Bada Valley: the “xenomorphic” megaliths in the jungle

We visited the island of Sulawesi, in the Indonesian archipelago, and ventured into the rainforest of Lore Lindu in search of the mysterious Patung, megalithic sculptures of only partly anthropomorphic aspect which constitute for archaeologists (but also for natives) a real enigma. Taking into account the various hypotheses regarding the cults of ancestors, those of fertility and supposed human sacrifices, we will try to connect them in a framework as coherent as possible.

di Marco Maculotti

There are archaeological sites on our planet that, although until a few decades ago they were rather complicated to reach, nowadays they can be easily visited with a comfortable and expensive travel package. One of these is the citadel of Machu Picchu, already abandoned at the time of the Incas, which stands on a hill four thousand meters above the sea level; the inaccessible location of the site makes clear the sacramental center character of the megalithic complex in the pre-Inca era. Yet, nowadays Machu Picchu can be easily reached by train or bus, provided you are willing to spend an exorbitant sum and to abdicate the sacred pleasure of 'pilgrimage' that should at least accompany this type of archeotourism.

A Bada Valley Patung seen from behind. All the photos in this reportage are the property of the author.

A completely different speech must be made for the megalithic site of the Bada Valley, located in Central Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tenggara), in the Indonesian archipelago, to whom this is dedicated report. To reach it from Palu it takes four hours by road to get to the southern Kulawi region, then from there it takes another five hours to cross the dense jungle that surrounds the valley of megaliths by motocross, making the site in question a popular destination only for a small niche of people, mostly passionate about mysterious archeology and esoteric history of the human race, obviously including some supporters of the "Ancient Astronauts" hypothesis [1].

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

It is therefore necessary to say goodbye in advance for a few days to all sorts of comforts if you want to visit the inexplicables firsthand. Statue, megalithic sculptures of (more or less) anthropomorphic aspect, disorderly scattered in the plain of Bada, within the Lore Lindu National Park. Getting there was only possible by hiring a skilled motorcyclist nicknamed Valentino by virtue of his unbridled passion for his Italian 'counterpart' Rossi (with the stickers he also covered his workshop with), whose appearance and attitude suggested the feeling of being in front of him a kind of Indonesian Tomas Milian.

The jungle that swallows much of the Lore Lindu (and which surrounds the valley of the megaliths in an inextricable way for anyone without an adequate bike) is characterized by an irregular geological conformation. The cemented streets that you take in the first place starting from the small villages of southern Kulawi soon give way to paths impossible to travel with an ordinary motorbike, which often lead into alleys no wider than a span, in the middle of the bare jungle, the which in turn often turn into streams of rainwater, by virtue of the high amount of precipitation that characterizes the area. Further on, in the short stretches in which the thick vegetation does not envelop the eye, the hairpin bends skirt the hill peaks: then it is possible to see, after hours of travel, the first crops in the jungle, rice fields and above all coffee and cocoa plantations, but also of cloves (used in Indonesia for the production of the characteristic cigarettes kretek).

Back again in the rain tangle, from time to time it is necessary to ford streams and real ones and, an even more complex maneuver, to tackle furrows filled with rainwater dug directly into the clay by the passage of the motorcycles of previous visitors, often uphill. The paths are also irregularly paved with rocks that dangerously emerge from the clayey soil, to the point that often, especially during the climbs, it is necessary for the guest to get off the vehicle and continue on foot for a few tens of meters, while the driver is he arranges in the most improbable maneuvers, sometimes trying to make the dammed vehicle advance with the most abrupt movements.

Crossing the virgin jungle it is impossible not to feel in one of Werner Herzog's films set to music by Popol Vuh, and not infrequently one gets the impression of following in the footsteps of Colonel Fawcett or other semi-legendary explorers of the past. The verses of insects and birds are a real cacophonic symphony which in some moments, reaching a paroxysmal crescendo, gives the idea of ​​a supernatural, almost demonic concert: then the wind seems to stop blowing and for a few moments on the forest an atmosphere of absolute stillness descends, as if time stopped for an instant to follow its regular course. Here, man is alone with himself in the midst of the most naked and inhospitable nature; any minor mistake or carelessness could be potentially fatal.

All this introduction, although perhaps not necessary for the purposes of the mythical and archaeological setting of the megalithic site of the Bada valley, However, it is useful to give the reader an idea of ​​how difficult this place is to reach: therefore, the naïve tourist, accustomed to the comforts of a travel agency and obsessed with the timetable, should not venture there. The time and energy to be spent in this enterprise (as well as the 'regular' setbacks always to be taken into account in these districts) are certainly not to be underestimated, and yet the lover of mysterious archeology will certainly not be disappointed by the recognition of these territories that are perhaps among those, in the whole Indonesian archipelago, to have been least affected by globalization.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Coming now to the more purely archaeological aspect of report, what exactly do we mean when we talk about the "megalithic site" of Bada Valley? More than a real site, we should speak of a very large area (which extends for tens if not hundreds of kilometers starting from its "epicenter", which we visited in person) affected by the discovery by the Dutch, at the beginning of the 900s of dozens and dozens of mostly granite-looking monolithic sculptures partially anthropomorphic, named by the locals of Bataic language (a dialect of the Maleo-Polynesian family) Statue o Watu, literally "rock, stone", o Ark, "statue". Over the decades it was understood that the area to be taken into consideration was much larger than initially thought (the sculptures were also found in the neighboring valleys of Napu and Besoa), to the point that we are now talking about the megaliths of the valley of Mind the hundreds.

Which ancient civilization had carved and disseminated them in that godforsaken territory was a real mystery for archaeologists and academics, and not even anthropological and ethnological research on the spot gave no result: enigmatic Statue there was no written memory and the only vague hints were conveyed by the folkloric oral tradition. In The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia (1918), WJ Perry, citing the studies of AC Kruyt, tried to show how the megaliths of Sulawesi were the product of a civilization very different from the native tribes that European explorers found: a sort of colonization that took place centuries if not millennia ago, which led to both central Sulawesi the megalithism that rice cultivation and irrigation practices [2]. GThe natives interviewed, for their part, did not know how to give useful information for the purpose of solving the mystery, limiting themselves to stating that they were unable to name the people who were the architects, since their own ancestors found them already scattered in this way when they settled in the valley in the middle of the jungle; it therefore seems legitimate to think about an unknown civilization that colonized the area centuries, if not millennia, before the present inhabitants.

Some testimonies seem to connect the enigmatic stone sculptures to ceremonial practices in vogue since time immemorial ascribable to the so-called "Cults of the Ancestors", and in addition to fertility cults, especially rice (numerous Statue they are actually located in the middle of the rice fields, although others are located on the hills or in the groves on the outskirts of the valley). The hypothesis of suppositions has even been mentioned human sacrifices in front of the statues, a hypothesis confirmed according to some by the fact that behind the Ark placed in a vertical position, singularly smooth oval-shaped rocks are often visible, which would therefore (it is believed) have constituted a sort of altar for sacrificial offerings to the "demon". In addition, there is even mention of some beliefs according to which i Statue would have the supernatural power to disappear overnight and magically appear in places other than where they were located: a rumor, this, which is found in other parts of the world, from our Alps to the British Isles, as we will have the opportunity to underline in the continuation of the report.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

READ MORE  The cosmological meaning of the laughter of the gods: on the myth of Baubò and its surroundings

Now, first of all it should be noted that, although ambiguous and apparently unrelated to each other, these hypotheses denote a common substratum: throughout Southeast Asia it can be traced a mythical-folkloric context that has to do with the Ancestors, the Rock and the Fertility of the fields (and especially rice fields). Roland B. Dixon reports the widespread belief in Northern Sulawesi that the first mythical beings arose from the crushing of a rock fallen from the sky [3]; belief that is also found among the Tonga and Samoans of Polynesia and Melanesia. But above all, it is believed that the spirits of the Ancestors, deceased ancestors and become tutelary deities of their respective clan-family nuclei, have the power to influence the crops: conferring abundant ones if revered in the way dictated by tradition, destroying them if such ritual measures are not been taken in a dutiful manner (we will have the opportunity to speak extensively about this in the future, dealing with the theme of funeral customs in southern Sulawesi and on the island of Sumba, in eastern Nusa Tunggara).

What should be noted here is that the custom of leaving (or entering) megalithic blocks in the cultivated fields in order to favor a better harvest it is found not only in Indonesia, but also in other parts of the Pacific: for example in New Caledonia and Rossell Island (eastern end of New Guinea), where the stones placed at the edge of the fields «have a kind of double existence… in another place it is a human being or rather the spirit of a god»; likewise in the New Hebrides, where large blocks of stone "are regarded as the bodily forms of ancestors" [4]And, even, similar beliefs are still found in notoriously monotheistic countries (which have nevertheless retained certain archaic residues), such as in Wales (Lewis Spence testified that when Welsh peasants try to remove the standing stones from their fields, sudden storms interrupt their work [5]), or as in Morocco, where Louis Charpentier in the 70s, stumbling upon a land strewn with boulders, he asked the owner why he did not clear them [6]:

«He looked at me as if Allah had denied me every light of intellect ... I did not know, therefore, that when Allah sent the water, that of the Sky and that of the Moon (the dew) were the stones to guard it, And that without stones his field would be as dry as the road? "

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

We also mentioned the hypothesis of the existence, in the remote past, of human sacrifices to Statue. Indeed, studying the traditions of many "primitive" peoples, it would seem that initially human victims were sacrificed to propitiate the harvest; the burial of the megaliths would then perhaps take the form of a more recent substitute practice. On the other hand, the ethnographic studies on the Indonesian area give us confirmation in this direction; WJ Perry, for example, recorded the historicity of the custom of human sacrifices celebrated in honor of the "Mother of Rice" (Rice-Mother) [7] among the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as among the Batta of Sumatra, the Kupang of Timor, the indigenous peoples of western Sumba and certain tribes of Borneo [8].

But, an even more important detail for our purposes report, he also reports oral traditions of human sacrifices to honor certain "sacred stones" collated right in central Sulawesi, precisely where the Bada Valley is located. It is also reported that the Toraja tribes of this area considered "headhunting" to be of primary importance (head hunting), which connected with agriculture: the possession of at least one head to be buried in the paddy field, at the time of sowing, was considered necessary to obtain a good harvest [9]. The need, felt by many "primitive" cultures (but not only), to ritually perform one or more human sacrifices to favor the growth of the crop has been gutted, without geographical limitations, by sir. James Frazer in his most substantial work, The Golden Bough (1922), from which, by way of example, we report in the notes (so as not to burden our relationship too much) some testimonies of these ritual customs of the American area [10], African and Southeast Asia [11].

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

That said, another note that we would like to underline concerns the fact that in the folkloric-legendary traditions of the most disparate areas (one could, for example, make the example of the Andean area, in the past widely discussed on our pages [12]) the term usually translated as "Ancestors" esoterically does not simply indicate the deceased ancestors, linking rather to the idea of ​​a civilization pre-human, previous to ours and now gone. The "Ante- born "(those who were "born before") denote in this sense the antediluvians, those "of the age before ours", a lineage forgotten in the history of the world officially accepted by academics but still very much alive in folkloric traditions.

The latter narrate their sudden disappearance by citing the catastrophic action of some ancient cataclysm, diluvial or other types (eg a "rain of fire" from the sky). These are mostly mythical characters and titanic who now distinguish themselves as cultural and civilizing heroes, now as giants cursed by divine forces by virtue of a "ritual flaw" that most of the time it has to do with unregulated habits, of a moral, sexual and alimentary nature (the topos of the cannibal giant, since the Polyphemus of the Homeric tradition).

In the Sulawesi area, local beliefs seem to lean more towards the second possibility: in fact, they claim that the statues are what remains of a cursed lineage that inhabited the area in ancient times, whose members were eventually turned into stone for their misdeeds (the "ritual flaw" above, a sort of hybris towards the supernal powers), condemned to dwell in Statue, in the deep solitude of the jungle, for eternity. Here too we can only underline the almost absolute concordance with various traditions, including the Andean one, according to which the giants of a bygone era were transformed into stone by the god Viracocha for their abominable behavior; but similar legends are found almost everywhere, from the Alps to the Mongol-Siberian area, right down to Australia.

READ MORE  Metamorphosis and ritual battles in the myth and folklore of the Eurasian populations

By way of example, a comparison with the British tradition falls flat here. Lewis Spence attested that in some parts of the British archipelago le standing stones they are considered "effigies" or "statues" of dead people, often buried beneath them. In Ireland and the Scottish Southern Highlands they are called Faro Breagach, that means "False men". On the Isle of Lewis it is said that these monoliths are men turned to stone by some spell, and they are also called "false men" (Fir Chreig). In addition, as previously mentioned with regard to the archaeological site under analysis here, also with regard to the British geographical area it is believed that some of these standing stones they may move at midnight, and even dance on certain special occasions [13].

Within the mythical traditions of the Bada Valley some of the Statue most well-known even have names and legends associated with them. The one called Tokala'ea according to local folklore he was a rapist, and the deep marks that can be seen in the rock are none other than the stab wounds that were inflicted on him before the final transformation into rock. Another one ArkCalled for the table, is said to have been a respected individual throughout the district ... before deceiving the harvest from his neighbors' rice fields.

Il Palindus, with its four and a half meters high, is the Statue more majestic and impressive than the Bada Valley. The style that distinguishes it is the same as the other humanoid sculptures of the site, but here it stands out above all the absolute flatness of the face, similar to that of a barn owl, which detaches it significantly from a mere anthropomorphic representation stricto sensu. The cyclopean stone block in which it was carved, for dMost - for further increase the enigma that has puzzled archaeologists for over a century  it comes from a type of rock that is not present in the valley: who brought it on the spot, how and in what epoch it represents a real mystery that opens shocking glimpses towards the most daring hypotheses, such as those of the so-called current of "Fantastic Realism" by Pauwels and Bergier [14].

The dating of the megaliths is, moreover, uncertain, not having the hypotheses of the experts for now led to any definitive answer. Some speak of an age of a thousand years, others of 3.400, still others of at least 5.000. There are those who relate them to the megalithic culture traceable to patches of patches in Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines and all of Indonesia (Timor, Sulawesi, Sumba, Java, Sumatra, etc.). THE Statue more 'characteristic' anthropomorphic, of which several morphologically similar specimens have been found, however, also recall anthropomorphic statues of distant cultures in space and time, such as those of Marquesas Islands in the Pacific and even more so that of pre-Columbian Saint Augustine, in present-day Colombia. Most people point out, in a more obvious way, their resemblance to i First of Easter Island, of equally enigmatic origin and use.

Another of the most unique megaliths of the Bada valley is the so named Chest, literally "Buffalo", also called "the Sarcophagus". Over three meters long, it is distinguished from the others by its characteristic of developing horizontally rather than vertically, as well as by the fact that its surface is propped up by spiral-shaped, circular and linear furrows that seem to recall the petroglyphic art of the Eurasian Paleolithic, but also and above all the equally mysterious Amazonian petroglyphs (the best known example of which is given by the gargantuan Painted Stone). Here it should be emphasized how the buffalo, in the Sulawesi tradition of which the Toraja people are still the greatest representative, and more generally of the Indonesian archipelago (e.g. on the island of Sumba) appears connected to the ritual context of fertility and even more to the cult of deceased ancestors, with attached tomb-funerary symbolism (as mentioned, we'll talk about it in future).

Yet, sometimes it is thought that the names given to the megaliths of the Bada valley now by Western archaeologists, now by the natives, have been given too arbitrarily: the case of Chest it is paradigmatic in this sense. Far from resembling a buffalo, both in the completely oval shape and above all in the anthropomorphic 'facial' features, the disconcerting being portrayed in the megalith seems to be more related to fish species (it cannot be excluded that it covered a ceremonial function in connection with the "groundwater", which was recognized as having the power to make rice crops plentiful). However, impossible for the subscstanding upright, finding him suddenly in front of me in the middle of the flooded rice fields, do not feel deeply the impression of being in the presence of an idol of Dagon, aquatic and abysmal deity of the terrifying Lovecraftian pantheon [15], inspired by the Mesopotamian-Canaanite god of fertility of the same name.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

A further singular fact that has put archaeologists in crisis is the total absence of tools to work the stone and the remains of ancient settlements throughout the valley. Hence the hypothesis (even more unacceptable for academics) that the processing of the megaliths took place in another place, and that these were then transported to the Bada valley only at a later time, by mysterious settlers who did not even bother. to settle continuously in the area. Although for the Statue more minutes you can perhaps formulate a hypothesis of this guise, in front of the larger statues one cannot but exclude a similar explanation, not to mention the gargantuan Palindo over four meters high!

Moreover, reaching the valley through the jungle, it can be seen how the granite boulders from which the sculptures may have been obtained, scattered in the pluvial tangle and often located near small rivers and streams, meet starting from at least forty-five minutes of travel (in motocross) from the valley itself; which equates to a much longer period of time on foot, since of course the mysterious colonists are supposed not to use any means of locomotion. This particular, in addition to the absolutely impervious nature of the paths to take to reach on the spot, makes the hypothesis of such "Miraculous transport" more problematic than anything else. It is also curious how some of these boulders scattered in the jungle of Lore Lindu have hollows which, although they can be considered of natural origin, sometimes give the idea, under particular light conditions, to have characteristics in common with the Statue erected in the valley. 

Unfortunately, the natives have not been able to provide me with explanations of any kind: it would certainly have been useful to learn the language language Indonesian, since of all the locals I met only one, owner of the only 'tourist lodge' in the valley, knew English. In his opinion, no dating can be ventured for the enigmatic megaliths, adding that, as far as he is concerned, they can even date back to 100.000 years ago! He claims that there is no such thing in all of Sulawesi and he ventures that, if he were to make a comparison with some other culture, he would think of the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mexico and South America.

READ MORE  The suffering of the earth: overpopulation and the myths of depopulation in India, Iran and Greece
Map of the Patungs and other megaliths in the Bada Valley, over a span of 30 km.

The map you see above was drawn by him and his wife, true fans of the mystery of Statue: following numerous reconnaissance, they proceeded to mark the points where the anthropomorphic statues and other megalithic constructions were found (kalamba, dolmens, etc.). Of all those identified, during my two-day trip, I personally had the opportunity to visit only those located in the real Bada Valley (you can see from the map how some megaliths are even 30 km away from the epicenter). Nonetheless, this map is of extreme interest since from its consultation it can be seen how the arrangement of Statue in the Bada Valley (i.e. those visited by the writer) you seem to follow slavishly and specularly the arrangement of the stars of the constellation Ursa Minor. Further mystery which is added to those already exposed.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

One last enigma, with which we end ours report, concerns those equally megalithic works scattered in the Bada Valley (and neighboring valleys, mentioned above), to which the natives give the name of kalamba. It is large circular stone urns, dug directly into the rock, whose diameter ranges from one meter to over 3 meters; the "lids" of some have also been found. Some archaeologists have hypothesized that these are tubs used by members of the aristocratic class of the ancient civilization (but which civilization they cannot say) for ablutions. In the writer's opinion, they could rather be seen as containers for the collection of rainwater for the purpose of a sacral function, having to do with the fertility of rice fields: like ai Statue he delegated the task of channel the «underground waters», at kalamba in all likelihood he assigned himself the task of collecting the supernal ones.

La kalamba viewed by me, located within a private land of local farmers, near the Statue named Both ("Ape"), it was of small size. However there are others, scattered in the neighboring valleys, much larger and finely decorated, sometimes with bas-reliefs of anthropomorphic faces in the same style as the Statue; also the respective "lids" [16] are embellished with the same relief decorations (a quick search on any search engine can easily make up for the lack of first-hand images, since I was not able to visit them in person). Having examined the decorations of the kalamba further away from the epicenter of the Bada valley, in no way can it be denied that both are the work of the same unknown civilization, nor can the ritual use be questioned conjunct of both. Which civilization it is, as has been said, and in what epoch they were used for ritual practices, remain the biggest unknowns.


PS - Thanks for making this reportage go to Gigi, with whom I toured Sulawesi (as well as a good part of the Indonesian archipelago), to Valentino for the running and adventure and to Thio for the logistical help.

IMG_8754 copy
The Author at the Bada Valley.


[1] See M. MARTINI, It is not terrestrial (and it does not claim to be), on AXIS mundi

[2] Cit. in WJ PERRY, The Children of the Sun. A Study in the Early History of Civilization, Methuen & Co., London 1923, p. 89

[3] RB DIXON, The mythology of all races. Vol. IX, Marshall Jones Company, Boston 1916, p. 158

[4] E. LEONARDI, The origins of man, Il Corbaccio, Milan 1937, p. 358

[5] L. SPENCE, British Fairy Origins, Watts & Co., London 1946, p. 182

[6] L. CHARPENTIER, The giants and the mystery of the origins, Editions The Age of Aquarius / Lindau, Turin 2007, p. 192

[7] On the "Mother of Rice", cf. J. FRAZER, The golden branch, Boringhieri, Turin 1973, pp. 657 ff., Where the English anthropologist attests his veneration among the Toraja of Sulawesi (at the time called Celebes): "[...] the Toradja of the central Celebes who also observe the custom of the mother of rice at harvest, consider it as the effective mother of the whole crop and therefore preserve it with great care so that in its absence the accumulated supply of rice is not dispersed and disappear "[p. 660]

[8] WJ PERRY, op. cit., p. 228

[9] Ibid, pp. 229-230

[10] “The Indians of Guayaquil, Ecuador used to sacrifice human blood and human hearts when sowing the fields. The inhabitants of Cariar (now Cuenca in Ecuador) used to sacrifice one hundred children for the harvest each year. The kings of Quito, the Incas of Peru and for a long time the Spaniards could not suppress this bloody rite. In a Mexican harvest festival, when the first fruits of the season opened in the sun, a criminal would be placed between two immense stones balanced against each other and crushed by making him fall together with the stones. His remains were buried and there was a dance and a party. This sacrifice was called "the meeting of the stones". […] The Paunis sacrificed every year, in spring, a human victim, when they sowed the fields. […] They believed that an omission of this sacrifice would be followed by the total loss of the crop of corn, beans and pumpkins "[J. FRAZER, op. cit., p. 682]

[11] “An East African queen used to sacrifice a man or a woman in March. These were killed with spades and hoes and their bodies buried in the middle of a recently cleared field. In Lagos in Guinea it was customary to impale a live girl every year, shortly after the spring equinox, to ensure good harvests. […] The Marimo, a Bechuana tribe, sacrifice a human being for their crops. The chosen victim is generally a short, fat man. He is taken by force or drunk and taken to the fields where he is killed among the wheat to serve, as they say, as "seed". His blood coagulated in the sun is burned along with the frontal bone with the attached skin and brain; the ashes are scattered on the ground to fertilize it. […] The Bagobos of Mindanao, one of the Philippine islands, offer a human sacrifice before sowing rice. […] The natives of Bontoc, in the interior of Luzon, another of the Philippines, are passionate headhunters. The main season for head hunting is the time of sowing and ripening of the rice. In order for the harvest to be good, each farm must procure at least one human head for planting and another for sowing» [J. FRAZER, op. cit., p. 684]

[12] See M. MACULOTTI, Antediluvian, giant, "gentle" humanity, on AXIS mundi

[13] L. SPENCE, op. cit., p. 181

[14] See L. PAUWELS & J. BERGIER, The morning of the wizards, Oscar Mondadori, Milan 1960

[15] See A. SCARABELLI, Beasts, men or gods: HP Lovecraft's alien cults, on AXIS mundi

[16] The characteristic "lids" of the kalamba can be viewed on p. 39 by T. STEIMER- HERBET, Indonesian Megaliths. A forgotten cultural heritage, Archaeopress Archeology, Oxford 2018

2 comments on “Bada Valley: the “xenomorphic” megaliths in the jungle"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *