Traces of a civilization estimated to be older than those that built the Egyptians pyramids have been uncovered by the National Team for the Preservation and Management of Gunung Padang Site in Karyamukti subdistrict, Campaka district, Cianjur regency, West Java. The finding was revealed during the visit of Education and Culture Minister M. Nuh to the megalithic site on Wednesday.
Danny Hilman, a team member, said that traces of a civilization from 5,200 BC had been found as the team was excavating to a depth of 4 meters. Previously, at 0.5 meters, the team found traces of a civilization from as far back as 500 BC.
Danny said the claim was based on the results of carbon testing on samples the team had sent to the National Atomic Agency laboratory and the Beta Lab in Florida, the US.
"We need more drill data to make sure of the evidence," said Danny, who also works at the Geotechnology Research Center of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
During the visit, the team also showed a coin 170 millimeters in diameter, found recently at a depth of 11 meters, apart from previous findings, which included fragments of ceramics, earthenware, metal, rock, artifacts and coins. "We found this [coin] on Sept. 14," said team member, archeologist Ali Akbar of the University of Indonesia.
The coin was described as being 1.5 mm thick with 84 circles of 0.3 mm diameter inside its inner circle. It was considered unique because it depicted a motif resembling a gate on its outer circle.
"There is a figure of a man in the middle of it," Nuh said.
Ali said the team had decided not to publish the finding to avoid possible controversy. He also expressed confidence that the coin was from a high-technology civilization that had once existed at the site.
Gunung Padang is a giant megalithic structure considered the biggest in Indonesia. Dutch researcher NJ Krom once noted finding the site in 1914. Three farmers rediscovered it in 1979, covered in bushes.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and their two sons visited the site in February this year after hearing a briefing from presidential expert Andi Arief, who was overseeing social affairs and natural disasters.
Andi and an independent research team initially worked at the site believing it could reveal the nation's past civilizations.
Separately, Nuh expressed support for the research currently being conducted by the national team for the preservation and management of the Gunung Padang site, arguing that it was in accordance with national policy.
"As long as it can be academically proven that we had a civilization of high value in the past, we will fund it, no matter how much," said Nuh.
He said funds would be taken from the ministry's endowment fund, currently worth Rp 24 trillion (S$2.53 billion).
Nuh said the fund's interest had been used for scholarship programs, national policy research and the rehabilitation of schools damaged by natural disasters. "It has nothing to do with the state budget," he said.
The team aims to satisfy the people's curiosity about the site by Oct. 20, at which time President Yudhoyono is expected to revisit the site.
A helipad is being prepared on the north part of the site. "This [helipad] is for logistic reasons because the area is located in the hills," said Ali, denying accusations that the excavation was undertaken to seek hidden treasures.