Geology (Astiti/Dariusman, 2005)

In 2005, Ni Komang Astiti & Dariusman Abdillah published an article on the temples of Nusa Penida in connection to their natural surroundings. For the entire Indonesian article, click here. Below you'll find the English translation on Nusa Penida geology with special reference to religious ceremonies by Godi Dijkman, including additional comments in square brackets.


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Images above (44-45): Quarry of first-class limestone at Tinggian, Batununggal; One of the locations of stonemasons and producers of 'bata cetakan' of first-class material at Jurangpahit, Kutampi

Nusa Penida is one of the islands in the direct vicinity of the Bali, and consists of hilly [conical] Karst landscape, with a highest elevation of 528 meter (Bukit Mundi). Based on the connections between the main river and its tributaries, rivers show parallel flowing patterns, i.e. the main river and its tributaries flow almost everywhere in a parallel fashion. Given the quantity of water running through these rivers, they may be categorised as episodic (ephemeral), i.e. a river which only flows during the rainy season. The lithology of this Karst island mainly shows coralline limestone. This soil (stone) type may be classified as part of the Southern Formation dating back to the Late Miocene [10.4 - 5 million years ago] and correlates with the Blambangan formation in Southeast Java. Lithology in the form of alluvium [?] only occurs along the north coast near the village of Kutampi and Batununggal, the administrative capital of the district of Nusa Penida.

The soil in Nusa Penida generally consists of weathered limestone. This process here is indicated with the term 'chemical weathering', with rainwater as its agent. The only source of this soil is limestone. Small coralline limestone slabs are used as basic material to construct foundations for terraced agricultural fields, but also for the construction of walls around houses, the foundations of houses and other types of buildings. Limestone collected from the slopes of valleys in the hilly Nusa Penida terrain, however, are used for the construction of houses (generally carved into bricks), statues and as basic material for bricks (softer types of limestone).

Analysis results of rock and soil

Small stone samples were analysed, which according to us are representative for the material of stone artefacts used during religious activities in Nusa Penida. These analyses were performed at macro and physical level. Materials used for artefacts were analysed directly on the location ['in situ'] where they were found. The reason for this is that these stone artefacts simply could not be moved, or - in some cases - were not allowed to be taken away by the population or the temple priest. In the case of small samples that could be moved, analysis was performed in the 'Artefact & Ecofact laboratory in Jakarta (Asdep Urusan Arkeologi Nasional Jakarta).

Table 1. Analysis results of stone and soil samples from Nusa Penida

Nr. Sample Found at Analysis result Remarks
1 Rock leftovers of statues and adorned stones Jurangpahit, Kutampi Limestone: white, carbonates (kabonatan), compact but still carvable This rock is categorised as first-class material originating from Tinggian, Batununggal
2 Rock form quarries Roadside to Tulad, Batukandik Limestone: yellowish-white, carbonates (kabonatan), rather brittle This rock is categorised as inferior, only used for bricks (batako)
3 Rock used as basic material for pedestals/fundaments (umpak) and statues from Pura Mastulan Pura Mastulan, Jurangpahit, Kutampi Sandstone (local name: batu padas) greyish, sandish with various fragments of about 1 cm. Origin of this rock material is not Nusa Penida, but widespread in mainland Bali
4 Basic material for menhirs, at Pura Merajan Pura Merajan, dusun Bayuh, banjar Maos, desa Kutampi Coralline limestone: impure yellowish-white, full of holes, massive Analysis 'in situ' or at the temple, this type of material is found everywhere on the surface, especially in areas with steep hillsides along the coast. Not easy to carve.
5 Rock found on the slopes of the hills around Gua Putri Gua Putri Hill, Karangsari, Suana Coralline limestone: fresh yellowish-white or impure 'Avama' weathered yellowish-brown. Compact Analysis directly on location, soil type is the same as basic material around Pura Puncak Mundi
6 Soil Agricultural field near Pura Puser Saab, Dahan, Batumadeg Blackish-brown, humidity 40%, pH 6 (normal) Fertile soil, suitable for agriculture
7 Soil Fields around Gua Putri, Karangsari, Suana Blackish-brown, humidity 40%. pH 7 (normal) Soil is the result of weathered rock (chemical weathering)

Material source

Analysis of a number of rock samples shows correlation to information obtained from stonemasons in Nusa Penida. This way, it became apparent that the type of rock used by the inhabitants for statues and building material for temples or as basic material for the construction of bricks (batako) comes in various categories. For the construction of statues or buildings as gates (gapura) or Padmasana, first-quality limestone is used originally from Nusa Penida. However, limestone of inferior class, generally of yellowish hue, is used for the production of bricks (batako). First-class construction material, or material used for statues and other sacred objects, is taken from the settlement of Tinggian, Batununggal. In order to produce bricks (batako), however, one of the sources is at the settlement of Tulad, Batukandik. The exploitation at quarries of limestone continues to this date.

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Images above (46&47): Limestone quarry where inferior class limestone is found, used for the production of bricks (batako) at Tulad, Batukandik

The source of raw material used for menhirs and artefacts at Pura Merajan, menhirs and flat stone slabs at Pura Meranting, made of limestone, are all found in the direct vicinity of the respective temples, and the form of the rock is chosen according to what is needed. For religious purposes in Nusa Penida, as of old, clay has been used for containers, especially for containers of sacred water and offerings such as seeds (biji-bijian) and incense, but at the time of present research these earthenware fragments were no longer there. According to inhabitants, Klumpu area was formerly the centre of clay container production and afterwards this changed and became a place where roof tiles (genteng) were produced. Due to intense exploitation of the soil, the source of the material to make earthenware has dried up. Clay containers (kendi) are, however, still used by Nusa Penida inhabitants as objects for religious ceremonies, i.e. containers for sacred water and seeds (biji-bijian). Currently, earthenware is imported from outside of Nusa Penida, from Denpasar or Klungkung.



  • Astiti, Ni Komang Ayu - & Abdillah, Dariusman - Pemanfaatan Sumber Daya Alam untuk Mendukung Kegiatan Religi dari Manusia Prasejarah di Pulau Nusa Penida, Kabupaten Klungkung, Provinsi Bali, Laporan Penelitian Subbid. Laboratorium Artefak dan Ekofak, Bidang Arkeologi Sejarah dan Arkeometri; Jakarta 2005, 43pp.

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