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Bali Prehistoric and Culture

11 April 2009

The fame of Bali today is really due to the continuity in changes of the social and culture life of society, which could be traced back to its ancient history, particularly during the Hinduism influences. This assumption proposed by historians is not quite right, although based on some historic reasons, but seemed to be not fair, because they only considered the historic sources namely the written records e.g. inscriptions. As it is known already that ancient inscriptions found in Bali were originated from C.9th century A.D. Written on the clay seals of Pejeng and then Hinduism was widely spread in Bali. We are very lucky that Hinduism is till retained in Bali until now.

Learning the history of Balinese society on the ground as mentioned above, it would not cover their history before the art of writing was invented. Thought this way, the history of Balinese society would be uncompleted, because their prehistoric life was left behind. During the prehistoric period although they were illiterate, but the have built up their culture after a very long struggled against their environment. This prehistoric culture could be regarded also as historic evidence in a very broad meaning. In this case it is important to remember that after mastering the art of writing, the Indonesian people not written all of their culture, but extremely in contrary they have built a number of written culture e.g. temples and statues.

Prehistoric Bali; the highlights
Before the arrival of the Indian people who introduced the art of writing, the Indonesian people in general and the Balinese people in particular were literate as generally happened to the other people. Although they were literate, but they have struggled against the nature for living and then built up the culture, which we called prehistoric culture. The Balinese people also have their prehistoric culture, which indicated their relationship to the people who live in Sumba, Java, Sulawesi and others, even to the South — East Asian people.

The very old stone implements found in Bali indicated that the people moved from one place to another for hunting and food gathering. These implements showed a similarity to those found in Pacitan, East Java. After a very long struggled then they achieved stone technology for producing a number picked adzes, rectangular adzes etc. Unfortunately these artifacts were not found during the excavation, but collected by the local people who did not cared about the environment and other information. Probably these implements were used for agriculture activities although in a very simple way. It is assumed that the people have started to settle in a small groups and elected the elder become their leader. This social condition has laid the early foundation for further development. Based on the evidence found in Bali in connection with those found in others Indonesian islands, probably it could be assumed that the very early for the Balinese culture have been built during the agricultural stage.

During the agricultural stage, the megalithic tradition was increased not only in Bali, but also in the whole of Indonesia archipelago. Prehistoric research in Bali have found more than hundreds sarcophagi, which was classifies by Soejono in the three types namely the large, the medium and the small one. Among them have important features such as the knobs bearing human-masks, which are regarded as symbol of ancestor who posses magic power for protecting the living society (p1.1). Probably this art was the origin of the later carving art which developed during the Hinduism influences and continued until today (Sutaba, 1986:293-308). Magic could be regarded as the main essence of the oldest Balinese carving art, which become solid basis of the later arts form after the arrival of Hinduism. The magic art not only found in Bali, but also in other Indonesian archipelago; generally looked very simple, because the aesthetic values is not the main points.

Other remains of the megalithic tradition in Bali are menhirs, stone seats, ancestral images, stepped pyramids, which were found in Sembiran Tenganan Pengringsingan, Basangalas, Gelgel, Pejeng, Manuaba, Bedulu, Bengkel Anyar, Kalembang, Amyarsari, Melaya and at many other places. Most of them are regarded as sacred monuments, except of sarcophagi, and a small number of stone seats. Until present day the living megalithic tradition is very important to the Balinese people for maintaining their relationship between the living society and the here after of which strong influences have made the tradition continued and retained through the Hinduism period, although changes and further developments have happened. The facts indicated the megalithic tradition have found the social cultural basis in Indonesia.

Meanwhile further research on the living megalithic tradition in Bali is still ongoing, but the evidence, which have been found, indicated that the ancestral images and the stone seats are the outstanding elements. There are 134 ancestral images preserved in the village of Depa, Poh Asem (Buleleng); Penguyangan (Badung); Keramas, Celuk (Gianyar); Gelgel (Klungkung); Banjar Kawan (Bangli) dan Manggis (Karangasem) etc. Most of them are preserved in the village temples and clan temples as sacred relicts for the welfare of the local people except those found in Depaa and Poh Asem. It is important to note here that nearly all of them were found along with the megalithic remains and some of them are living megalithic tradition. Only a very few of them were found nearby the sarcophagi, which showed its relationship to the ancestor worship. Generally the above mentioned ancestral images have the same characters e.g. carved in the very simple way, anatomically not proportional, rounded eyes and beard the genitals (males and females), symbolizing the ancestor’s spirit, which demonstrated the magic power.

Discussing the ancestral statues and the other megalithic remains as well, there are some questions e.g. its typology, diffusion, background, even its functions and roles in the contemporary life in Bali. So far the present writer have tried to classify them according to their functions as follows: For the successful of the people’s agriculture to save the fertility of the land; For the animals e.g. buffaloes, cows, which used for the agricultural activities; For the couples who want to have baby after being long married; For celebrating something they want in daily life.

A number of stone seats were found in the villages of Gelgel, Tojan, Kamasan, and Sampala (Klungkung), but not use any more as holy relicts (P1. 3). It is remarkable that the other megalithic remains in Gelgel and its surrounding villages are regarded as sacred monuments e.g. menhirs, stone heaps etc. we are very lucky that another sacred stone seats were found in the villages of Kalembang, Bengkel Anyar (Tabanan) and Basangalas (Karangasem). As sacred monuments, almost all of them were built in the village temples and clan temples and worshipped by the local people for maintaining their welfare. The facts inform us that the sacred stone seats and the ancestral images have an important roles and functions in the contemporary life of the Balinese society.

While the megalithic tradition went deeply into the inner life of the people, the new and highly developed technology of metallurgy was invented. Mastering the high technology people produced several kind of bronze goods e.g. the bronze kettledrum, shovels, axes, bracelets etc. there are five drum kettledrums found in Bali and among them, the well known is ‘Bulan Pejeng” (Moon of Pejenga), a huge exemplar which until now is worship by the local people in Pura Penataran Sasih, Pejeng (Sasih, Moon). Other such as shovels, axes, rings, bracelets, were generally found in sarcophagi as funeral gifts e.g. in Cacang, Pujungan etc. as well as in burial site at Gilimanuk West Bali. Probably Gilimanuk not only a burial site, but also a settlement site. Here hundreds of human bones, urns, bronze, goods were found and some of them were used as funeral gifts. This site shows a relationship of the Balinese people to those of West Java, eastern Indonesian island and to those of Southeast Asian people.

Its is very important to note here that 5 fragments of stone moulds were found in Manuaba, North — west of Pejeng. The fragments beared human masks decoration which have a remarkable similarities to those of Bulan Pejeng but there are of small size. Another bronze moulds made of clay were also found in West Java, not for producing kettledrums, but for making spearheads, axes etc. Based on these facts and regarding a great number of several bronze goods found in Bali, could be conclude that a local megalithic industry has developed in Bali around the first Christian area. The idea is proved also by specific characteristic of bronze good in Bali namely the huge; Bulan Pejeng”, axes, and shoves. Here facts demonstrate the proper role of the so-called local genius” of the ancient Balinese people. In that day, the ancient Balinese people have developed technology of metallurgy. It is very clear that only a well developed society could reach a great achievements Belief in ancestral spirit has given certain effects to the development of technology and art. After a long struggle of life the ancient Balinese people have successfully demonstrated the highlights in their culture, which become the sources and nucleus of contemporary Balinese art. Now it should be very clear also that before the coming of Hinduism and Buddhism, the Balinese people have their own indigenous culture as the strong basis for further development, especially when the Indian brought the art for writing.

Some Notes
After discussing the prehistoric life when the Balinese society facing the history approximately nearly the beginning of Christian era, it is known now that the Balinese society have built up their well-developed social and culture life. It is important to note here that they have achieved their highlights and by this success, the Balinese society has already their basis for further development, which entirely depend upon each other’s. Their highlights are: a). mastering the advanced technology especially the metallic technology bearded the Balinese characters, then have increased the development of human resources e.g. skilled worker. Further development could be seen later when the local people have to build the temples after the influences of Hinduism. The people needed a number of skilled workers such as architects, artists, etc.; b). The social system that have made of kind of social organization headed by the elected elder. When the leader died, the people worshiped their spirit and based ,.fl this conception under the influence of Hinduism, a sophisticated organization was come up. The people built their kingdom under the king, whose spirit was worshiped later on. c). The religious system which focused on worshipped the leaders or ancestor spirit then changed into the king spirit. This system also made a remarkable art development after inspired by Hinduism but any time the Balinese character still appeared.

Having a well condition, the Balinese society have own identify for facing the history after the Indian people introduced the art of writing. The Balinese have made the new influences become the new one in accordance with their characters. Hinduism is still retained until now and has made Bali well known to all over the world, although changes could not avoid, but an attractive continuity is more important. The arrival of Hinduism have brought a new era introduced the art of writing and then the oldest inscriptions were found near the village of Pejeng written on the clay stuphikas and seals bearing Buddhist formulas (c.9th A.D).

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