Photo: This skeleton is one of more than 100 found at this ancient graveyard.

Museum Manusia Purba

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In a little out of the way corner of Northwest Bali, about 700 metres southeast of the port at Gilimanuk, an interesting archaeological collection sits gathering dust in a small museum. If you have time to kill in Gilimanuk head here, and if archaeology is of interest, you may be surprised by the artefacts in the collection.

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In the early 1960s, an important Neolithic archaeological site with one of the biggest necropolises found in Indonesia was discovered here in Cekik, unearthing the earliest evidence of human habitation in Bali. More than 100 complete human skeleton have been found during the excavation of this ancient graveyard considered to be from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. It is believed these Austronesian peoples were part of the wave of migration from South China, possibly via the Philippines and Sulawesi, which continued to expand eastward to Australia, Melanesia and Polynesia.

This was a big archaealogical find for Indonesia. Photo taken in or around Museum Manusia Purba, Gilimanuk, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

This was a big archaealogical find for Indonesia. Photo: Sally Arnold

In the early 1990s, the museum was opened on the site to preserve the collection, which includes ancient stone sarcophagi, earthen bowls, and bronze and stone tools, along with several skeletons. A three-storey building houses the main collection. The artefacts are labelled in Indonesian only. Enthusiastic English-speaking staff however are happy to explain the items in the exhibitions (and apologise for the state of the museum).

Of particular interest are several skeletons on their backs with knees up, evidently found buried in the earth in that position. Some ancient pottery is adorned with markings of apparent spiritual significance. An adjacent building covers an open excavation site where you can look down and see fragments of bones and pots, painstakingly cleared 10 centimetres at a time.

No English signs, but you get the idea. Photo taken in or around Museum Manusia Purba, Gilimanuk, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

No English signs, but you get the idea. Photo: Sally Arnold

Unfortunately this modest museum goes relatively unnoticed and unpatronised by both Balinese and visitors. However the staff mentioned regular visits by school students keen to learn, and the museum encourages them to dig around in the dirt and learn about archaeology and their ancient history. We think it worth at least a brief visit if you are in the area, although to some it may be just a dry old ... Travelfish members only (Around 200 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Museum Manusia Purba
Jalan Melaya, Gilimanuk
Mon-Thurs 07:30-15:00, Fri 7:30-14:00; closed holidays.
T: (0365) 61215 

Location map for Museum Manusia Purba

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What next?

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Gilimanuk? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Indonesia.

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