No one knew if there were megalithic remains uncovered yet in Indonesia. It was the case until the Archaeological Association of Papua and West Papua found a Megalithic site in Tutari Valley, Jayapura, Papua. The site comprises six sectors of megalithic tradition.
A megalithic tradition is a form of cultural practice characterized by the existence of monuments or structures arranged from large stones (megalith). This tradition was known in the development of human civilization in several places: the Middle East, Europe, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, up to Polynesia area.
The tradition is developed in the late Mesolithic, Neolithic, or Paleo Metal Age. In Indonesia, megalithic tradition seems to develop since Neolithic–Paleo Metal Age. The large stones were used as symbols of magical power or altar, ceremonial tools, and burial media. (https://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tradisi_megalitik)
Megalithic Culture in Tutari, West Papua
Head of Archaeological Association of Papua and West Papua Gusti Made Sudarmika stated that Tutari Megalithic Site is one of the important sites. It describes the existence of civilization in Papua since the prehistorical age. From the site, people can learn how skillful Papua people’s ancestors were and how they created things in the prehistoric age.
According to Sudarmika, the cultural potential of Tutari Megalithic Site is cultural symbols rich in values of life. Cultural value becomes the source of a nation’s character development. This value needs to be learned and understood by the Indonesian people.
Archaeological Association of Papua and West Papua categorized remains in Tutari Megalithic Site into 6 sectors based on the location of painting stones with varied motives.
Archaeology researcher Hari Suroto stated that the paintings were made by scratching peridotite stone on black stones. The black stones used as the painting media were called gabbro stones.
In sector 1, there are motives of fish and lizards. In sector 2, there are fish and geometric motives. Fish, lizard, geometric, and tortoise motives are seen in sector 3. Sector 4, meanwhile, exhibits fish, lizard, geometric, tortoise, human, and floral motives, as well as a motive of 18 circles connected with a line.
Suroto further explained that supernatural-entity stones are located in sector 4. Each of the stones resembles a head, neck, and body. The four stones represent four war chiefs of Ondoafi Uii Marweri – Ebe, Pangkatana, Wali, and Yopo – who defeated one of the West Papua tribes, Tutari. In sector 5, meanwhile, there are lining stones. The stones form two horizontal lines. The stones are believed to be a connecting way between the human and spirit worlds.
Lastly, sector 6 is located at the highest places. In prehistoric times, the highest place was believed to be the most sacred and holy. There are 110 standing stones supported with small oval stones of various sizes. The stones are believed to be the dwellings of prehistoric people’s ancestors.
In the sector, there are motives resembling human, half-man and half-fish, animal, plant, and cultural objects, like bangles, stone axes, and geometric motives, like circles and the sun. The motive of humans is related to figures or ancestors of Tutari tribe. The painting is believed to give protection and prosperity.
Half-man half-fish motive represents balance. Fish is closed to the life of Sentany people. Fish is believed to be ancestors and the source of life. The motive of animals represents balance as well. (https://kumparan.com/bumi-papua/inilah-6-sektor-peninggalan-situs-megalitik-tutari-di-papua-1sHcSHcjkTH/full)
Stories and Preservation
Believe it or not, there is a mystical story surrounding the remains. Archaeology researcher of Papua and West Papua Hari Suroto recalled that, in the 1990s, there was an attempt to move one menhir out from Tutary Valey. He stated that the transfer location was in Jakarta. After arriving in Jakarta, the menhir was not found. When searched back to Jayapura, the very menhir was in its original place.
People in Doyo Lama regarded the returning menhir as the most special one. They believe that whoever can lift the menhir and it feels light, then his/her wishes will be granted. If the menhir is heavy, then the otherwise happens. But, Suroto does not recommend doing any of those acts to keep the site’s sustainability. (http://beritamalut.co/2020/11/30/kisah-unik-menhir-situs-megalitik-tutari-papua-dibawa-ke-jakarta-balik-sendiri/)
An attempt to preserve the site was also carried out by Borobudur Writers & Cultural Festival (BWCF). The 2021 event was wrapped up in the form of a virtual festival. The site was exhibited in the 2021 BWCF webinar delivered by West Papua researcher Suroto with Tutari Megalithic Motive Preservation in the Concept of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
In the webinar, Suroto argued that the site should be preserved. One way is to live it in the art of Sentani nowadays, including Abar earthenware, Asei wood paintings, wood crafts, and other contemporary arts. (http://www.nabire.net/situs-megalitik-tutari-akan-ditampilkan-di-bwcf-2021/)
Also read: Papua’s Historical Sites You Should Visit
Besides Tutari, a team of researchers from the Archeologic Association of Papua and West Papua found two megalithic statues. Those statues were 1-meter high with 50 and 60 kg of weight. Based on their studies, the sites had been inhabited since 3,780 BP. Thus, it can be concluded that the land had had a remarkable culture in the Neolithic era.