The region east of Ubud comprising the villages of Bedulu, Pejeng and Tampaksiring is one of the most archaeologically significant locales in Bali. Offering an overview of this ancient history is a small archaeology museum, the Museum Gedong Arca, in the village of Bedulu.
The area has been settled since the Bronze Age (and likely earlier) and today tourists can visit the ancient sites of Goa Gajah, Yeh Pulu, Gunung Kawi and Tirta Empul, as well as some significant temples including Pura Penataran Sasih which houses the “Moon of Pejeng” the largest known Bronze-age relic in the world, a drum believed to have been made around 300 BC.
At the time of our visit in January 2017, the museum had been newly renovated, but the artefacts had not yet moved to their new home, however we were still able to view the somewhat eclectic collection ranging from Neolithic tools, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts through to Chinese ceramics as well as some rather lovely small eighth century Buddhist terracotta stupas and early Buddhist and Hindu stone carvings. The labelling was a bit hodgepodge, and not all in English, however that may change with the new installations.
The newly built section incorporates four small Balinese-style enclosed buildings and a central open pavilion that will house the larger sculptures within a walled courtyard. An adjacent courtyard accessed via a stately Paduraksa style gateway displays the most impressive artefacts in the collection, large sandstone sarcophagi. Bronze-age artefacts found in some coffins dates them to around 300 BC, but others may be much older, perhaps Neolithic. The large two-part mostly egg-shaped vessels would have enclosed a corpse in foetal position, a posture associated with reincarnation. Most are one to one-and-a-half metres long, although a couple of longer two metre sarcophagi would have had the bodies placed in a prostrate position. Some of the sarcophagi are unadorned, and several have carved stone heads protruding from one end.
Particularly striking is one carved with female genitalia, and another in the shape of two turtles, one on top of the other (significant in Hindu mythology). A small collection of bones found in the coffins is on display. As well as the body, the sarcophagi would have contained tools and jewellery for the afterlife.
The museum provides guides who can offer some insight as to what you’re looking at (although they were all at lunch when we dropped by and the less-knowledgeable security guard showed us around). The museum is free to enter after you sign the visitors book at the office. Your guide will expect a small tip.
Although small, Museum Gedong Arca is worth a quick stop as you visit the antiquities around Ubud and discover the beginnings of Balinese civilisation. Museum Bali in Denpasar, showcases an even larger collection of Bali’s cultural artifices.
Address: Six kilometres east of Ubud, Jalan Raya Tampasksiring, Bedulu
T: (0361) 942 347;
Coordinates (for GPS): 115º17'34.36" E, 8º31'12.76" S
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These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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