Exploring The Sangiran Early Man Site, Central Java
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“The number of early humans fossils found in Sangiran is more than ½ population of early humans fossils in the world” - Sangiran Museum
On July 7th, 2017, I got a chance to visit the Sangiran Museum in Central Java. I’m kind of familiar with the word “Sangiran”. I’ve heard about that place couple times from my history books. Then, I found out that Sangiran Museum is a World Heritage place designated by UNESCO and it’s free to visit it. It makes me more eager to see that place with my own eyes.
I went there with my mother and my sister. Our motto during vacation is “Yes, it’s time to have fun and visit cool places. But don’t forget to learn, write, and share the good thing about the place you’ve visited, too”. So yeah, where’s a better place to learn other than a museum on vacation, right?
Sangiran museum is a huge complex. It is in the highland and located in a village area. So it’s no wonder that most of the roads are small. But don’t worry, it’s a very comfortable trip. The rice fields are welcoming you. The roads are nice, smooth, with pointers on where to go (using your GPS is preferable). There are several clusters. The first one we visited was the biggest one. We went there on Friday afternoon around 11.30. We forgot that it’s time for Friday Prayer, so the museum closed for a while. To kill time, we strolled around the museum for a while. On the map, I saw there’s a water spring on the mountain – isn’t that cool?
Once the museum opened, we started to visit the exhibition. In the first exhibition, we saw the evolution of the homo sapiens, as we are right now. The second one, it was about the creation of the earth. I told my sister, “You’re so lucky that you can learn about this by going to a museum. I wish I would have known this place before my geography final exam. Sometimes you remember better by experiencing, rather than just reading, you know!”. The last one was about the technology nowadays to learn about ancient humans.
Then, came the more exciting part. There are several interesting clusters to visit, but we didn’t have a lot of time. So we had to choose one, but we couldn’t decide which cluster we visited next. To find inspiration, I opened the Instagram explorer. Apparently, there’s one cluster where we can see the excavation site.
The cluster called “Manyarejo” is a very small, secluded cluster. First, we went to the museum to get more knowledge about the story.
Unlike the first museum which is about scientific information, this museum offers anthropological information. In my opinion, it’s a very humble museum. It looks like a home. This museum tells the sustainable relationship between researchers and locals. The first thing I saw once I entered the museum was the “Babad Tanah Sangiran Wall”. Those unadorned locals shared their story regarding their experience with people coming from all over the world to learn about their place. There’s one person who at first didn’t think that those bones which he found were important. Then he met a researcher who told him to preserve it because it’s a historical item. He grew up and kept collecting those bones. He found his passion for archaeology and became an archaeologist. It shows that the researchers and locals learn about this archaeological site hand in hand. That they are not greedy and keep empowering each other.
One of the stories that shocked me the most was someone said “Even though we were in war time to gain Indonesia’s independence, we didn’t feel the heat of the war at all. Everybody liveed in peace”. Their love for Sangiran has united them all to bring peace. Be kind and respect your environment, that’s how to stay at peace.
For people who are educated, we all know that all those fossils are historical evidence. But for locals, they knew it as “Balung Buto Legend”. Balung Buto means the giant bone. They believe that those bones are the remaining of a huge giant. It’s interesting to know local wisdoms about this.
There are also other cool things. We can see the tools that archaeologist use. And voila... we went to the “most talked about place” which is the partial excavation site! It’s not as big as what you’ve seen in the movies. But it’s kind of cool to see that you can find so many amazing things in one small area. And actually, there are a lot of fossils that haven’t been discovered in the Sangiran area.
I know sometimes you wonder what’s the purpose of visiting this kind of museums? Well, I’m not an archaeologist nor a geographer. I still can’t remember all those human histories. Here I learned about humans. Humans are fascinating. We are given different looks, talent, and blessings. It’s up to us to maximize what we have. Hopefully, we can use what we have to empower each other.
We left that amazing site around 3 pm, the time for museums to close. My mom, my sister, and I left with a beautiful impression on how a small, remote area already understands and applies the word “peace” in harmony. They welcome those new people with an open heart and the newcomers teach them something valuable for the community as well. This kind of relationship is what I calle “sustainable relationship”.
I’m Indonesian and I’m blessed that Solo, Indonesia is blessed with this remarkable museum. A museum which UNESCO already acknowledges.