A Glimpse on 4,000 Years of Boat Making

Get to know how Indonesian ships and boats evolve since four thousand years ago

Sailboat on Lembeh Strait near Manado (1910/1910)Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Rowing boat
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Indonesia has over 6 million km² sea territory

Being the largest archipelago, the country is ranked 5th longest waterways in the world. Location of the archipelago are unique and strategic. Long coasts and deltas connected to wide and long body of rivers far inland are abundant.

Pinisi ship makingMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

An evolution of traditional boat making knowledge

Its waterscapes became the source of life, culture and knowledge for many generations of Indonesian. The boat making knowledge has gone through evolution that involved coastal tramping, island hopping, overland transport, and open-ocean routes.

Rock art of sailboats found at Muna Cave, Sulawesi by Adhi Agus OktavianaMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Seafaring dates back thousands years

Rock art finding in Kabori Cave in Muna, Sulawesi well indicate seafaring traditions in Indonesia can be traced back to at least four thousand years ago. Studies indicate early Austronesian may use a dug out boat made of tree at least 1 meter in diameter as depicted in the image.

Fragmen papan perahu Lambur 1 (2), Jurusan Arkeologi Universitas Jambi, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Lambur boat fragment and palm fiber rope, Jurusan Arkeologi Universitas Jambi, 0900/0990, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Fragmen papan perahu Lambur 1 (4), Jurusan Arkeologi Universitas Jambi, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Fragmen papan perahu Lambur 1 (3), Jurusan Arkeologi Universitas Jambi, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Important remnants of ships and boats uncovered since early 2000s includes Lambur ship at Jambi Province, Sumatra Island and Punjulharjo ship at Rembang, East Java Province, Java Island. Each dates back 700 years and over 1,000 years respectively. This was based on radio carbon dating of the Arenga pinnata sp ropes, used to sew-plank and in lushed plug technique found. Both ship were about 15 meters long and with 5 meters width, suspected to be able sail long voyages in the open-ocean.

Women in front of a house (tongkonan) in a village in the Toraja countries, 1935/1935, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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House at Nias, 1895/1895, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Boat making is an important part of Indonesian tribes and communities both at sea and on land. An example here is vernacular architectural heritage such as tongkonan in Toraja, Sulawesi and house at Nias, Sumatra. Both houses adapting roof shapes of ships and boats.

The love of marine also reflects in what people often use in their lives such as the ceremonial banner called 'palepai' from Lampung, Sumatra.

Ceremonial Hanging (palepai), Paminggir people; Indonesia, South Sumatra, Lampung area, Kalianda, 19th century, From the collection of: The Art Institute of Chicago
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Basreliëf in de noord muur van de Borobudur (1873-09 - 1873-12) by Kinsbergen, IsidoreRijksmuseum

The most informative examples of ancient Southeast Asian ship iconography are found on the ninth century C.E. Borobudur monument in central Java. There are 11 types of boats and ships recorded on Borobudur walls

🚣 Now lets row the the iconic Indonesian boats 🛶

Bercadik ship (2022) by Gabrielle Cooper-WeiszMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Borobudur Ship

Borobudur ship only reference are the ones from Borobudur walls. There any many speculations about the ship until As’ad Abdullah from Kangean Island, East Java and Nick Burningham from Australia, reconstruct the ship and conducted a successful expedition to Madagascar and Ghana. 

Padewakang boat (2022) by Gabrielle Cooper-WeiszMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Padewakang

Padewakang was built with longer and wider hull fit for cross island trip and far into wide rivers with currents. Its hull has five layers of wood fit to carry large amount of items. The sail design could harness good speed for sailing.

Jong Java ship (2022) by Gabrielle Cooper-WeiszMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Djong Java

Djong or jung is an old Javanese word for ship. The ships grandeur was well known both in China and Europe. The ships hull has four layers of teakwood.

Phinisi ship (2022) by Gabrielle Cooper-WeiszMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Pinisi

The ship is a masterpiece of the seafaring tradition of the Bugis ethnic group of South Sulawesi. Pinisi is an impressive ship with distinct feature of two mast with seven sails.

Jukung boat (2022) by Gabrielle Cooper-WeiszMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Jukung

A jukung or kano, also known as cadik is a small wooden Indonesian outrigger canoe. It is a traditional fishing boat. The double outrigger jukung is but one of many types of Austronesian outrigger canoes that use the crab claw to sail traditional throughout Polynesia.

Jukung boat (2012)Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Perahu Jukung 2Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Continue to read more on 8 Masterworks from Cirebon Shipwreck

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