Gunung Padang is a megalithic site on the Indonesian island of Java, which was first surveyed in 1914 by the Dutch colonial authorities and published as Rapporten van de Oudheidkundige Dienst (Report of the Department of Antiquities). A post-war Australian investigation concluded that the site was much older than previously believed. Now, with presidential support, local archaeologists are carrying out an extensive investigation of the site.
The site has recently been claimed as part of Atlantis. Evidence that the site contains hidden chambers prompted Graham Hancock to speculate whether it “Could it be the fabled “Hall of Records” of Atlantis?”(k).
A few years ago the late Arysio dos Santos was the leading proponent of Sundaland, which included Indonesia, being Atlantis. Then Danny Hilman Natawidjaja (DHN) an Indonesian geologist has made a similar claim in his Kindle ebook, Plato Never Lied: Atlantis Is in Indonesia. In it, Gunung Padang plays an important role. Mount Padang has also been claimed as the world’s oldest pyramid! Although I do not support the idea of an Indonesian Atlantis, I am forced to admit that a far more interesting case for it has been made by Dhani Irwanto.
In his review of Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, Jason Colavito refers to “Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, the Indonesian geologist who declared the site of Gunung Padang on Sumatra to be ten or twenty thousand years old, and thus making Indonesia the cradle of civilization. Natawidjaja is a true believer in fringe history and suspects that Plato was speaking of Gunung Padang when writing of Atlantis. His opinions are noteworthy only because the previous government of Indonesia gave him the money and resources to excavate the site in search of proof of Indonesian primacy in history before the current government shut down the investigation for becoming an international laughingstock. Like Semir Osmanogich in Bosnia, Natawidjaja sees artificial layers of construction in the deepest layers of what his colleagues in Indonesia and archaeologists around the world believe to be a natural hill crowned with later ruins.” (n).
Nevertheless, a recent (May 2017) assault on Natawidjaja’s theories in an open letter(i) from Rebecca Bradley has laid bare the weaknesses in his claims.
DHN in an address to the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in 2018, said that radiocarbon dating suggests the top layer of the site could be up to 3,500 old years old, the second layer somewhere around 8,000 years old, and the third layer anywhere in the vicinity of 9,500 to 28,000 years old(j).
One report that I thought rather interesting was that “aside from its age, is that during coring it was found that much of the buried structure was reinforced with a type of cement. This bonding agent, which has been used as a mortar and sort of glue in certain parts of the site, consists of 45% iron ore, 41% silica and 14% clay. It’s said that this mixture provides for a very strong and durable mortar base, and is surprising evidence of the level of sophistication of the building technique.”(l)
Andrew Collins has now added an article(h). to his website that examines the preliminary claim that the lower levels at the site could be 12,000 years older than Gobekli Tepe. If confirmed, it will undoubtedly require some rewriting of history books. Do not lose sight of the fact that radiocarbon dating has limitations, being accurate for up to around 6,000 years with increasing unreliability up to perhaps 50,000 BC after which it is generally useless.
We now (Nov. ’14) have a report(e) that some type of ‘electrical device’ has been discovered at the site ‘made out of gold and copper and seems to resemble a primitive electrical capacitor.’ Until further information is available this claim must be treated with caution.
There are, however, dissenting voices as reported by journalist, Michael Bachelard(g), such as vulcanologist Sutikno Bronto, who says “Gunung Padang is simply the neck of a nearby volcano, not an ancient pyramid. Danny Hilman is not a vulcanologist. I am.” As for the carbon-dated cement between the stones, on which Hilman relies for his claims about the age of the site, Sutikno believes it is simply the byproduct of a natural weathering process, ”not man-made”. Other sceptics are even tougher. One archaeologist, who does not wish to be named since the President took such an interest, says the presidential taskforce is deluding itself. ”In the Pawon cave in Padalarang [about 45 kilometres from Gunung Padang], we found some human bones and tools made of bones about 9500 years ago, or about 7000 BCE. So, if at 7000 BCE our technology was only producing tools of bones, how can people from 20,000 BCE obtain the technology to build a pyramid?” the archaeologist asks.
In October 2023, Danny Hilman endeavoured to return to the limelight with a paper in the journal Archaeological Prospection(o), published by Wiley, in which he recycled some of his earlier claims identifying Gunung Padang as an Ice Age pyramid. Jason Colavito commented briefly(p) on this latest feeble offering from Hilman and cites a more forensic article by Carl Feagans(q) as an effective rebuttal.>It was subsequently revealed(r) that the journal and its publisher have launched an ethics investigation into the flawed paper, according to a report in Nature!<
Danny Hilman Natawidjaja is an Indonesian geologist who is no stranger to media interest, as he is regularly wheeled out for comment after the all-too-frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in his country.
In 2013 he garnered further attention with two dramatic claims. The first was a declaration that the huge megalithic site at Gunung Padang on Java was also home to the oldest pyramid in the world(a). Not content with that, he has also stated that the same site is evidence for Atlantis in Indonesia(b). Apart from the media attention he also received support from the Indonesian president. Graham Hancock and Robert Schoch have both visited the site along with Danny Hilman(c).
National pride would appear to drive the current claims for the great antiquity of Gunung Padang, where Göbekli Tepe, in Turkey, is seen to have garnered the lion’s share of attention as the world’s oldest verified megalithic site(g).
Natawidjaja published his Atlantis theory in a Kindle ebook, Plato Never Lied: Atlantis Is in Indonesia. To be candid, I found the Atlantis in Indonesia theory by Dhani Irwanto to be far superior.
In his review of Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, Jason Colavito refers to “Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, the Indonesian geologist who declared the site of Gunung Padang on Sumatra to be ten or twenty thousand years old, and thus making Indonesia the cradle of civilization. Natawidjaja is a true believer in fringe history and suspects that Plato was speaking of Gunung Padang when writing of Atlantis. His opinions are noteworthy only because the previous government of Indonesia gave him the money and resources to excavate the site in search of proof of Indonesian primacy in history before the current government shut down the investigation for becoming an international laughingstock. Like Semir Osmanogich in Bosnia, Natawidjaja sees artificial layers of construction in the deepest layers of what his colleagues in Indonesia and archaeologists around the world believe to be a natural hill crowned with later ruins.”(f)
November 2016 saw a further incredible claim coming from Natawidjaja, namely that a 2500-year-old ‘electrical device’ had been found on Gunung Padang, which is claimed to be some form of a capacitor and has been compared with the design of the biblical Ark of the Covenant. The report(d) that I’ve seen does not include any images, but until more concrete information is available, my scepticism is on ‘red alert’.
In May 2017, Rebecca Bradley, in an open letter, wrote(e) an extensive attack on Natawidjaja’s Gunung Padang claims.
Wikipedia has also noted criticism coming from local scientists(i) “Thirty-four Indonesian scientists signed a petition questioning the motives and methods of the Hilman-Arif team. Vulcanologist Sutikno Bronto states that the site is the neck of an ancient volcano and not a man-made pyramid. An archaeologist who did not wish to be named due to the involvement of the country’s president who had set up a task force said that: ‘In archaeology, we usually find the ‘culture’ first … Then, after we find out the artefact’s age we’ll seek out historical references to any civilisation which existed around that period. Only then will we be able to explain the artefact historically. In this case, they ‘found’ something, carbon-dated it, then it looks like they created a civilisation around the period to explain their finding.'” (h)
(g) https://www.asiangeo.com/2019/heritage/the-pyramid-of-gunung-padang/ (link broken) *
Indonesia in recent years has seen an increasing number of supporters for the idea of Atlantis being located in the vicinity of today’s archipelago, prior to the ending of the last Ice Age, on the submerged continental shelf now frequently referred to as Sundaland. The redating of cave paintings on the island of Sulawesi suggests that they are as old as any in Europe(h), possibly stretching back as far as 40,000 years. A 2016 report(j) has now pushed back the earliest human occupation on Sulawesi to 100,000 years ago.
As far as I can ascertain the earliest suggested linkage between Atlantis and Indonesia came from the leading Theosophist, C. W.Leadbeater (1854-1934). In a booklet, The Occult History of Java, published in 1951 he proposed that Java had been an Atlantean colony.
However, it is reported(g) that Sukarno (1901-1970), the first president of Indonesia, spoke of Atlantis nearly half a century ago when he located it in the Atlantic
William Lauritzen was probably the first to advocate this idea of a Sundaland connection on his website, but it seems that the concept was given a huge boost by the publication of the late professor Arysio Nunes dos Santos’ book Atlantis: The Lost Continent Finally Found.
The idea was given a boost in February 2012 when it was reported(a) by a somewhat incredulous Jakarta Post that the Indonesian president had given his support to a search for an ancient sunken civilisation in Indonesian waters following meetings with researchers including British author Stephen Oppenheimer.
May 2013 saw The Jakarta Post report(b) the publication of a book by local geologist, Danny Hilman Natawidjaja in which he claims that Atlantis was part of prehistoric Indonesia. In the book, entitled Penemuan Atlantis Nusantara (The Discovery of Atlantis in the Archipelago) he claims to base his theory on Plato’s text. However, commenting on the book the Indonesian archaeologist Daud Aris Tanudirjo said that Natawidjaja’s claim was ‘premature’, pointing out that the author had only an English translation of Plato’s text to work with and suggesting that Natawidjaja had no knowledge of ancient Greek. Further background information was subsequently made available(c).
Natawidjaja also claims that a site at Gunung Padang, 120 km southwest of Jakarta may be more than 9,000 years old! Graham Hancock has expanded on this idea(e). Nevertheless, a recent assault on Natawidjaja’s theories in an open letter(m) from Rebecca Bradley, has laid bare the weaknesses in his contentions.
In 2015 Dahni Irwanto published Atlantis: The lost city is in Java Sea, in which he located the biblical Garden of Eden and the legendary island of Taprobane on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan* (Borneo) and placed Atlantis off its coast. Irwanto has built on the work of Santos, expanding Santos’ 32-checklist to 60 headings. In his well-illustrated book, Irwanto goes further with the suggestion that Atlantean Indonesia was a cultural centre from which post-diluvian refugees spread throughout the world influencing the great civilisations of Asia, the Mediterranean and the Americas.(p.143) He subsequently published Sundaland: Tracing the Cradle of Civilization (1618) in which he develops his idea that ancient Indonesia was a hyperdiffusionist hub. Although I found this book interesting, I thought it was over speculative.
Coincidentally, Delisle de Sales, writing in the 18th century cited an anonymous source who placed Atlantis in Taprobane, considered at the time to be a reference to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), not Irwanto’s Indonesian Kalimantan*.
A short April 2016 blog(k) suggests that Quranic Archaeology may be used to support the idea of an Indonesian Atlantis, a sentiment expressed again a month later(l).
The ‘Atlantis in Indonesia’ bandwagon became more crowded in 2019 when an entire group climbed aboard. They are known as Turangga Seta, whose founder and spokesman Timmy Hardati claims that Atlantis was submerged in the Java Sea. They also claim that there is a 300-metre-high pyramid inside Bandung’s Mount Lalakon! However, the twist in the tale is that the group has no interest in conventional science preferring to depend on psychic ‘conversations with ancestors’.(o) While Irwanto’s theories may be hard to accept, at least he presents them in a rational coherent manner, the same cannot be said of the Turangga Seta(n).
(a) See: Archive 3629
(k) https://www.islamsejati.com/2016/03/ahli-arkeologi-fakta-dari-al-quran.html (offline Jan. 2017)