial parameter in defining the nature of any wave. Tsunamis typically have periods of 100 – 2,000 seconds (1.6 – 33 minutes), referred to as the tsunami window. Waves with this period travel at speeds of 600 – 900 km/hr (166 – 250 m/s) in the deepest part of the ocean, 100 – 300 km/hr (28 – 83 m/s) across the continental shelf, and 36 km/hr (10 m/s) at shore (Iida and Iwasaki, 1983). Because of the finite depth of the ocean and the mechanics of wave generation by earthquakes, a tsunami’s wavelength – the distance between successive wave crests – lies between 10 and 500 kilometers. These long wavelengths make tsunami profoundly different from swell or storm waves.

The simplest form of ocean waves is sinusoidal in shape and oscillatory. Oscillatory waves are described for convenience by three parameters: their height (H), their wavelength (L), and their water depth (d). In deep water, the most significant factor is the ratio H/L, or wave steepness. In shallow water it is the ratio H/d, or relative height. For local tsunamis propagation in water depths greater than 50 meters, these ratios are much less than one. This implies that wave height relative to wavelength is very low – a feature characterizing tsunami in the open ocean.

Dynamics of Tsunami

Shallow water begins when the depth of water (d) is less than half the wavelength (L). As oceans are rarely more than 5 kilometers deep, the majority of tsunamis travel as shallow-water waves. In this case, the velocity of the wave is C = (gd)0.5 and the wave length is L = CT; where g = gravitational acceleration (~9.8 m/s2) and T = wave period. The latter equation holds for linear, sinusoidal waves and is not appropriate for calculating the wavelength of a tsunami as it moves into shallow water. Linear theory can be used as a first approximation to calculate changes in tsunami wave height as the wave moves across an ocean and undergoes wave shoaling and refraction. The following formulae apply: Hi = KrKsHo, Kr = (bo/bi)0.5 and Ks = (do/di)0.25; where Kr = refraction coefficient, Ks = shoaling coefficient, b = distance between wave orthogonals and d = water depth. Subscripts o and i denote at a source point and at any shoreward point, respectively. For a tsunami wave traveling from a distant source, the wave path or ray must also be corrected for geometrical spreading.

Tsunami are known for their dramatic run-up heights, which commonly are greater than the height of the tsunami approaching shore by a factor of 2 or more times. Tsunamis, having long periods of 100 – 2,000 seconds, can also be excited or amplified in height within harbors and bays if their period approximates some harmonic of the natural frequency of the basin – termed resonance. Here tsunami can oscillate back and forth for 24 hours or more. The oscillations are termed seiches. Seiches are independent of the forcing mechanism and are related simply to the 3-dimensional form of the bay. For a closed basin, Ts = 2Lb(gd)-0.5 and for an open basin, Ts = 4Lb(gd)-0.5; where Lb = length of a basin and Ts = wave period of seiching in a bay.

Say, there was an earthquake in the Flores Sea or Makassar Strait in Atlantis era causing an initial wave of 10 meter high. The sea depth was about 1,000 meters. The wave velocity was then C = (9.8 × 1,000)0.5 ≈ 100 m/s (360 km/hr). With an average Java Sea depth of 10 meters (in the era of Atlantis), assuming Kr = (1/4)0.5 ≈ 0.5 and Ks = (1,000/10)0.25 ≈ 3.2, by a simple calculation, the wave height was Hi = 0.5 × 3.2 × 10 ≈ 16 meters in the ancient Java Sea. Approaching the shoreline with a depth of 2 meters (assuming Kr = 1 and Ks = (10/2)0.25 ≈ 1.5), the wave height was Hi = 1 × 1.5 × 16 ≈ 24 meters and the run-up could be twice. It was really a destructive wave and penetrated inland on a very flat plain. In fact, the recorded run-up of 1674 AD Banda Sea tsunami was much larger, 80 – 100 meters high on Ambon Island. Thus, we could speculate that the destruction of Atlantis was among others caused by a tsunami. It was due to the tsunami waves traveling in shallow water (ancient Java Sea) and penetrated inland on a very flat plain. The Meltwater Pulse 1A was probably also contributed the occurrence of earthquakes and tsunamis due to speedy increase of water burden on the Banda Sea Plate.

In Atlantis era, the Java Sea was forming a gulf with a rather narrow entrance and due to the many islands in it resonances and seiches might also occur, causing the wave became much higher and prolonged, and then aggravated its destructive nature.

***

Copyright © Dhani Irwanto, 2015. All rights reserved.

Converging Evidence

<Bahasa Indonesia>

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 22 August 2015

The following list shows a summary of the converging evidence of the existence of Atlantis in Sundaland made by the author. Some other less important evidence are not included. The quoted terms, wherever possible, are the English translation of the terms taken from the Plato’s account, either in Greek or terms not found in Greek. Phrases in parenthesis are interpretations by the author.

These evidence are the “potsherds” in the verification of a theory using a Potsherd Model, where, the more “sherds” collected, reassembling them can give clearer representation of the “pot”. In this case, the reassembled “pot” from the “sherds” (evidence) is then compared to the descriptions by Plato (the “reference pot”) to prove the theory. It now appears from the list that the “pot” is almost fully reassembled and representative to the “reference pot”.


1. At a distant point in the “Atlantic Ocean” (ancient Greek understanding)
(Timaeus: 24e)

What we call now by the name of “Atlantic Ocean” is not the same as that of the ancients. Herodotus, Aristotle, Plato, Strabo and several other ancient authors are very specific on the fact that the “Atlantic Ocean” was the whole of the coterminous “earth-encircling ocean”, which we now arbitrarily divide into Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.

The phrase “at a distant point in the Atlantic Ocean” implies that Atlantis was far away in the ocean in what we know today the eastern Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean.

Plato is alleged to have embodied the “Athens” as part of the story of Atlantis. The allegation of embodiment is supported by the expressions as follows.

The state of Atlantis is located at a distant point in the Atlantic Ocean, by itself put the city of the Athens at a distant location as well since both regions were close together as told in the story.

The Atlantis and the “Athens” were bordered by Monuments of Heracles which among others were placed in a strait called the Strait of Heracles. The city of Atlantis was within the strait, meaning that the city of the “Athens” was outside of the strait and the sea. These geographic descriptions are not compatible to the existence of Atlantis around the Mediterranean Sea.

The statements that “the ‘Athens’ which formerly had a vast and fertile land, at the time of Solon had sunk all around and all that remains were small rocky parts, and only a few trees growing and consists almost entirely of bare land so that rain water flows only just on it and then lost to the sea”, do not describe the conditions of the city of Athen at the time of Solon.

The statement that “the city of the Athens’ had been established a thousand years before Egypt” is also incompatible.


2. The way to other islands
(Timaeus: 24e)

3. Might pass to opposite continent encompasses true ocean
(Timaeus: 24e)

4. Larger than “Libya” and “Asia” (Asia Minor) combined (ancient Greek understanding)
(Timaeus: 24e – Critias: 108e)

5. The landscape of the whole country, at the region on the side of the ocean, was very lofty and precipitous.
(Critias: 118a)

The sea level at the time of Atlantis, about 11,600 years ago, was approximately 60 meters below the present-day sea level.

The Plato’s expression that “Atlantis was the way to other islands, and from there might pass to the opposite continent which encompasses the true ocean” precisely points to Sundaland. Traveling further from there, one may reach some islands like Nusatenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku, Mindanao and Luzon, and may pass the opposite continent, ie the large “Sahul Continent” combining Australia, Papua and the land connecting them.

The land of Atlantis is larger than Libya and Asia Minor” also precisely affirms its size. The expression that “the region on the side of the ocean was said to be very lofty and precipitous” further confirms the Sundaland location of Atlantis. The expression “inside a strait and in a sea encircled by a boundless continent” confirms its capital location.


6. Two-season climate – “summer” (dry) and “winter” (wet)
(Critias: 112d, 118e)

7. Abundant of water benefit of the annual rainfall
(Critias: 111c)

8. Excellently attempered climate
(Critias: 111e, 112d)

It is said that Atlantis had “sun in the above”, “benefit of the annual rainfall”, “abundance of water”, “excellently attempered climate” and “summer and winter seasons”. These are strongly characterize a tropical climate. “Summer” and “winter” refer to the “dry” and “wet” seasons, which were non existence words in the ancient Greece.


9. Fertile, best soil for carpenter, agriculture and farming
(Critias: 111e, 113c)

10. Abundant of food supply for every animal, wild or tame, to sustain a civilization and to create an army (about 20 million people) 
(Critias: 111e, 118b, 118e, 119a)

11. Vast diversity of flora and fauna 
(Critias: 114e, 115a, 115b)

Atlantis had “full of rich earth”, “abundance of wood”, “cultivation by true farmers”, “noble nature”, “best soil in the world”, “abundance of animals”, “coconuts”, “spice products” and “two harvests each year”. These are the true natural characteristics of the region in Sundaland.  The abundance of food and wood was needed to sustain more than twenty million population, to create more than a million soldiers and to build more than two hundred ships, which was not possible in the other parts of the world during the era.

Plato also mentions that “there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all.” Large species such as tiger, rhinoceros, orangutan, elephant and leopard exist in the region, which are among almost a thousand mammal species inhabiting this region. Besides those, there are almost a thousand of bird species and more than a thousand of fish species.


12. Elephant, horse, “bull” and dolphin 
(Critias: 114e, 116e, 117c to 117e, 119b, 119d to 120a)

Two of the four sub species of Asian elephants are found in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Sumatran elephant is found on the island of Sumatra, and the Kalimantan elephant on the island of Kalimantan. The now extinct Javan elephant those once inhabited Java are identical to the Kalimantan elephant.

The different breeds of native Indonesian horses are slender, but still strong and sturdy, so they deserve to be called ponies than horses. The ponies have continually been infused with additional bloods, mostly Arabian to improve their quality, so that it can be expected that the indigenous breeds were slenderer and shorter than what we can see now.

Indigenous Southeast Asian bulls are known as “banteng”. They have been domesticated in several places, used as working animals and for their meat.

What is meant by Plato for “bulls” could probably the water buffaloes, native to Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. Common people generally could not distinguish between “bull” and “water buffalo”. Plato does not recognize “water buffalo” but beast resembling the “bull” because the animals were not found in the ancient Greece and its surroundings.

Most species of dolphins live in shallow areas of tropical and warmer waters, thus constitute the ideal conditions for the seas after the drowning of Sundaland, such as the Java and South China Seas.


13. “Fruits” having a hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments 
(Critias: 115b)

14. “Fruits” which spoil with keeping, consoled after dinner 
(Critias: 115b)

15. Roots, herbage, woods and essences distilled from “fruit” and flower 
(Critias: 115a)

16. Cultivated “fruit”, dried, for nourishment and any other, used for food – common name ‘pulse’ (grain) 
(Critias: 115a)

17. “Chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement 
(Critias: 115a)

18. All of them were wondrous and in infinite abundance. 
(Critias: 115a)

Plato mentions that there were “fruits having a hard rind, affording drinks, meats and ointments” in Atlantis. Those fruits are no other than coconuts.

Coconut has a long and respected history among cultures in the regions of Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Pacific. DNA analysis reveals that coconuts were first cultivated in island Southeast Asia, meaning the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, and perhaps the continent as well.

Coconuts were introduced to the Indian Ocean a couple of thousand years ago by ancient Austronesians establishing trade routes connecting Southeast Asia to Madagascar and coastal east Africa. Coconut genetics also preserve a record of prehistoric trade routes and of the colonization of the Americas.

Plato mentions that there were “fruits which spoil with keeping, with which we console ourselves after dinner” in Atlantis. This could be a traditional fermented food eaten as a dessert, locally known as “tapai”.

“Tapai” is indigenous and popular throughout Southeast Asia. It is a sweet or sour alcoholic paste and can be used directly as a food or in traditional recipes.

“Tapai” can be made from a variety of carbohydrate sources, but typically from cassava, white rice or glutinous rice. Fermentation is performed by a variety of moulds by inoculating a carbohydrate source with the required microorganisms in a starter culture, locally known as “ragi”, and yeasts, along with bacteria. “Tapai” is also used to make alcoholic beverages locally known as “arak” or “brem”.

Plato mentions that “there were roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flower.” This could be the herbal medicine made from natural materials, locally known as “jamu”, or mixtures of spices or seasoning, known as “bumbu”.

“There was ‘fruit’ which admits of cultivation, both the dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for food – we call them all by the common name ‘pulse’.”  This could be the paddy or rice, which is the staple food of the region.

There were chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement.” This could be coffee, which grows well in this region.


19. Gold 
(Critias: 114e, 116c, 116d)

20. Silver 
(Critias: 114e, 116c, 116d, 116e)

21. Tin 
(Critias: 116b, 116c)

22. “Brass”/“bronze” (copper, tin and zinc) 
(Critias: 116b, 116c)

23. “Orichalcum”, more precious mineral than anything except gold, flashing, red color 
(Critias: 114e, 116c, 116d)

24. “Orichalcum” was dug out of the earth in many parts of the land. 
(Critias: 114e)

Atlantis had abundance of minerals: gold, silver, copper, tin and “orichalcum”. These are also true natural characteristics of the region.

What is “orichalcum”? “Orichalcum” was unknown to Greek, being more precious in those days than anything except gold and “flashed” with the “red light”, or like fire.

The author identified “orichalcum” as the zircon as they have the same characteristics as the descriptions. The zircon products are really valuable second to gold; they have gemstone quality and are popular as diamond simulant. Zircon can be processed to bring out different colors, the red one is known as the “hyacinth”. When finished, its nature is sparkling like diamond that metals do not possess, which why Plato describes it with the words “flashed” and “light”, in particular. No known metal shines and flashed with the red color, or like fire, thus “orichalcum” is not a metal.

The expression that it was “dug out of the earth in many parts of the land” is true as it is abundant in the region of Kalimantan.


25. Immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain. 
(Critias: 118a)

26. The plain was smooth and even. 
(Critias: 118a)

27. The plain was surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea. 
(Critias: 118a)

28. The plain looked towards the south, sheltered from the north. 
(Critias: 118b)

29. The mountains surrounding the plain celebrated their number, size and beauty, with many wealthy villages of country folk, rivers, lakes and meadows. 
(Critias: 118b)

30. Plenty of wood of various sorts on the plain – abundant for each and every kind of work. 
(Critias: 118b)

Plato describes that there was “a level plain, smooth and even, descended towards the sea”, “surrounded by mountains celebrated for their number, size and beauty”, “looked towards the south and sheltered from the north” and “with wealthy villages of country folk, rivers, lakes, and meadows”.

There was a plain near the capital city of Atlantis matching the characteristics of the region in southern Kalimantan in which a part is now submerged under the Java Sea. The plain has slopes mostly less than 1% declining southward to the Java Sea and no visible mound on the whole plain. It is open on the south and sheltered by the Muller-Schwaner and Meratus Mountains at the north, mostly covered by primary forest, inhabited by enormous kinds of animals and as the home of tens of native Dayak tribes. It has high rainfall and warm temperature over the year, many large rivers and tributaries so that it is very fertile and rich of food and daily necessity resources.

31. The general shape of the plain was rectangular and oblong. 
(Critias: 118a, 118c)

32. The plain was extending in one direction 3,000 stadia (± 555 km), across the center inland 2,000 stadia (± 370 km). 
(Critias: 118a)

Plato explains that the plain was “rectangular and oblong in shape, 3,000 stadia or about 555 kilometers long and 2,000 stadia or about 370 kilometers wide”. The shape of the plain in the region of southern Kalimantan and the adjacent Java Sea is rectangular at the south and oblong at the north, almost exactly 555 kilometers long and 370 kilometers wide.


33. The perimeter ditch was incredible in size, unexpected that they were artificial. 
(Critias: 118c)

34. The perimeter ditch was 100 ft (± 30 m) deep, 1 stadium (± 185 m) wide, 10,000 stadia (± 1,850 km) long. 
(Critias: 118c)

35. The perimeter ditch received streams from the mountains. 
(Critias: 118d)

36. The inland canals were straight, about 100 ft (± 30 m) wide, 100 stadia (± 18.5 km) intervals and let off into the perimeter ditch. 
(Critias: 118d)

Concerning the waterways on the plain, Plato describes that “the perimeter canal was 100 feet or about 30 meters deep, 1 stadium or about 185 meters wide, 10,000 stadia or about 1,850 kilometers long, carried round the whole plain, received streams from the mountains, winding around the plain, meeting at the city and let off into the sea.” and “the inland canals were straight, 100 feet or about 30 meters wide, 100 stadia or about 18.5 kilometers intervals and let off into the perimeter canal.

There were waterways on the plain matching the characteristics of the region. The rivers of Barito, Kapuas-Murung, Kahayan and Sebangau found in the region are identified as those canals. They are originated from the Muller-Schwaner and Meratus mountains. These rivers are about 600 to 800 meters wide and 8 meters deep in average.

Flooding and sedimentation of the rivers on a very flat plain over the past 11,600 years have changed their regimes. Interchanges of flows and orders among them might also occur. However, in general view their straightness and elongation are preserved until today, that are parallel to each other and in the north-south direction.

Calculating the conveying capacity, that is the area × the velocity, and assuming the same flow velocity because of the same gravitational energy slope, the cross section area of the flow, that is the width × the depth, as described by Plato is about 185 × 30 = 5,550 square meters. While the area today is amazingly almost precise, 700 in average × 8 = 5,600 square meters.

The average distance of these rivers is approximately 20 kilometers, also considered in close agreement to the figure of 18.5 kilometers by Plato.


37. Transverse passages were cut from one inland canal into another. 
(Critias: 118e)

Looking at the maps we can see numerous existing transverse passages in the region, some of them were built or rehabilitated in recent times. The passage is known locally as “anjir”, a canal linking two rivers as part of the transportation network.


38. The inland canals and transverse passages were means for transporting wood and products in ships. 
(Critias: 118e)

Most of the rivers in southern Kalimantan are navigable. These rivers and all their tributaries are a network of transportation system, become very important means for the people and has been the economic lifeblood because most of their economic activities are carried out through and in the rivers since the ancient time. Various types of forest, mining and agricultural products are transported to collection points or ports through the river network.


39. Irrigation streams were tapping from the canals. 
(Critias: 118e)

40. The irrigation streams supplied water to the land in “summer” (dry) but rainfall in the “winter” (rainy) yielding two crops in a year. 
(Critias: 118e)

Today’s practices of tidal swamp irrigation system in southern Kalimantan is traditionally known as the “anjir system” where primary canals called “anjir” or “antasan” were constructed connecting two tidal rivers, also used as navigation purposes. Inland canals were built to irrigate and drain the fields from and to the anjir: secondary canals called “handil” or “tatah” and tertiary canals called “saka”. During low tides, the canals drain the toxic water while during high tides fresh water enters the canals and conveyed to the fields. The system yields two rice crops in a year.


41. The island city was in a sea surrounded by a boundless continent, the other is a real ocean. 
(Timaeus: 25a)

42. The city was in front of a strait. 
(Timaeus: 24e, 25a)

43. There were some islands in the sea. 
(Timaeus: 24e – Critias: 114c)

Plato says that “the capital island where there was a city with a citadel and rings of water was in a real sea inside a strait surrounded by a boundless continent.” The boundless continent is the Sundaland attached to the Asian Continent, and the only sea surrounded by it in those days was the ancient Java Sea, suggesting that the capital island and city are located in the Java Sea.


44. Immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain and all the canals met at the city and drained into the sea. 
(Critias: 118a, 118d)

45. A small hill (the central island) and a vast level plain near the sea were accessible by ships, vessels and boats from the sea. 
(Critias: 113c, 113e)

The statement that “the island was located near the plain and all the canals met at the city and drained into the sea”, suggesting that the island is located south of the plain, in a place now under the Java Sea.

The site is identified by the sailors as Gosong Gia or Annie Florence Reef, a coral reef described as small in extent and dries at low water.

The city of Atlantis was an island with a small hill near its center. The city and the island existed long enough for many kings to develop it. It had rings of water and a passage from the sea to the inner ring. They bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis. A stone wall began at the sea and went all round. They used orichalcum, tin and brass or bronze to cover the outer walls of their cities.

There was a hill, not too high, near the middle of the center island. At the top of the central hill, a temple was built to honor Poseidon, which housed a giant gold statue of him. They built the palace in the habitation of the god and of their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive generations.

The later docks had triremes and many naval supplies.


46. The sea at the Atlantis city “is now” (Solon’s time) impassable and impenetrable because of a “reef of clay/mud” (coral reef), caused by “subsidence” of the island (sea level rise). 
(Timaeus: 25d)

47. The ruin of the city is now under the sea. 
(Timaeus: 25d)

The phrase “for which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a reef of mud, or clay, in the way” confirms the location. Coral reef is scarce in the Mediterranean so that the Greeks and the Egyptians did not own the term, then Plato wrote it as “a reef of mud, or clay”.

Coral reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated waters, and on hard, underwater surfaces, thus constitute the ideal conditions for the Java Sea. It is confirmed further by the phrase “caused by the subsidence of the island”, as the growth of the coral reef was caused by the sea level rise during the last glacial period.

The sea level kept rising until about 6,000 years ago. Corals grew on the solid structures. Along with sedimentation and other processes.

Today, there is an existing coral reef named Gosong Gia or Annie Florence Reef in the Java Sea. The top of the reef is about 10 meters below the average sea level, and the surrounding sea bed is about  55 meters below the average sea level. The city structures are still apparent from the patterns of the reefs. The depth of the sea here exactly coincides the land level about 11,600 years ago. However, further investigations are required to find out what are inside the coral reef.


48. The city was beyond bordering monuments, the (ancient) Greek called them “the Monuments of Heracles”. 
(Timaeus: 24e, 25c – Critias: 108e, 114b)

Plato mentions that “the war was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Monuments of Heracles and all who dwelt within them.” Heracles is a name borrowed from the Greek mythology.

What does the “Monuments of Heracles” really mean? The Egyptian priest told Solon about the territorial boundary between Atlantis and its opponent as “which are by you called the Monuments of Heracles” to describe a state entrance or boundary markers which were situated in a strait. The words “by you” could mean that the markers were commonly known by the Athenian but not necessarily what they referred to, or in other words “like the Monuments of Heracles”. As mentioned before, the Atlantean boundary is not compatible with the Mediterranean region. Moreover, Solon borrows Greek mythological terms in the story.

Classical Greek writers frequently refer to the monuments without being in anyway specific regarding their location. The poet Pindar would appear to have treated the monuments as a metaphor for the limit of established Greek geographical knowledge, a boundary that was never static. The monuments were, in earlier times, identified with the Strait of Sicily, but from the time of Erastosthenes, circa 250 BC, the metaphor was moved to refer to the Strait of Gibraltar, reflecting the expansion of the Greek maritime knowledge.

The author hypothesizes that the monuments are monuments built at places on state entrances or boundary line and could be anywhere at certain places along the boundary. The monument is locally known as “tugu”, which has been the tradition in Indonesia until now to mark the boundary or entrances of a region. The monuments are often decorated with gargoyle-like faces of the god Kala, which are ubiquitous in Java and Bali.

It will be discussed later that the god Kala is analogous with the Greek Heracles.


49. Hot and cold springs
(Critias: 113e, 117a)

50. White, black and red stones 
(Critias: 116a, 116b)

51. Hollowed out rock for roofs of double docks 
(Critias: 116a, 116b)

Bawean Island off in the Java Sea is a prototype of the island of Atlantis as it has the same environment, geological formation and tectonic processes, as well as they are closely situated. Bawean and Atlantis islands are both located on a geological arc identified by the geologists as Bawean Arc.

It is described that “they had springs, one of cold and another of hot water”. There are several hot and cold springs in the Bawean Island resulted from the tectonic activities in the region.

The descriptions “the stones were quarried from the center island and the zones, with white, black and red colors” and “they hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock” are also noticeable. The stones are apparently similar to the igneous rock deposited in the Bawean Island having the acidic white, alkaline black-grey  and ferro-oxide red rocks. This igneous rock is hard and strong having enough natural strength to stand as roofs of the hollowed out double docks.


52. “Poseidon” (sea or water god, law founder, driving sea creatures, supreme god in earlier time) 
(Critias: 113c to 113e, 116c, 116d, 117b, 119c, 119d)

The kingdom of Atlantis was founded by a god named Poseidon, borrowed from the Greek myth. The land was divided into ten portions given to his children. There was a holy temple dedicated to Poseidon and his wife, Cleito in the center of the citadel.

Poseidon is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in the Greek mythology. His main domain is the ocean, so that he is called the “God of the Sea”, who rides on sea creatures that resemble horses. In the earliest works of the ancient Greek literature, Poseidon is more widely known than Zeus and was regarded as the supreme god, as mentioned in Linear B tablets from the pre-Olympians Greek Bronze Age. Homer in the Iliad calls him as the protector of the Hellenic cities.

Poseidon is analogous to Nethune in the Etruscan civilization, around the 1st century BC, which is also called the “God of the Sea”. In Latin language, the name was transformed into Neptune in the Roman mythology. Neptune is depicted as a god who drive sea creatures resembling dragon-tailed horses and armed with a trident, like Poseidon. This shows the strong influence of Greek mythology.

Plato explains that the ten kings were said to have the absolute control of the citizens, by the enforcement of the law regulated by the command of Poseidon which had handed it down.

The Greek Poseidon is analogous to god Baruna or Waruna  in the Nusantara archipelago which given the title of the “Water God”, the ruler of the seas and oceans. In pre-dharmic mythology, Baruna was considered as the supreme god against the others and the first law founder of the world.

Baruna is depicted as riding a sea monster called Makara, in which on the front resembling a beast, with large teeth and tusks, and on the back in the form of a giant dragon’s tail, occasionally legged. In Indian mythology, the Makara is described as an inland creature in the front half, such as deer, crocodile or elephant, and an aquatic creature in the back half, such as fish or seal, or occasionally peacock’s tail or flower.

Of these things, the author concludes that Poseidon and Baruna are analogous, evidenced that both of them are the gods of the seas or oceans, became the first law founders, constituted the supreme gods in the early time, and drive mythological sea creatures.

Besides some other names, Kalimantan bore the name of Warunapura, means the land of the god Baruna. The old Javanese chronicle Nagarakretagama mentions an ancient state that was within the Majapahit spheres of influence called Baruné, later identified as Barunai, a kingdom of the modern Brunei. European sources further in the 16th century showed the name of the island as Burné by Antonio Pigafetta or Bornei by Duarte Barbosa. Chinese chronicles in the Song and Ming dynasties showed the name Boni. The Dutch and British colonials named the island as Borneo.

This is another conclusion that Kalimantan, or Borneo, which was once the island of the god Baruna, is analogous to the island of Poseidon, and related to the existence of Atlantis in the region.


53. “Heracles” (son of the supreme god, outrageous birth, has insatiable appetites and being very rude, brutal and violent) 
(Timaeus: 24e, 25c – Critias: 108e, 114b)

Heracles, or Romanized as Hercules, is the son of the affair Zeus had with the mortal woman Alcmene. Zeus seduced and made love to Alcmene after disguising himself as her husband, Amphitryon, the king of Thebes. Zeus swore that the next son born of the Perseid house should become ruler of Greece, but by a trick of Zeus’s jealous wife, Hera, another child, the sickly Eurystheus, was born first and became king. When Heracles grew up, he had to serve him and also suffer the vengeful persecution of Hera. Besides these Hera induced frenzies, Heracles was a very brutal character.

The Greek Heracles is analogous to god Kala in the Nusantara archipelago. Kala is a god of the underworld in the ancient Javanese and Balinese mythology.

According to the Javanese legend, Kala is the son of Guru. Guru has a very beautiful wife named Uma. One day Guru, in a fit of uncontrolled lust, forced himself on Uma. They had sexual intercourse on top of his Andini, a divine cow. This behavior was ashamed Uma who then cursed Guru but Guru cursed back Uma so she appeared as a fearsome and ugly ogre. This fierce form of Uma is also known in Javanese mythology as Durgha. From this relationship, Kala was born with the appearance of an ogre.

Kala is described as having an insatiable appetite and being very rude. He was sent by the deva to Earth to punish humans for their evil habits. However, Kala was interested only in devouring humans to satisfy his appetite. Alarmed, the deva then recalled Kala from the Earth. He later became ruler of the underworld.

The analogy of Kala and Heracles is that each of them is the son of a supreme god, either Guru or Zeus. Their births were outrageous; Kala was born from an uncontrolled lust of Guru on Uma while Heracles was from a seduction of Zeus on Alcmene. They are having insatiable appetites and being very rude, brutal, and violent in their whole lives.

From the ancient until present day, gargoyle-like faces of Kala are often found at temple entrances, boundary monuments, welcome monuments, gates, doorway, niches, furniture, wall hangings and traditional musical instruments; ubiquitous in Java and Bali. Similar figures are also found at the Dayak houses.

As previously discussed, the boundary monuments decorated with the Kala faces are analogous to the Monuments of Heracles.

Apart from those, Zeus, the father or Heracles, and Guru, the father of Kala, are also analogous. Both of them were then appointed to the supreme gods replacing either Poseidon or Baruna.

Note also the analogy and phonetic similarities between the names, Kala and Kleos, Guru and Zeu, Uma with Alkmene, and Durgha with Hera.


54. “Bull” sacrifices 
(Critias: 119d to 120c)

Plato describes that in every five or six years alternately, the kings of Atlantis gathered to discuss and make arrangements, topped off with plenty of “bulls” sacrifice.

Common people generally could not distinguish between “bull” and “water buffalo”. Plato does not recognize “water buffalo” but beast resembling the “bull” because the animals were not found in the ancient Greece and its surroundings.

Water buffalo, also called Asian buffalo or Asiatic buffalo, is a large bovine native to Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. Water buffalo is one of the animals of greatest economic and religious value used as a sacrificial victim in Southeast Asia, Indian sub-continent and southern China. In these monsoon regions of Asia, buffalos are offered in sacrifice to divinities or divine spirits, as the carrier of dead souls to the world beyond or of zoomorphic symbol of the ancestors.

A characteristic of Southeast Asian houses is the forked horn on the roof, which is considered to be a symbol of the buffalo, regarded throughout the region as a link between heaven and this world.


55. Temple or pyramid 
(Critias: 116c, 116d, 116e, 117c, 119c)

The construction of stone pyramids was based on native belief that mountains and other high places are the abode of the spirits of the ancestors, or the most ideal pilgrimage places to worship them.

The simplest form of pyramid is the earth-and-stone step pyramids in which it is normally built on natural or manmade mounds, hills or hillsides. Usually there is a shrine and/or an altar at the top.

Austronesian megalithic culture in Nusantara features an earth and stone step pyramid structure, referred to as “punden berundak”. “Punden berundak” is regarded as one of the characteristics of the original culture of the archipelago. Pyramid structures have been found and spread throughout Southeast Asia, most of them are found in the island of Java.

The huge Borobudur temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, which allegedly built on the previous step pyramid. The Sukuh and Cetho temples in Central Java, where the dates are still debated, show the Austronesian indigenous earth-and-stone step pyramids that somewhat resemble Mesoamerican pyramids. Gunung Padang is the biggest and the oldest megalithic site in Southeast Asia dated circa 23,000 BC or older.

As the civilizations were developing, they built larger pyramids so that more stones were required. The majority of the weight are closer to the ground and material higher up on the pyramid will be pushing down from above. The stones could pose problems on the strength of the earth to hold the weight. Therefore, pyramids with heavier stone weight pushing on the earth fill are observed to have less earth fill or even without it.

Pyramids have been built by civilizations in many parts of the world. For thousands of years, the largest structures on Earth were pyramids. They spread from Egypt to America, that emerged separately from one another by oceans who supposedly never discovered each other’s existence. There are no firmly established connections between the different civilizations that built them, but their similarities show that they sprang from a common origin.

As said by Plato, the temple of Poseidon was built in the center island which was a hill, encircled by rings of waters. To reach the temple from the innermost ring of water, steps on the hill slope were definitely required. This could mean that the temple is featuring an earth-and-stone step pyramid structure, characterizes the original culture of Nusantara that is referred to as “punden berundak”. The temple was also the place to worship their ancestors.


56. Maritime activities 
(Critias: 114d, 115c to 116a, 117d, 117e, 119b)

Plato describes that the canals were means for transporting wood and products in ships. They brought down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the products of the earth in ships. The canal and the largest of the harbors were full of vessels and merchants coming from all parts. The docks were full of triremes and naval stores. They had a fleet of as many as 1200 ships.

Maritime activity is a typical Austronesian culture since the ancient time. The earliest known evidences are found as cave paintings dated back to 10,000 years or older, those are fully decorated by sailboat paintings. Long distance sailing technology in the region must have appeared much earlier, with the peopling of Australia through Southeast Asia some 40,000 years ago. Archaeologists have revealed ample evidence of the active maritime networks in the Southeast Asia region, that spread throughout all of insular Southeast Asia and most of the Pacific.


57. Advanced civilization in the era 
(Timaeus: 24e, 25a)

Plato describes that Atlantis was a great and magnificent kingdom that had vast powers. Atlantis can be said to be an advanced civilization of its time, and had a variety of superior technologies compared to other countries.

Gunungpadang pyramid in Java is the oldest known structure of any kind on Earth. Dated to as early as 25,000 years ago, the pyramid would be proof of an advanced ancient civilization. The majority of the stepped site is man-made, built by generations over a matter of millennia.

The so many rock paintings depicting sailboats in Southeast Asia, dated to as early as 40,000 years ago, would also proof that such technology has been mastered from the early time. This technology had been inherited by the Austronesian people and the thalassocracies, or maritime kingdoms, such as Srivijaya and Majapahit. The Bugis and Makassar people from the island of Sulawesi are renowned for making a wooden sailing vessel called the “pinisi”.

The kingdoms in Southeast Asia developed an advanced stone mason architectural technology in building of temples. This includes the magnificent Borobudur, Prambanan, Angkor Wat and many other couple hundreds of temples.

In agriculture, the people in Southeast Asia are famous for paddy cultivation and techniques such as terracing. Local systems of complex irrigation and water management have been developed in the archipelago. An exceptional example is Subak, the irrigation system of Bali.

In food technology, due in part to the tropical climate teeming with various microbes, the people in Southeast Asia have developed traditional knowledge in fermentation techniques, which resulted in the development of fermented foods such as “tapai”, “tempeh”, “oncom”, and also beverages like “brem” and “tuak”.


58. Destructed 9,000 years before Solon (about 11,600 years ago) 
(Timaeus: 23e – Critias: 108e, 111a)

Plato describes that Atlantis was a powerful and advanced kingdom that destructed, in a night and a day, 9,000 years before Solon, or about 11,600 years ago. This accurately coincided with the cataclysm at the end of the Younger Dryas period.

At the end of the Younger Dryas period, around 11,600 years ago, the weight of the ice shifted to the seas triggered cracks in the earth’s crust to move, that set off cataclysm. Earthquakes, volcano eruptions, super waves and floods engulfed the coastal cultures and all the flat continental shelves of Sundaland, and wiped out many populations. As the sea rolled in, there was a mass migration of the survivors from the sinking continent.


59. Earthquakes and “floods” from the sea (tsunami) 
(Timaeus: 25c, 25d – Critias: 108e, 111a, 112a)

Plato mentioned that the island of Atlantis was beset, in a night and a day, by an earthquake and a flood. In some other his explanations, it is implied that the flood was coming from the sea, so the possibility is a tsunami. Plato did not recognize “tsunami” so he equated it to “flood”. Earthquakes and tsunamis are very often correlated.

Frequent and significant earthquakes, tsunamis and volcano eruptions took place in one of this most complex tectonic region on Earth. Tsunami are known for their dramatic run-up heights, can also be excited or amplified in height considerably in shallow waters and on flat plains, and can oscillate back and forth within harbors and bays.

We could speculate that the destruction of Atlantis was among others caused by a tsunami in this region. It was due to the tsunami waves traveling in shallow water, that was the ancient Java Sea, and penetrated inland on a very flat plain. The ancient Java Sea was forming a gulf, which could cause the wave became much higher and prolonged, and destructive.


60. Sunken ceaselessly (post-glacial sea level rise) 
(Timaeus: 25d – Critias: 111b, 111c)

Plato describes that the lands of Atlantis and the Athens were sunken ceaselessly afterwards. This is in line with the recent knowledge of post-glacial sea level rise. The sea level kept on rising until about 6,000 years ago, sinking the low lands as well as low plains in Sundaland.

The ruin of the Atlantis city and its story were buried forever under the sea. Then, it was remembered by the Egyptians who migrated from there, and wrote them on their sacred registers.

***

Copyright © Dhani Irwanto, 2015-2017. All rights reserved.

Atlantis City in The Java Sea

<Bahasa Indonesia>

A research by Dhani Irwanto, 24 May 2015

After a comprehensive research, the author discloses a new theory hypothesizes that the lost island and city of Atlantis is located in Java Sea, Indonesia, as written in a book Atlantis: The lost city is in Java Sea, published in April 2015.

See evidence in hypothesized location.


Contents

Background of Atlantis Story
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantis is The Drowned Continent of Sundaland
The Atlantis Plain
The Atlantis Waterway System
The Island and the City of Atlantis
God Poseidon
Bordering Monuments
Orichalcum
Buffalo Sacrifices
Temples and Pyramids
Coconut
Tapai or Tape


Background of Atlantis Story

The story of Atlantis comes to us from Timaeus and Critias, Socratic dialogues, written in about 360 BC by Plato. There are four people at this meeting who had met the previous day to hear Socrates describes the ideal state. Socrates wants Timaeus of Locri, Hermocrates, and Critias to tell him stories about Athens interacting with other states. The first is Critias, who talks about his great grandfather’s meeting with Solon, one of the seven sages, an Athenian poet and famous lawgiver. Solon had been to Egypt where priests had compared Egypt and Athens and talked about the gods and legends of both lands. One such Egyptian story is about Atlantis.

Atlantis, a likely legendary land nation mentioned in Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias, has been an object of fascination among western philosophers and historians for nearly 2,400 years. Plato (ca 424 – ca 328 BC) describes it as a powerful and advanced kingdom that sank, in a night and a day, into the ocean about 9,000 years before Solon or around 9,600 BC.

Plato (through the character Critias in his dialogues) describes Atlantis as a land larger than Libya and Asia Minor put together, located just beyond the monuments of Heracles. Its culture was advanced and it had a constitution suspiciously similar to the one outlined in Plato’s Republic. It was protected by the god Poseidon, who made his son Atlas king and namesake of the land Atlantis. As the Atlanteans grew powerful, their ethics declined. Their armies eventually conquered Africa as far as Egypt and Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (modern Lebanon) before being driven back by an Athenian-led alliance. Later, by way of divine punishment, the island was beset by an earthquake and a flood, and sank into a muddy sea.

According to Critias, Solon, while wrote his poem, enquired into the meaning and knowledge of the names and had translated them into their own language; when copying them out again translated them into Greek. Thus, the names include Poseidon, Heracles, Atlas, Athens, Egypt, Libya, Tyrrhenia and Europe are translated names which the originals were kept by Critias.

Plato’s seminal work, The Republic, outlines the ideology of Plato’s perfect state, one in which the rulers are philosophers. It was written down in the early years of the academy which Plato had founded in ca 386 BC. This institution was his answer to his disgust with contemporary politics and was, in essence, to train the philosopher-rulers of a future Athenian state. The Critias dialogue is in direct response to Socrates demand to know how his ideal state will conduct itself in action. What Socrates means by this ideal state is of course the Plato’s “republic”. In essence, this story is to be an illustration of how the ideal state conducts itself in warfare against its neighbors. In considering the Timaeus and the Critias, which includes the story of Atlantis, it has to be read against the background of The Republic.

The story of Atlantis as told by the Egyptian priest is probably ever really existed but Plato had been distorting the facts in order to support his ideology of an ideal state as in The Republic, or he added some embellishments of his own or aspects drawn from other legends. He embodied Athens as part of the story to show the greatest and noblest action of Ancient Athens, which was probably another state in the myth told by the Egyptian priest, created from records in their sacred registers preserved in their temples. The embodiment is evidenced that if Plato knows the location of Atlantis, which was bordering with Athens, he would surely mention the exact geographical location from his knowledge.

If we apply a similitude of “particulate inheritance model”, which is commonly used in biological sciences, where as though the phenotype of Plato’s Atlantis is inherited from the original phenotype of Egyptian records, as a continuum in a series of “generations”. In the process, the “legacy” phenotype is determined by “genotype”, “epigenetic” and “non-inherited environmental” factors from the “ancestors”. The “genotype” factors are that part (“DNA sequence”) of the “genetic makeup” of the story. The “epigenetic” factors are the phenotypic trait variations of the story that are caused by external or environmental factors. The “non-inherited environmental” factors are distortions, embellishments and embodiments of the story by the tellers. “Genetic mutation” of the story may also occur in the process. The only known now is the inherited phenotype, so that those factors are not detected, but certainly has experienced.

The pre-history of Egypt  is known to the Neolithic period, beginning ca 6,000 BC or ca 8,000 BP. Yet, 9,000 years before Solon or 11,600 BP is beyond the historical span of Egypt. We could speculate that the ancient Egypt told by the priest is actually a primordial ethnic group and believed to be their ancestors prior the deluges and other catastrophes. The Egyptians were among the refugees and survivors of the catastrophes; then resettled on the land which is now called the Egypt. In the rescue, they brought records and registers, and hereinafter preserved them in their temples. Linguistic and alphabet studies of the Rejang culture in southwestern Sumatera conducted by among others Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1817), J Park Harrison (1896), EEEG Schroder (1927) and MA Jaspen (1983) show some correlations with the ancient Phoenician and Egyptian. Indonesian has ancient knowledge of pyramid building just like the ancient Egyptian; the Gunung Padang pyramid in West Java, Indonesia dated 23,000 BC or earlier is claimed to be earlier than those in the Egypt.

The existence of Atlantis is supported by the fact that it is described in great details, mainly in Critias. In additions, various conditions, events and goods like the two-season climate, flood (tsunami), orichalcum, geographical features, buffalo and produces unknown to Plato are also described in detailed and lengthy words. The recent knowledge of late glacial and postglacial sea level rise and land subsidence that occurred almost precisely at the time described by Plato also becomes strong evidence to the truth of the story.

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Atlantic Ocean

What we call now by the name of “Atlantic Ocean” is not the same as that of the ancients. Herodotus, Aristotle, Plato, Strabo, and several other ancient authors are very specific on the fact that the “Atlantic Ocean” – otherwise called “Ocean of the Atlanteans”, “Outer Ocean”, “Kronian Ocean”, Mare Oceanum (“Ocean Sea”) or Mare Magnum (“Great Sea”) – was the whole of the “earth-encircling ocean”. This Ocean surrounded the whole world then known, that of Eurasia and Africa. In other words, the Atlantic Ocean of the ancients was the World Ocean that is coterminous and encircles the entire globe of the earth, and which we now arbitrarily divide into Pacific, Indian and Atlantic, despite the fact that all three are coterminous.

Eratosthenes

The Atlantic Ocean or, rather, Ocean of the Atlanteans, of the ancient Greeks of the time of Plato and Aristotle was not only the one we call by that name, but included the Indian Ocean and that portion of the Pacific Ocean along the eastern coast of Asia. In Timaeus Section 24e, Plato asserts that Atlantis was located “at a distant point in the Atlantic Ocean”, also implies that Atlantis was in the ocean far or what we know today the eastern Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean.

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Atlantis is The Drowned Continent of Sundaland

The Sundaland or specifically Indonesia has been advocated as a site for Atlantis. Key to this argument is that the Ocean of Atlantic refers to the ocean which encircles Eurasia and Africa, which was the historical understanding until the time of Christopher Columbus. Proponents of this idea claim that natives of Sundaland who fled the rising waters or volcanic explosions eventually had contact with Ancient Egyptians, who later passed the story onto Plato who gets some but not all of the details correct, including location and time period.

The first suggested linkage between Atlantis and Indonesia came from the leading theosophist, CW Leadbeater, in a booklet, The Occult History of Java, published in 1951. An American polymath William Lauritzen and about the same time a Brazilian nuclear Professor Arysio Nunes dos Santos also made the Sundaland internationally known hypothesis. Zia Abbas, a computer scientist, claims to prove that Plato’s Atlantis is to be found in the South China Sea. Other high-profile representative of this Atlantis-localization is an Indian molecular biologist Sunil Prasannan who has worked in London. In 2013, joined also the Indonesian geologist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja after its discovery that the Mount Padang in the province of Cianjur, West Java, was apparently brought by people in pyramid form about 13,000 years ago, the adoption of Atlantis was in the greater of the present-day Indonesia located.

The Sundaland theory about the origin of civilization is postulated by a British molecular biologist Stephen Oppenheimer. He makes a case that the rise in ocean levels that accompanied the waning of the Ice Age – as much as 150 m – during the period 14,000 – 7,000 years ago, must be taken into account when trying to understand the flow of genes and culture in Eurasia. Citing evidence from geology, archaeology, genetics, linguistics, and folklore, he hypothesizes that the Southeast Asian subcontinent of Sundaland was home to a rich and original culture that was dispersed when Sundaland was mostly submerged and its population moved westward. Sundaland’s culture may have reached India and Mesopotamia, becoming the root for the innovative cultures that developed in those areas. He also suggests that the Austronesian languages originate from Sundaland and that a Neolithic Revolution may have started there. The Sundaland hypothesis is also flanked by the studies of the geologist and geophysicist Robert M Schoch, together with Robert Aquinas McNally, in 2003 published a book in which to express the two authors have reasons to suspect the concept of pyramid construction had been developed by a lost civilization, which formerly existed in Sundaland.

Last Glacial Period of SundalandSee it in youtube

Last Glacial Vegetation of Sundaland

See it in youtube

In Critias Section 108e, Plato describes that “… nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them …” and in Timaeus Section 24e: “… the island was larger than Libya and Asia [Minor] put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which encompasses the true ocean …”. 9,000 years before Solon’s day (ca 600 BC) means approximately 11,600 years BP; the sea level at this time was around 60 meters below the present-day sea level. The map showing the lands at 11,600 BP is extracted by the author from the GTOPO30 elevation grids published by USGS.

Continents

Traveling further from Sundaland, one may reach some islands like Nusatenggara Islands, Sulawesi, Maluku Islands, Mindanau and Luzon. Passing through these islands, one may reach the opposite continent, ie the large “Sahul Continent” combining the Australian Continent, Papua and the land connecting them. This continent encompassed Pacific and Indian Oceans. So that Plato’s statement: “… was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which encompasses the true ocean …” is true to point that Atlantis is hypothesized located in Sundaland.

Looking at the map, we will see that Sundaland is larger than Libya and Asia Minor, precisely what Plato affirms in his discourse on Atlantis.

The description in Critias Section 118a that “At the first place then the general condition of the landscape of the region on the side of the ocean was said to be very lofty and precipitous, …” does paint a reasonably accurate picture of the Sundaland region as it would have been during the Ice Age.

Plato's Critias 118a

Plato’s words of “benefit of the annual rainfall”, “abundance of water”, “excellently attempered climate”, “summer and winter” and “twice in the year … in winter … and in summer” are strongly interpreted as characteristics of a tropical climate. Plato uses the words “summer” and “winter” to describe the “dry season” and “wet season” as there are no such seasons and there were no such words in Greece.

The Plato’s Atlantis, as in Critias, was characterized as being an agricultural country. The country was full of rich earth, abundance of wood, cultivated by true husbandmen, had a noble nature, had a best soil in the world, abundance of water, had an excellently attempered climate, abundance of animals including elephants; roots, herbage, woods or essences which distil from fruit and flower; and two harvests each year, in the winter fed by the rains and in the summer fed by irrigation from the canals. It had similar characteristic as the present-day Indonesia and Malaysia, characterized by major global key producers of a wide variety of agricultural tropical products, high levels of biodiversity and endemicity of flora and fauna, dense tropical forest, and rice cultivation cultures. It is also known that agriculture was started in the Far East over a ten thousand years ago, which proves the abundance of food needed to sustain a civilization large enough to create an army matched only by Plato’s Atlantean army.

In Critias Section 114e, Plato informs us: “they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found there, solid as well as fusil” and, also, in  Sections 116b and 116c that the citadel in the capital city was coated in various kinds of metals: “The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum.” Sundaland, until today, is the producer of various minerals with relatively large quantities due to its geological and tectonic conditions that favor the formation of the mineral resources. Brass (an alloy of copper and tin), and tin itself, suggests that the Atlanteans had a considerable amount of both copper and tin available. Modern Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the world’s largest producers of tin, as well as having significant copper reserves, along with several other metals. In fact, the Southeast Asian countries produce approximately one third of all the tin metal in the world.

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The Atlantis Plain

From Plato’s Critias Sections 118a and 118b: “… but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the center inland it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any which still exist, having in them also many wealthy villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant for each and every kind of work.

Plato describes the plain as a level plain, surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea, smooth and even, rectangular and oblong shaped, three thousand stadia (about 555 kilometers) long, two thousand stadia (about 370 kilometers) wide, looked towards the south, sheltered from the north, surrounded by mountains celebrated for their number, size and beauty; and had wealthy villages of country folk, rivers, lakes, and meadows. These descriptions are exactly fit with the geographical conditions configured on map generated by the author as shown on the following figure.

Atlantis Plain (1)

A level plain, smooth and even, descended towards the sea – The slope of the ground surface is mostly less than 1% declining southward towards the Java Sea and no visible mound on the whole plain. One may consider this as a very flat plain. The present-day conditions of the plain above the sea water level consist of swampy areas, tidal swamp irrigation practices, housing over water, water transportation, mangroves and peat land.

Surrounded by mountains celebrated for their number, size and beauty – There are two mountainous areas around the northern part of the plain, Muller-Schwaner and Meratus Mountains. The highest peak on the Muller-Schwaner Mountain  nearest to the plain is the Liangapran Hill with a height of 2,240 meters above the present day sea water level, while the one on the Meratus Mountain is the Mount Besar with a height of 1,890 meters. These mountains are mostly covered by primary forest, inhabited by enormous kinds of animals and as the inhabitations of the native Dayak tribes.

Looked towards the south and sheltered from the north – These are true that the plain is open on the south and sheltered by mountains on the north.

Rectangular and oblong shaped, about 555 kilometers long and 370 kilometers wide – The shape of the plain is rectangular on the southern part and oblong (elliptical arc) on the northern part. The size is almost exactly 555 kilometers long and 370 kilometers wide. Of course, the nature never gives an exactly regular shape to the geography of the land so that Plato’s descriptions are approximate to show the conditions in general.

Wealthy villages of country folk, rivers, lakes, and meadows – The area of the plain in present-day conditions is located in a tropical rain forest region, has high precipitation rate over the year, has warm temperature over the year, mostly swampy and has many large rivers and tributaries so that the region is fertile and rich of food and daily necessity resources.

Atlantis Plain (2)
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The Atlantis Waterway System

From Plato’s Critias Sections 118c to 118e: “I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial. Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It was excavated to the depth of a hundred, feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length. It received the streams which came down from the mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further inland, likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from it through the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea: these canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia, and by them they brought down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the fruits of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal into another, and to the city. Twice in the year they gathered the fruits of the earth-in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven, and in summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the canals.

Concerning the waterway system on the plain, Plato describes that there were four kinds of channels: the circular (perimeter) ditch, the inland channels, the transverse passages and the irrigation streams. The perimeter ditch was artificial, 100 feet (about 30 meters) deep, 1 stadium (about 185 meters) wide, 10,000 stadia (about 1,850 kilometers) long, carried round the whole plain, received streams from the mountains, winding around the plain, meeting at the city and let off into the sea. The inland canals were straight, 100 feet (about 30 meters) wide, 100 stadia (about 18.5 kilometers) intervals, let off into the perimeter ditch and as means for transporting wood and products in ships. The transverse passages were cut from one inland canal into another. The irrigation streams tapping from the canals were meant to irrigate the land in the summer (dry season) while in the winter (rainy season) had the benefit of the rains. These descriptions are exactly fit with the present-day water conveyor system conditions on the plain.

Atlantis Plain (3)

The perimeter ditch was artificial, about 30 meters deep and 185 meters wide – One of the river hypothesized as the perimeter ditch is the Barito River and probably the Negara River situated on the eastern side of the plain. Since this “ditch” had the nearest distance to the capital, the Egyptian was apparently passing it and reported. Barito River is the largest and the longest river in southern Kalimantan, which are about 1,000 kilometers long, 600 – 800 meters wide and an average of 8 meters deep. Flooding and sedimentation of the river on a very flat plain over the past 11,600 years have changed the regimes of the river but calculating the conveying capacity (area × velocity and assuming the same flow velocity because of the same gravitational energy slope), the cross section area of the flow (width × depth) as described by Plato is about 185 × 30 = 5,550 square meters while the area today is amazingly almost precise, 700 (average) × 8 = 5,600 square meters.

The perimeter ditch was about 1,850 kilometers long, winding around the plain, meeting at the city and let off into the sea – Measuring the length on the map but considering the windingness factor from the topography, the resulted length is almost precisely the same as in Plato’s Critias, ie 1,850 kilometers. While measuring the square and oblong shape of the plain, which is 555 kilometers long and 370 kilometers wide, a perimeter length of 1,656 kilometers is obtained, also logically correct if the windingness factor is not considered. So, it is obvious that Plato is true.

The perimeter ditch received streams from the mountains – This is true as the present-day rivers on the plain are originated from the Muller-Schwaner and Meratus Mountains.

The inland canals were straight, about 30 meters wide, 18.5 kilometers intervals and let off into the perimeter ditch – The present-day rivers represent the inland canals are the Kapuas, Murung, Kahayan, Upper Barito, Mangkatip and probably Sebangau Rivers. The regimes of these rivers should have been changed over the past 11,600 years due to any processes of flooding, sedimentation, river bed movement and meandering on a very flat plain. Interchanges of flows and orders among the rivers might also occur. However, in general view the straightness and elongation of the rivers are preserved until today being parallel to each other and in the north-south direction, and in similar case as the Barito River, the widths have been widened. The average distance of these rivers is approximately 20 kilometers, also considered in close agreement to the Plato’s figure of 18.5 kilometers.

The inland canals were means for transporting wood and products in ships – This custom is alive until today. Rivers are an integral part of everyday life of people in this region. Most of the rivers in southern Kalimantan are navigable. The traditional ship or vessel is locally known as “jukung” having many types or forms. These rivers and all their tributaries are a network of transportation system and become very important means for the people as every district is accessible by rivers. Since ancient times, the river network supports economic and social activities of the population of southern Kalimantan. Moreover, the river network has been the economic lifeblood of population because most of their economic activities are carried out through and in the rivers. Communications among regions in the hinterlands, the towns and ports in particular are also done via the river. The rivers become mainstays for the smooth distribution of goods and people from upstream to downstream and vice versa. Various types of forest, mining and agricultural products abundant in rural areas such as wood, rubber, gutta-percha, rattan, resin, jelutung (gum sap), wax, coal, gold, pepper, bird’s nest, woven material, dried or salted fish, deer jerky, fruits and many others are transported to collection points or ports through the river network. Instead, a variety of daily necessities such as rice, sugar, salt, flour, corn, palm oil, tobacco, gambier, pottery, household appliances, copper wire, fabric (linen) and so on are also transported from the ports to various areas in the hinterlands through the river network.

The transverse passages were cut from one inland canal into another – This is exactly precise. Looking at the maps we can see numerous transverse passages exist in the region, some of them were built or rehabilited in recent times. The passage is known locally as “anjir”, a canal linking two rivers as part of the transportation network. The canals are also used as primary tidal swamp irrigation canals supplying water to and draining from the cultivated lands.

The irrigation streams tapping from the canals supplied water to the land in dry season but rainfall in the rainy season yielding two crops in a year – This is also exactly precise. Today’s practices of tidal swamp irrigation system in southern Kalimantan is traditionally known as “anjir system” where primary canals called “anjir” or “antasan” were constructed connecting two tidal rivers, also used as navigation purpose. Inland canals were built to irrigate and drain the fields from and to the anjir: secondary canals called “handil” or “tatah” and tertiary canals called “saka”. During low tides, the canals drain the toxic water while during high tides fresh water enters the canals and conveyed to the fields. The system yields two rice crops in a year. This system is also used to cultivate other crops or fish. Southern Kalimantan is today an exporter of rice to other regions.

Atlantis Plain (4)

The author concludes that the canal system described by Plato turns out precisely the present-day river transportation network and the “anjir” irrigation system in southern Kalimantan region.

Kahayan RiverAnjir SarapatAnjir Irrigation System



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The Island and the City of Atlantis

From Plato’s Timaeus Section 25a: “… for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbor, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.

From Plato’s Critias Section 113c: “Near the plain again, and also in the center of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side.

From Plato’s Critias Sections 113d and 113e: “… and breaking the ground, enclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the center, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god, found no difficulty in making special arrangements for the center island, bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and the other of cold, and making every variety of food to spring up abundantly from the soil.

From Plato’s Critias Sections 115c to 117e: “… First of all they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And at the very beginning they built the palace in the habitation of the god and of their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to the utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to behold for size and for beauty. And beginning from the sea they bored a canal of three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbor, and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to find ingress. Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels so as to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the water. Now the largest of the zones into which a passage was cut from the sea was three stadia in breadth, and the zone of land which came next of equal breadth; but the next two zones, the one of water, the other of land, were two stadia, and the one which surrounded the central island was a stadium only in width. The island in which the palace was situated had a diameter of five stadia. All this including the zones and the bridge, which was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea passed in. The stone which was used in the work they quarried from underneath the center island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock. Some of their buildings were simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the color to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight. The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum.”

The palaces in the interior of the citadel were constructed on this wise:-in the center was a holy temple dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon, which remained inaccessible, and was surrounded by an enclosure of gold; this was the spot where the family of the ten princes first saw the light, and thither the people annually brought the fruits of the earth in their season from all the ten portions, to be an offering to each of the ten. Here was Poseidon’s own temple which was a stadium in length, and half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height, having a strange barbaric appearance. All the outside of the temple, with the exception of the pinnacles, they covered with silver, and the pinnacles with gold. In the interior of the temple the roof was of ivory, curiously wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum; and all the other parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated with orichalcum. In the temple they placed statues of gold: there was the god himself standing in a chariot-the charioteer of six winged horses-and of such a size that he touched the roof of the building with his head; around him there were a hundred Nereids riding on dolphins, for such was thought to be the number of them by the men of those days. There were also in the interior of the temple other images which had been dedicated by private persons. And around the temple on the outside were placed statues of gold of all the descendants of the ten kings and of their wives, and there were many other great offerings of kings and of private persons, coming both from the city itself and from the foreign cities over which they held sway. There was an altar too, which in size and workmanship corresponded to this magnificence, and the palaces, in like manner, answered to the greatness of the kingdom and the glory of the temple.

According to Plato, the Atlantis Island where there was a harbor with a narrow entrance was in a sea surrounded by a boundless continent. The hypothesized boundless continent is the main land of Sundaland attached to the Asian Continent, and the only sea surrounded by it was in those days the ancient Java Sea. Therefore, the author hypothesizes that the Atlantis Island is located in Java Sea.

The Atlantis Island, where there was a central hill, was an island located near the main land identified from the elevation grids, where the sea water level was around 60 meter below the present-day sea water level, as shown on the figure below. As seen on the map, the island was situated in front of a strait separating the island and the main land. There was a relatively flat plain on the north; part of it is now the southern part of Kalimantan Island. The “real sea” surrounding the island is the ancient Java Sea which is a gulf with the entrance forms a strait.

Atlantis Geography

Crantor’s commentary as reported by Proclus stated that “… according to them, there were seven islands in that sea in their time …” and “… the extent of which was a thousand stadia [185 km]; …” is about right in describing the geography of the region in the Java Sea in those days. He describes that there were seven small islands and other three large islands, so in total there were ten islands in any sizes. Although the number as seen on the map is not exactly the same due to the unknown process of sedimentation, scouring, littoral drift, limestone solution and tectonic movement over the past 11,600 years, the elevation grids have low accuracy and the author discards the small islands, the regional geography is generally true. The statement that “the extent of which was a thousand stadia (about 185 km)” is in general also about true. One of the large islands is identified as Bawean Island.

The author hypothesizes the location of Atlantis Island and reconstructs the city based on Plato’s descriptions, as shown on the following figure. The sea level kept rising until about 6,000 years ago. Corals grew on the solid structures, along with sedimentation and other processes. There is an existing coral reef named Gosong Gia or Annie Florence Reef at a site in the Java Sea believed to be the location of the capital city. From an unpublished sonar survey of the site by a sponsor team, the top of the reef and the surrounding sea bed are about 10 and 55 meters below the average sea level, respectively. The city structures such as the hill, the circular wall, the circular channel and the bridge are still apparent from the patterns of the corals with exactly the same dimensions as those described by Plato. The depth of the surrounding sea here exactly coincides the land level about 11,600 years ago before the sea level rise. However, further investigations are required to confirm.

Atlantis Island

Atlantis City (1)

Atlantis City (2)

Atlantis City (3)

The Plato’s description that “they had fountains, one of cold and another of hot water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted for use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters” is noticeable. Bawean Island off in the Java Sea is a prototype of the Atlantis Island as it has the same environment, geological formation and tectonic processes, as well as situated close to Atlantis Island. There are several hot and cold springs in the island resulted from the tectonic activities in the region.

Bawean ArcBawean Stones

The description that “the stone which was used in the work they quarried from underneath the center island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer as well as the inner side, one kind was white, another black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock” is also noticeable. The white, black and red colored stones mentioned by Plato are apparently similar to the igneous rock that is deposited in Bawean Island with white (acidic), black-grey (alkaline) and red (ferro-oxide) colors, known among others as Leucite, Phonolite, Trachyte and Onix. The igneous rock just like in the Bawean Island is hard and strong so that it has enough natural strength to stand as roofs of the hollowed out double docks.

The Java Sea depth at the time of Atlantis (11,600 BP) was around 20 – 30 meters so that it was sufficient to enable the navigation of large ships. The location of the city in the island was very strategic. In terms of defense, there was an entrance (strait) and surrounded by a row of mountains and volcanoes. The sea was shallow and almost closed so that there were no significant waves.


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God Poseidon

In Plato’s dialogues, the kingdom of Atlantis was founded by a god named Poseidon (Greek Ποσειδῶν) and the land was divided into ten portions given to his children. In the center of the citadel there was a holy temple dedicated to Poseidon and his wife, Cleito.

In the Critias, Solon while wrote his poem translated the god’s name into “Poseidon”. Poseidon is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain is the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea”. Solon translated the name due to its similarity in the nature of the god.

God Poseidon worshiped by the people of Atlantis is identical to Baruna, a pre-dharmic god, given the nickname the “Water God” or the “Sea God” in Nusantara (the archipelago) mythologies. So, Solon translated Baruna into Poseidon, a Greek “Sea God”, apparently.

Kalimantan Island was formerly known as Warunapura or the place of the god Baruna. Next, Nagarakretagama manuscript mentions an ancient state that was within the Majapahit spheres of influence called Baruné, later identified as Barunai, a kingdom of the modern state Brunei. European sources further in the 16th century AD showed the name of the island as Burné by Antonio Pigafetta  or Bornei by Duarte Barbosa. The Dutch and British colonials named the island as Borneo.

Kalimantan Island
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Bordering Monuments

According to Plato’s text, Atlantis lay just beyond boundary monuments resembling the Greek’s Pillars of Heracles. For centuries, the location of the Pillars of Heracles is debated by many. The Pillars are assumed by some to refer to the Rock of Gibraltar in Europe and to Mount Acha near Ceuta or Jebel Musain, which are west of Ceuta in Morocco. Others prefer to accept them as a physical pair of pillars set up outside a temple.

Classical writers frequently refer to the pillars without being in anyway specific regarding their location. The Pillars were, in earlier times, identified with the Strait of Sicily, but from the time of Erastosthenes (ca 250 BC) the term was moved to refer to the Strait of Gibraltar, reflecting the expansion of the Greek maritime knowledge. However, the poet Pindar in the Third Nemean Ode would appear to have treated the pillars as a metaphor for the limit of established Greek geographical knowledge, a boundary that was never static.

Within the dialogues, Plato does not mention the Pillars of Hereacles as the hills around the Strait of Gibraltar; the latter were known later and originally called Calpe and Habila. In addition, the Egyptian priest called them “like the Pillars of Heracles”, so they are not necessarily the pillars known by the Athenians. Plato does not call them “pillars” but are “monuments” (Greek stêlas) which are located in the border and a strait to mark the boundary of the two countries at war.

Heracles is identical to Kala (a pre-dharmic god) because both have similar conducts. Each of them is a child of a supreme god, either Batara Guru or Zeus. Their births were outrageous; Kala was born from an uncontrolled lust of Batara Guru on Dewi Uma while Heracles was from a seduction of Zeus on Alcmene. They are having insatiable appetites and being very rude, brutal, and violent in their whole lives. Apparently, Solon translated “Kala” into “Heracles” (Greek Hēraklēs, Ἡρακλῆς).

The author hypothesizes the Pillars of Heracles as boundary monuments, locally known as “tugu”, decorated with the faces of Kala, such kinds ubiquitous in Java and Bali.

Pillars of HeraclesCandi Singosari, Singosari, Malang, Jawa Timur.

Later on the author found an interesting chapter here.
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Orichalcum

Plato mentions that orichalcum was a mineral product of Atlantis, unknown to Greek, being more precious in those days than anything except gold, and dug out of the earth in many parts of the island. The ring of wall of the Temple to Poseidon and Cleito was covered and “flashed” with the “red light” of orichalcum.

Orichalcum is composed from the Greek syllables oros (“mountain”) and chalkos (“ore”), simply means “mountain ore”. No known metal or its alloy has a red color so that orichalcum is not a metal.

We could speculate that the Plato’s orichalcum is actually the zircon as this mineral can be “dug out of the earth in many parts of the island” or abundant in southern Kalimantan where the Atlantis plain is hypothesized. This material is really valuable second to gold; it has gemstone quality and is popular as diamond simulant. Zircon ore requires to be processed through extraction, refinement and heating (coal is abundant in Kalimantan) to bring out different colors of zircon products.

The orichalcum which has a red color is particularly named as the hyacinth. When finished, its nature is sparkling like diamond that metals do not possess, which why Plato describes it with the words “flashed” and “light”, in particular.

In “being more precious in those days than anything except gold”, Plato compares orichalcum with gold. “Zircon” derives from the Persian zargun, meaning “golden-colored”, corrupted into “jargoon”, a term applied to light-colored zircons which the Germans adapt to Zirkon. Allegedly, Plato or Solon mistranslated zargun, the golden-colored material into orichalcum as there was no such word in Ancient Greek.

Orichalcum

ZirconRed Zircon


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Buffalo Sacrifices

In Plato’s Critias Sections 119d to 120a: “There were bulls who had the range of the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being left alone in the temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that they might capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the bulls, without weapons but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of it so that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the pillar, besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty curses on the disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull in the accustomed manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a bowl of wine and cast in a clot of blood for each of them; the rest of the victim they put in the fire, after having purified the column all round.

At the end of the Critias, it is described that in every five or six years alternately, the kings of Atlantis gathered to discuss and make arrangements, topped off with plenty of water buffalo sacrifice. The tradition of buffalo sacrifices as offerings to the god exist only in Southeast Asia and southern part of Central Asia. Of course, Plato does not refer to them as “buffalos” because the animals are found only in those area, but as beasts resembling those of “bulls”.

Water buffalo sacrifice


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Temples and Pyramids

As well as menhirs, stone tables, and stone statues, Austronesian megalithic culture in Nusantara also featured earth-and-stone step pyramid structure, referred to as “punden berundak”, regarded as one of the characteristics of the original culture of the archipelago. These structures have been found and spread throughout Nusantara as far as Polynesia. Among them are found in Hyang-Argapura Mountains, Lebak Sibedug, Basemah, Pangguyangan, Cisolok and Gunung Padang; the latter of which is the biggest and the oldest megalithic site in Southeast Asia dated ca 23,000 BC or older (Natawidjaja, 2013). The Sukuh and Cetho temples in Central Java (dates are debated) show the Austronesian indigenous elements of step pyramid that somewhat resemble Mesoamerican pyramids. The step pyramid is the basic design of the Borobudur temple in Central Java, which allegedly built on the previous step pyramid.

The construction of stone pyramids was based on the native belief that mountains and other high places are the abode of the spirits of the ancestors, or the most ideal pilgrimage places to worship them. They feel the need for pilgrimages, in addition to worship, to ask for help in solving the everyday life problems. In the development, they gave architectural decorations on the pyramids, which varies according to their cultures and beliefs. The shape of the structures then gradually transformed into temples.

As said in Plato’s Critias, the temple to Poseidon and Cleito was built in the center island which was a hill, encircled by rings of waters. To reach the temple from the innermost ring of water, steps on the hill slope were definitely required. This could mean that the temple is featuring an earth-and-stone step pyramid structure, characterizes the original culture of Nusantara that is referred to as “punden berundak”.

Pyramids
Step Pyramids in Southeast Asia





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Coconut

In Plato’s Critias Section 115b: “… and the fruits having a hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments …”

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations. On many islands coconut is a staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food eaten. Nearly one third of the world’s population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures the coconut has a long and respected history.

DNA analysis of more than 1,300 coconuts from around the world by Olsen et al (2011) reveals that the coconut was brought under cultivation in two separate locations, one in the Pacific basin and the other in the Indian Ocean basin (Baudouin et al, 2008; Gunn et al, 2011). What’s more, coconut genetics also preserve a record of prehistoric trade routes and of the colonization of the Americas. In the Pacific, coconuts were likely first cultivated in island Southeast Asia, meaning the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and perhaps the continent as well. In the Indian Ocean the likely center of cultivation was the southern periphery of India, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and the Laccadives. The Pacific coconuts were introduced to the Indian Ocean a couple of thousand years ago by ancient Austronesians establishing trade routes connecting Southeast Asia to Madagascar and coastal east Africa.

Coconut isolated on white background.

See also Coconut
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Tapai or Tape

From Plato’s Critias Section 115b: “… and are fruits which spoil with keeping, with which we console ourselves after dinner …

Tapai or tape is a traditional fermented food as a dessert indigenous and popular throughout Southeast Asia. It is a sweet or sour alcoholic paste and can be used directly as a food or in traditional recipes. Tapai can be made from a variety of carbohydrate sources, but typically from cassava (Manihot esculenta), white rice (Oryza sativa) or glutinous rice (Oryza sativa glotinosa). Fermentation is performed by a variety of moulds by inoculating a carbohydrate source with the required microorganisms in a starter culture, locally known as ragi, including Aspergillus oryzae, Rhizopus oryzae, Amylomyces rouxii or Mucor species, and yeasts including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomycopsis fibuliger, Endomycopsis burtonii and others, along with bacteria. Tapai is also used to make alcoholic beverages locally known as arak or brem.

Tapai or tape is known in different names, in Indonesia as tape or tapai, Java as tapé, Sunda (western Java) as peuyeum, Malaysia and Brunei as tapai, Thailand as khao-mak, Cambodia as chao or tapai, and the Philippines as tapay or binuburang. Glutinous rice tapé ketan is a noted regale in Java during the idul fitri festival.

See also Tapai or Tape
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***

Copyright © Dhani Irwanto, 2015. All rights reserved.


See the list of evidence here.

Any others discussed in the book:

  • Earthquake and tsunami
  • Traces of Atlantis
    • Hyang concept
    • Rice cultivation
    • Boat and ship building
    • Kalimantan elephant
    • Bawean Island
    • Jamu and bumbu
  • Correlated or just coincident?
  • Athens and Austronesian connection
  • Origins of post-deluge civilization

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