The Sangiran Early Man Site may not be as popular a destination as its neighboring world heritage sites Prambanan and Borobudur. Nevertheless, it is a well-maintained museum of great importance worthy of a visit.
First, let’s clarify something: in reality, the Java Man that we read in our history textbooks is not a just single man; it refers to a collection of several hominid fossils across different periods in pre-history. So, technically, they are the Java men! 🙂
From Solo (Surakarta), my friends drove me to the site on a motorbike. Despite summer heat, the 45-minute journey to the countryside was pleasant, providing a good survey of beautiful traditional Central Javanese houses. Upon approaching Sangiran, one cannot fail to notice the plethora of billboards and signage promoting the “Homeland of the Java Man“. Such local efforts are, of course, truly admirable.
The site is divided into two areas: the museum and the view-deck atop a nearby hill. I managed to see both, but the latter was a bit disappointing as it fails to pinpoint the perimeter of the site. Amidst endless trees, you can actually spot the dome of the museum and that’s just it.
The museum’s three exhibition halls are presented in a way that would make visitors really get hooked on what are being highlighted. Afterall, Sangiran is just the most productive site in the world in understanding human evolution.
The first hall illustrates the “Wealth of Sangiran” with some of the findings uncovered such as stone tools, ancient animal fossils, and various early hominid remains – some are estimated to be 1.6 million years old. The second hall is the “Steps of Humanity”, which interweaves mainstream biological and evolutionary theories. This hall also highlights the roles played by Dutchman Eugene Dubois and German GHR von Königswald in unearthing the treasures of the site. Interestingly, the second hall also allows visitors to touch the fossils of a 500,000-year old elephant – and, boy, they were really heavy! The last hall representing the “Golden Era of Homo Erectus”, sadly, has lesser articles on display.
The main problem, however, is that most captions and verbiages are only in Bahasa Indonesia, which was a bit frustrating on my part as I ‘really’ read stuff. For a site/tourist destination of global importance, I think it is imperative to provide English texts/translations for others to understand what the featured items inside the museum are.
Also, I’m not quite sure if the management has plans to open some of the dig sites for ocular visits. But, looking at the potential of the site, this should be one feature worth considering for Sangiran. In fact, Malaysia’s Lenggong Valley World Heritage Site, the home of the “Perak Man“, is gearing towards highlighting their ‘in situ’ digs for tourism as well.
Lastly, to my surprise, the present museum dome is actually designed by the grandfather of a friend of mine from Jogjakarta – which is, of course, another reason to celebrate the visit.
- Fossils Shed Light on Sangiran Hunters (thejakartaglobe.com)