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Uncovering Bali's Ancient Past

2,500 Year Old Stone Sarcophagus Discovered in Gianyar.

(1/19/2009) The discovery of a stone sarcophagus in the village of Keramas in the sub-district of Blahbatuh, Gianyar on January 12, 2009, provides further evidence of existence of advanced cultural settlements of Bali dating back at least 2,500 to 3,000 years.

Shaped out of two piece of stone to resemble a turtle (not shown), the important archeological discovery has a length of 1.5 meters, a width of 1 meter and a depth of 2.5 meters. When discovered the stone vessel contained a large quantity of human bone fragments.

The sarcophagus was uncovered by two local men who were quarrying for building stones at a depth of around 3 meters. Once the workmen knew that their discovery was not a large stone, but an artifact with historical significance, they contacted the local village chief and the nearest police stations who quickly cordoned off the site while waiting for representatives of the government archaeology department to arrive on the scene.

Later, the Chief of the Archeology Department of Denpasar, I Wayan Suantika, confirmed an estimated age of between 2,500-3,000 years for the sarcophagus. A preliminary examination of the human bone fragments suggest an age dating from 300 and 500 B.C.E..

Suantika told NusaBali that such elaborate burial vessels were traditionally reserved for religious or traditional leaders. The sarcophagus in the shape of a turtle and, according to Suantika, includes stone handles to permit transport of the coffin to the burial site. The shape of a turtle reflects a belief that the animal depicted would deliver the deceased to a final resting place.

According to Suantika, this is one of 12 sarcophagi discovered in the Keramas area of Bali.