The Megaliths of Bada Valley, Lore Lindu National Park Sulawesi

On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Lore Lindu National Park is recognised by UNESCO for its rich wildlife and rare endemic species. The region is home to plants and animals found nowhere else in the world (including a species of dwarf buffalo and the babirusa, strange creature also known as the deer-pig), but the dense Indonesian rainforests are hiding something else, too.

There are actually three main valleys in Indonesia that contain strange megaliths, the Bada, Napu, and Besoa. The latter two were even more remote than the former, but all are part of the Lore Lindu National Park. The valleys contain dozens of finely carved megaliths in the forms of statues and jars, and current residents are as mystified over who made them, as are archaeologists. Locals think the megaliths and Indonesian archaeologists are at least 6,000 years old, although most estimates range from 5,000 to 1,500 years.

Local lore says the megaliths are all that remain of criminals who once prowled the forests. Turned to stone for their crimes, they were cursed to an eternity of solitude deep within the jungle. Some stones even have names and stories assigned to them, including one known as Tokala’ea. Legend says he was turned to stone for the crime of rape, and the rock surface is marked with deep gouges said to correspond with the knife wounds inflicted on the man’s human form before he was condemned to megalithic form.

Another statue is named Tadulako, who was said to have once been a respected figure in a local village. But Tadulako betrayed his fellow villagers by stealing rice. When he was caught, he was turned to stone in the form of a megalith whose oversized eyes and gaping features still look out over the village he once called home.

Scattered among the mysterious megaliths of Sulawesi’s Bada Valley are dozens of giant stone urns. No one knows for sure what they were used for, either. Local legends claim they were the bathtubs of village nobility, but scholars find this explanation unlikely. Some of the urns have heavy stone lids, suggesting they might have been used to collect water, or even served as coffins.

The mystery of the Lore Lindu National Park megaliths runs deeper still. No further traces of whatever lost civilisation crafted them have ever been found. There are no ruined settlements or burial grounds, no apparent tools or temples, and no artwork or etchings to explain why these enigmatic megaliths were created.

Today, the Bada Valley and Lore Lindu National Park are protected by a Indonesian-German collaboration called Stability of the Rainforest Margin in Indonesia, or STORMA. At the same time as deforestation and logging is being managed, tourism is developing in the hopes of protecting this ancient part of the world and its unique ecology.

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