A unique find has given archaeologists new answers to Java’s mysterious ancient golden past. It was in 1990, when gold treasure was discovered near Yogyakarta in central Java, in the small village of Wonoboyo, just a few kilometres from the renowned temple of Prambanan. Several village workers were digging in a sugar cane field and struck three sealed terracotta jars. Inside the buried containers was a glittering hoard, over 6000 gold and silver coins and more than 1000ceremonial objects, including bowls and jewelry. The discovery created excitement in the archaeological circles: could Wonoboyo be the site of the lost Javanese palace of the ancient Mataram kingdom.
The palace dated back from the glorious 9th and 10th centuries of central Java’s history, which marked the merging of Hinduism and Buddhism, giving birth to the great temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. But while the ornamental style of the Wonoboyo type resembles the baroque richness of Prambanan art, the pysical evidence of the Wonoboyo site was insufficient to link it to the Mataram palace. Nevertheless, excavations unfold the regal associations and pinpointed the site as an important holy place probably a hermitage. Inscriptions revealed the the owner of the Wonoboyo hoard to have been a king, who is thought; based on a golden alms bowl found among the treasure; retired from the worldly life to become a Hindu priest.
The fabulous treasure of Wonoboyo is one of the many other archaeological gold findings in Java. Other discoveries include those dated from the 14th and 15th centuries of the great Javanese kingdom of Majapahit, mostly gold statues and jewelry such as arm bands, necklaces, bracelets, crowns and earrings. These sumptuous gold objects are on display in the treasure room of the Jakarta National Museum.
This is just a glimpse of an in depth article on Ancient Javanese Gold I wrote for several specialized art magazines …