In the ancient world pyramid, it looks like there was a race in the past. Is it the oldest in Egypt? Peru? It has been debated since around 2001. But now, there is a new contender in the historical who’s-who of pyramids: Indonesia.
A group of archaeologists, geologists, and geophysicists recently published a paper on Archaeological Perspective suggests that Gunung Padang in Cianjur District in West Java Province is not the natural hill everyone thinks it is. Instead, they say it is an ancient man-made structure. In the past, Gunung Padang simply referred to the megalithic stone complex sitting atop the hill, which some archaeologists believe was used as a celestial calendar (although the actual use is still unknown). But the team’s research shows that the entire structure—complex and hill itself—was carved by humans beginning about 25,000 years ago.
Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, Ph.D, an earthquake geologist and one of the co-authors of the paper, says that he “stumbled upon a small hill with a different shape and an amazingly preserved surface” in 2011, while surveying the topography of the area. .
“This hill stands in stark contrast to the rugged, heavily eroded mountains typical of the Tertiary volcanic regions around it,” he said.
That discovery sparked several years of research by Hilman Natawidjaja, who brought together multidisciplinary researchers to use ground-penetrating radar and 2D electrical resistivity tomography to investigate the site. By 2014, the team knew they had a big discovery on their hands.
From the inside out, Gunung Padang is built in four parts. The first and oldest is in the middle, a natural hill of lava from an extinct volcano, carved by humans into a pyramidal shape. The next part is made of coarse sands and pillar-like structures, followed by another layer of columnar stones, and finally the megalithic stones of the upper layer, all well placed and placed on the hand.
The published paper is the first full discussion of their findings, and it includes details surrounding the exact method they used to date the pyramid sections they discovered.
“We are hopeful that our findings will encourage further geo-archaeological studies, as we know of many other large, ancient structural treasures in Indonesia and around the world that remain unexplored and there is no date in geochronological methods,” said Hilman Natawidjaja. “Surprisingly, even Indonesia’s most famous ancient sites, including the iconic Borobudur temple, lack precise dating.”
He also hopes that new exploration methods—radar and tomography, as well as a multidisciplinary approach by many scientists—can help to accurately date other ancient structures, such as the moai of Easter Island and Nan Madol complex in Micronesia.
“Despite the human quest to uncover the mysteries of the universe and search for extraterrestrial life, we must not forget the equally compelling and profound journey to understand our own history,” said Hilman Natawidjaja. “Much remains unknown and unexplored, waiting for us to discover its secrets.”
That all said, the paper still caused some controversy in the scientific community, some of them called for more research than has been done to fully verify the claims.
“The dates are somewhat controversial but seem solid,” said Dan Joyce, Director Emeritus and Archaeologist at the Kenosha Museum Campus in Wisconsin. “To better understand … the age of the site, independent investigations are needed that focus on radiocarbon dates and repeat the results. Extraordinary claims require unique, replicable evidence.”
For his part, Hilman Natawidjaja embraced the controversy.
“We fully expect that the results of our study will answer doubts and questions from scientists and scholars around the world,” he said. “However, we welcome the opportunity to engage in discussions and further studies… Our pursuit of knowledge should lead to enlightenment and unity, not division.”