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Long-hidden ‘pyramid’ in Indonesia was probably an ancient temple

Located on top of Mount Padang in West Java, the structure is crowned by an archaeological site that is in the possession of rows of old stone pillars.
(Danny Hilman Natawidjaja)

WASHINGTON — A huge pyramid-like structure in Indonesia that may be the remains of an ancient temple hidden underground for thousands of years.

Scientists presented evidence of the remarkable construction Dec. 12 here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Located on top of Mount Padang in West Java, the structure is crowned by an archaeological site that was discovered in the beginning of the 19th century and has rows of old stone pillars. But the slanted slope below is not part of the natural, rocky landscape; it was crafted by human hands, scientists have discovered. [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

“What is seen as only the surface of the building, it’s going down — and it is a huge structure,” says Andang Bachtiar, an independent geologist from Indonesia, which is under the supervision of core drilling and soil analysis for the project.

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Although the buried structure may superficially resembles a pyramid, it is different from similar pyramids built by the Mayans, Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, the lead project researcher and senior scientist with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told Science. While Mayan pyramids tend to be symmetrical, this structure is elongated, with what looks like a half circle on the front.

“It is a unique temple,” Natawidjaja said.

He and his colleagues suspect that the exposed megalith perhaps more than it seemed, because some partially exposed features in the existing archaeological site, which didn’t quite match the standing stones. The “peculiar” shape of the hill was also out of the landscape, ” he said.

“It’s not like the surrounding topography is highly eroded. This looks very young. It looked artificial to us,” Natawidjaja explained.

Using a range of techniques to peer underground — including ground-penetrating radar surveys, X-ray tomography, 2D-and 3D-imaging, drilling, and excavations, the researchers gradually discovered different layers of a good structure. It is spread over an area of approximately 15 hectares (150,000 square meters) and was built up over millennia, with layers of different periods.

On the top were the columns of basalt rocks framing step terraces, with other arrangements of rock columns, “the formation of walls, paths and parking areas,” the scientists reported at the AGU. They estimated this layer to be approximately 3,000 to 3,500 years old.

Under the surface, to a depth of approximately 10 ft (3 m), a second layer of the rock columns, thought to be 7,500 to 8,300 years old. And a third layer, the extension of a 49 foot (15 m) below the surface, is more than 9,000 years old; it may even date to 28,000 years ago, according to the researchers. Their studies also detected several rooms underground, Natawidjaja added.

Today, the locals still use the area at the top of the structure as a holy destination for prayer and meditation, and this would also be how it was used thousands of years ago, Natawidjaja said.

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Original article on Live Science.

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