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Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement

Date of Submission: 06/10/2009
Criteria: (iv)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia
State, Province or Region:
South Sulawesi Province, Tana Toraja Regency
Coordinates: S2 36 - 3 22 E119 22 - 120 6
Ref.: 5462

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement is a series of 10 traditional settlements or constituents of them, such as burial or ceremonial grounds. The properties are scattered within Tana Toraja Regency in the Province of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Tana-Toraja occupies about 3.205 km2 of a relatively hilly terrain with plateaus rising from 300 to 2,800 meters above sea level.

The nominated Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement consists of 10 sites which are dispersed in the Tana Toraja Regency (see part I). Traditionally, a Toraja settlement consists of a compound of houses (tongkonan) and granaries (alangs), burials (liang), ceremonial grounds with menhirs (rante), rice-fields, bamboo forests, and grazing ground or pasture for buffalo and pigs. However, not all the nominated sites possess all the settlement components, on account of developmental changes in each site. A brief description of the nominated sites is provided in part I Identification of the Property. The following descriptions present some complementary information about each site.

The properties of the proposed Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement can be briefly described as follows:

1. Pallawa Site

Pallawa site is also a compound of houses and granaries. In total there are 11 houses and 15 granaries. Like many Toraja compounds, the Pallawa houses and granaries are arranged in two parallel rows aligned east-west direction. The houses face north, while the granaries face south. The entrance is situated in the western side of the compound. The ceremonial ground lies about 350 meters to the east.

2. Bori Parinding Site

The site of Bori Parinding is a combination of ceremonial grounds and burials. The ceremonial ground is an open space used for traditional ceremonies, including rituals for the dead and thanksgiving. More than a hundred menhirs stand on the ceremonial ground, each representing a feast of merit performed in the past by a person of high status. Human remains are placed in stone chambers carved out of huge stone boulders, which lies scattered around the ceremonial ground. There are five tongkonan compound spread around the area. Bamboo is now planted in some places around the ceremonial ground to replace the extinct bamboo forest of the traditional settlement.

3. Kande Api Site

The site of Kande Api consists of a compound of houses and granaries, ceremonial ground and burial places. There are 4 houses and 11 granaries within the compound. The houses and granaries stand respectively in the southeast and northwest, facing each other. An open space of about 20 meters wide runs the length of the compound, separating the houses and granaries. The ceremonial ground is an elevated piece of land lying about 75 meters southwest of the compound. A church has been built in the north-eastern corner, surrounded by a considerable number of standing menhirs. Towering limestone cliffs lie some 25-50 meters north of the compound. In the past, the foot of these hills served as a burial site for the Kande Api people.

4. Nanggala Site

Nanggala site is principally a compound of 2 houses (tongkonan) and 16 granaries (alang), arranged in rows and aligned east-west. The houses and granaries lie respectively on the southern and northern ends of the compound, facing each other. Between them, an open space is used for social interaction and family gatherings. The compound is surrounded by a low stone wall with an entrance on the western side. To the east lies the ceremonial ground (rante) and graveyard, where several wooden coffin houses (patane) are placed.

5a. Buntu Pune Site

Formerly, the sites of Buntu Pune and Rante Karassik belonged to one integrated settlement. Buntu Pune was the dwelling compound and Rante Karassik was the ceremonial ground. Although these sites are now separated due to recent development, the sites still function as they did in the past. In this nomination, therefore, both sites are considered as a single unit of traditional settlement and numbered 5a and 5b respectively.

5b. Rante Karassik Site

The site of Rante Karassik is a ceremonial ground on a sloping hill. As mentioned above, this site is actually a part of the Buntu Pune traditional settlement. Until today, the Buntu Pune people still use the ground for certain ceremonies, in particular those connected with death. Since Rante Karassik is situated quite far from the Buntu Pune compound, the two sites appear to be quite separate. Uniting them is no longer possible, since recent development has resulted in a dense population of the area in between.

6. Ke'te Kesu' Site

Among the nominated sites, Ke'te' Kesu' is the most complete settlement. The site consists of a compound of houses and granaries, burial place, ceremonial ground, ricefields and water-buffalo pasture. The cultural landscape around Ke'te' Kesu' makes this area one of the most beautiful places in Tana Toraja.

Ke'te Kesu' compound comprises 6 Tongkonan houses and 12 granaries. The houses and granaries are laid out in the traditional arrangement and one of the houses serves as a museum. To the north, at a distance of about 50 meters, lies the ceremonial ground, displaying more than 20 menhirs.

7. Pala' Toke' Site

The site of Pala Toke is principally a burial place located on a towering limestone hill, from where a rice field extends to the north, east and west. A compound of 4 houses and 5 granaries, as well as a ceremonial ground displaying menhirs, lies about 200 meters north of the burial place.

8. Londa Site

Londa is a grave site where two methods of burial are customary. Here, the coffins of ordinary people are placed in caves and crevices at the foot of the hill, while the remains of persons of higher rank rest in burial chambers carved from the wall of the limestone cliff. The latter are accompanied by Tau-tau, placed close to the chamber. The higher the status of the deceased, the higher the chamber, which can be situated as far as 50 meters from the ground.

9. Lemo Site

Lemo is also a cliff burial site with galleries of ancestor statues. In contrast to Londa, coffins here are not deposited in caves or crevices at the foot of the hill. To the north lies a compound of four granaries and one Tongkonan.

10. Tumakke Site

The site of Tumakke displays a distinctive traditional house built on a raised terrace. Although its construction is no different to the common Toraja dwelling, the saddle-like roof of the Tumakke house is covered with stone slabs measuring 50-60cm long, 30-40cm wide and 5-10cm thick. On the north-eastern side of the house, at a distance of some 5 meters, stands a small granary.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The nominated Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement is significant for a number of reasons.

Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement and culture still retain the characteristics of early Austronesian culture. These can be demonstrated by Toraja cosmology, ceremonies, settlement arrangement, houses, decorations, and the role of water buffalo. In this regard, the heritage has an indispensable scientific value as a source of analogy to study the past.

Elements of Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement, such as tongkonan house, arrangement of settlement, and decorative art, demonstrate an outstanding design, technique, functional concept, and workmanship. Hence, definitely the heritage has relative artistic and technical values.

Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement is a part of living tradition. It is a manifestation of Aluk Todolo, the Toraja belief system which governs the life of the society. It is related to various ceremonies and customs within the Toraja cultural system. Indeed, it has emotional ties with the society. The nominated heritage has a strong identity as well as social values not only for Toraja people but also for Austronesian ethnic groups which makes up the majority of the Indonesian population.

Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement demonstrates its potential for cultural tourism. The cultural landscape created based on local wisdoms may bring awareness on the nature-culture relation. This means that the heritage has educational value.

From the above, it is clear that the nominated Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement is significant for a number of reasons.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement is a living tradition. It is a heritage that has been handed over from generation to generation for at least 700 years or even longer back to prehistoric time. Indeed, as a living culture, changes occurred along the time. Torajans, who are used to live in an isolated hill, had moved to low land. Burial customs had also changed especially since the seventeenth century when the Buginese from the coastal area to south invaded Tana Toraja. Prior to that time, human remains and precious burial gifts were stored in elaborately carved wooden coffins. During the invasion, lots of the precious gifts and beautifully decorated coffins were destroyed. Since then, Torajans began to make less decorated coffins and placed them high on the cliff-face vaults, reserving more intricate carving for the tomb doors and portrait statues of the deceased, tau-tau. More recently, bamboo forest were replaced with cash crops.

However, all of these changes should be understood as a dynamic process that commonly occurs within a living culture. These changes are part of the historical stratification. The nominated Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement meets the test of integrity and authenticity in many aspects such as cosmology, burial customs and ceremonies, settlement pattern, housing construction, and ornamental design. As explained in point 2 (a) above, the Torajan cosmology represents an ancient cosmology common to pre-state Southeast Asian communities which is now vanishing. The Toraja burial custom and ceremonies are exclusive. Such complicated and expensive ceremonies sustain many aspects of prehistoric megalithic culture which cannot be found in any other part of the world today.

Comparison with other similar properties

Aside from Toraja, living megalithic cultures still exist in some places in Indonesia, mainly among the Batak (Sumatra), and the islands of Nias (west of Sumatra), and Sumba (in Lesser Sunda Islands). All of them have been influenced by modern culture to varying extents. There are indeed some basic similarities among these living megalithic cultures, especially in cosmology, settlement pattern, ornamental design, and subsistence, since they have a common root in the prehistoric culture of Early Austronesians. However, none of them are identical and each demonstrates peculiarities of its own.

The Batak people who live on Samosir islet in the middle of Lake Toba in the interior of North Sumatera still maintain their traditional houses, settlement patterns, and ornamental design. But they do not construct stone monuments anymore and practice less elaborate secondary burial custom. Similarly, the people of Nias still maintain their traditional house, settlement patterns, and ornamental design. Ceremonies for the dead as well as thanksgiving festivals are conducted, but are not as complex as in Toraja. Upright stones are erected only occasionally within the housing compound. The people of Sumba continue to build megalithic structures, but elaborate and expensive ceremonies for the dead have been abandoned.

Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement and culture differs in many aspects to other living megalithic traditions in Indonesia. Toraja burial customs with their elaborate and complex ceremonies, numerous water-buffalo sacrifices and varied burial methods (hanging coffins, rock chambers, cave burial), have no other living comparison.