(Originally written for my other blog indohoy.com which exists no more, 2016)
I was riding in a cab in the midst of Jakarta skyscraper jungle and suddenly a question popped up in my mind. “What if one day Jakarta becomes a buried city? How long would it take to dig the dirt and uncover all the buildings?” This thought didn’t come out of nowhere. I was looking up the buildings after posting a photo on Instagram from my recent visit to Liyangan, a buried ancient city located in Central Java.
Liyangan, or sometimes spelled Liangan, is barely known by Indonesians. I first heard about it only a few months before our trip, and decided to join the tour because it was going to be guided by an archeologist, Sugeng Riyanto. Pak Sugeng, who is also the head of the Liyangan excavation project, explained so many things about the site, gathered since the project started in 2008. Until November 2016, when we visited, they had excavated a land 3 hectares wide and 7 meters deep. According to Pak Sugeng that is a fast progress. “We’ve got much help from the sand miners who first found the ruins and then helped digging along the way,” he said.
“We estimate that there’s still 7 meters deep more of this whole civilization,” Pak Sugeng said, referring to the the 7-meter tall wall in front of us, that was also a result of excavation. He also said that his team predicted (or concluded) that Liyangan site had existed before the people had come in touch with Hinduism. It came along with trade with other peoples, which how most religions came to Indonesia. That eventually affected the design modification of some of the buildings.
Buried ancient cities amaze me. It’s hard to imagine there used to be a whole lot of life deep beneath where you walk, sleep, eat and poo (living in a high-rise building doesn’t count because you can still see the life beneath you). And it’s also amazing how archeologists and those involved in the excavation do their magic to find out what used to be centuries ago. It’s being exposed to sites like this that makes me feel small, that what I know is really nothing compared to what’s been done even since centuries or millenniums ago.