A massive subterranean pyramid-shaped structure tucked away beneath a hillside in Indonesia may eventually surpass the oldest megalithic constructions ever constructed by humans, outdating both Stonehenge and the Giza Pyramids, according to a recent paper.
Keep the name Gunung Padang in mind.
Locals on the island of West Java revere the remarkable hillside of ancient stone structures, which they refer to as a “punden berundak,” or stepped pyramid, because of the terraces that lead to the summit of the structure.
Even though archaeologists have only just begun to explore the site, many scholars have already called it a “remarkable testament” to human ingenuity.
Built atop an extinct volcano before the advent of agriculture or modern civilization, Gunung Padang may be the oldest pyramidal structure in the entire world.
It’s important to note that there is disagreement regarding whether the site contains any pyramids or man-made structures, or if many of the features are the product of natural processes.
However, a thorough examination of Gunung Padang, which translates to “mountain of enlightenment” in the local tongue, reveals that long ago, an advanced civilization “meticulously sculpted” the lava hill into the center of a structure resembling a pyramid.
New research from Indonesian scientists suggests that its interior may also be concealing sizable, uncharted chambers.
The initial construction of the site may have started during the last glacial period, more than 16,000 years before the present and possibly as far back as 27,000 years ago, according to the new paper based on the site’s first radiocarbon dating.
To put that in perspective, the world’s oldest known megalith is currently believed to be Göbekli Tepe, a massive stone assembly located in modern-day Turkey. That was eleven thousand years ago.
The current study on Gunung Padang’s findings are the consequence of years of meticulous analysis.
Under the direction of geologist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja at Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency, a group of archaeologists, geologists, and geophysicists investigated the cultural heritage site between 2011 and 2015 using a range of methods, including subsurface imaging, ground penetrating radars, and core drilling.
Natawidjaja and associates propose that the construction of Gunung Padang occurred in several intricate phases, the lowest of which is located at a depth of thirty meters.
The central portion of the structure was most likely constructed between 25,000 and 14,000 BCE, but the researchers believe it was abandoned for several millennia afterward.
The study claims that between 7900 and 6100 BCE, construction resumed, enlarging the pyramid’s core mound with diverse rocks and gravelly soils. Between 6000 and 5500 BCE, additional building work was completed. The team suggests that it appears the builders deliberately covered over or buried some older parts of the site at this point, which is intriguing.
The researchers estimate that between 2000 and 1100 BCE, the last architects of the pyramid added top soil and the stone terraces typical of a punden berundak. This is the portion that is currently most visible.
“The builders of Unit 3 and Unit 2 at Gunung Padang must have possessed remarkable masonry capabilities, which do not align with the traditional hunter-gatherer cultures,” the researchers write.
“Given the long and continuous occupation of Gunung Padang, it is reasonable to speculate that this site held significant importance, attracting ancient people to repeatedly occupy and modify it.”
To learn more about the identity of these prehistoric people and the motivations behind their constructions, more excavations are required.
Using seismic waves to explore the interior of the hillside, researchers discovered evidence of concealed chambers and cavities, some measuring up to 15 meters in length and 10 meters in height. It’s unclear if humans built these.
Now, the group wants to delve deeper into these regions. They intend to lower a camera into the shadows to see what’s below if they come across any chambers.
“This study exemplifies how a comprehensive approach integrating archaeological, geological and geophysical methods can uncover hidden and vast ancient structures,” the researchers write.
Even though there is still controversy, you will surely hear about Gunung Padang in the future.
Journal of Archaeological Prospection published the study.
Editor’s note (8 November 2023): The content in this article has been revised to address the controversy surrounding Gunung Padang and to emphasize the possibility that it is a naturally occurring site that was not built by humans.