Friday, February 13, 2009

Java Jamboree: Skeletons in the Museum

Our guide in Jakarta was a thin, young man with a quiet demeanour. He said he was of Chinese ancestry, but except for his fair complexion, he didn't really look like he had genes from the Far East and then, like many Chinese in Jakarta(or so I heard) , he could not even speak a word of Chinese. But never mind all that. Immediately after picking us up at Hotel Bulevar, our guide took us to Museum Nasional Indonesia, that is the National Museum of Indonesia otherwise known as Museum Gajah or Gedung Arca on the western side of Merdeka Square.The Museum which was officially opened in 1868 became known as Gedung Gajah or Elephant House because of the bronze elephant statue in the front yard which was donated by Thailand's King Chulalongkorn. Many statues from different periods are on display here and it was therefore also called Gedung Arca.Many of these statues were from the Hindu-Javanese periods and the really interesting stone pieces were salvaged from Central Javanese and other temples.Indeed, the museum as touted, is the best of its kind in Indonesia and one of the finest in Southeast Asia, if not the finest in the world. Certain part of the museum reminded me of the musée du Louvre in Paris, France and I would vouch that it could hold a candle to the Paris museum even if there was no Mona Lisa among its exhibit. The museum has an enormous collection of cultural objects of the various ethnic groups around the country such as costumes, musical instruments, model houses and a superb display of Chinese ceramics dating back to the Han dynasty (300 BC to AD 220) but it was the ancient fossils that made it stood out. Don't miss the first known specimens of Homo erectus, the Java Man- the fossils discovered by a Dutch anatomist, Marie Eugène François Thomas Dubois in 1891 at Trinil on the banks of Bengawan Solo River in East Java and the Man of Flores which has been nicknamed Hobbit. The latter which has been discovered in Liang Bua Cave in Flores Island by anthropologists Peter Brown, Michael Morwood and their colleagues is a possible species in the genus Homo and is remarkable for its small body and brain...

At the National Museum of Indonesia...

Travel Tip: Look for skeletons in the closet!

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