The Ijen Dam: A collection of stones

‘3,000 Years of History Are Literally Just Beneath Our Feet’

by Paul Karpf

March 27, 2016

This post was originally published on March 21, 2016 as 3,000 Years of History Are Literally Just Beneath Our Feet.

On a recent morning in the village of Uppugaj, at the confluence of the Kumano River and the Hali River in the town of Yogyakarta, I was greeted by an extraordinary sight: a collection of roughly 30,000 stones. This is not just any collection of stones: it is an extraordinary collection of stones that was gathered in the course of a century by the Indonesian government during the construction of a massive dam on the Kumano River.

The government, which is now under the control of Suharto’s Joko Widodo, has been building this dam, known as the Ijen Dam, since the late 1960s. After years of preparation, excavation began in the area in 2004. Excavation for this dam began in 2006. The excavation has been going for roughly 30 years now.

When I was in the area in 2004, I didn’t know about this collection of stones. At the time, I had no idea what the stones were for, and was not even allowed to enter the site to see the stones (I was told that we could see them if we went there, but I was not allowed to go there until the excavation had been almost finished).

I first heard about this collection of stones when I was invited by the Joko Widodo Foundation in 2012 to participate in an event held in Yogyakarta. At a press conference held at the Joko Widodo Foundation, Yogyakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, the Chairman of the Board of Control for Radio and Television of Indonesia (KNTV), and other officials, who were also present, announced the collection. Baswedan said that this collection of stones was a great example of the collaboration that existed among the people of Yogyakarta and the government of Indonesia when it comes to construction of any kind, and that it

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