World’s Oldest Pyramid Discovered in Indonesia

World’s Oldest Pyramid Discovered in Indonesia
This picture taken on July 6, 2011 shows a site of Megalithic Gunung Padang in Cianjur, West Java. The site of Megalithic Gunung Padang is the largest megalithic site in South-Eastern Asia, consist of five terraces with an area of 900 square meters, located on a hill of 885 meters above sea level, in Karyamukti village about 50 kilometers from Cianjur city. (Adek Berry/AFP)
Raven Wu

Mysterious pyramids are not unique to ancient Egypt and the Mayans; archaeologists recently discovered the world’s oldest pyramid in the lava rocks of Indonesia’s Mount Padang.

The pyramid was found in Gunung Padang, a megalithic site in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, near the headwaters of the Cimandiri River, by a team led by geologist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja of Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency.

The team carried out in-depth archaeological excavations in Gunung Padang between 2011 and 2015 and further relevant explorations in the last few years, concluding it has a pyramid about 30 meters high and 100 meters wide.

The discovery results were published in the October 20, 2023, issue of Archaeological Prospection.

Proud of a lifespan of 16,000 years, the newly found Indonesian pyramid breaks the mold of what is known about ancient architecture: The Giza pyramid complex in Egypt was built around 2,600 B.C., Stonehenge in England was built between 4,000 and 2,000 B.C., and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey was built around 12,000 B.C.

Gunung Padang is a critical archaeological and geological research zone. It has encountered dramatic climate change as part of Indonesian islands over the past 15,000 years, including submerging some ancient lands by rising sea levels and hiding prehistoric ruins in the forests underwater.

The archaeologists studied the site’s subsurface using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), core drilling, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and seismic tomography (ST). Digital surface modeling (DSM) and digital terrain modeling (DTM) were also used to create 3D images of the Gunung Padang’s interior and exterior.

When they examined the area 20-30 meters below ground level, they found that the lava field had a complex, multilayered structure with many cavities or chambers. Similarly, when they tested the ERT-selected west-to-east section, they found multiple layers and tunnels.

Several core drilling operations were employed on the remains and the surrounding area. During the drilling process, some rocks were found at depths with significant water loss, which supports the inference that there was considerable underground space.

Carbon-14 dating of samples from the ruins and the surrounding area revealed that the site was divided into four main layers from top to bottom. The lowest layer, Layer 4, is a massive basalt and andesite bedrock, and Layer 3 was built on top of Layer 4 between 25,000 B.C. and 14,000 B.C. at the end of the Paleolithic period.

In addition, there was an interruption between 14,000 B.C. and 7,900 B.C. at the third layer, which was rebuilt between 7,900 B.C. and 6,100 B.C. and then abandoned.

Notably, the second layer was built between 6,000 B.C. and 5,500 B.C. but was interrupted again between 5,500 B.C. and 2,100 B.C. The first layer emerged between 2,000 and 1,100 B.C.

In other words, the building was first constructed in about 25,000 B.C. and completed in 1100 B.C., spanning 24,000 years.

According to the team, the discovery of Gunung Padang challenges past old concepts. It reveals the existence of a remarkable masonry civilization during the Paleolithic (end of the Ice Age). The Paleolithic period was thought to be a time of hunter-gatherer cultures.

To further deepen the understanding of Gunung Padang, future research needs to conduct more comprehensive and systematic excavations, as this area has been refurbished for a long time, and something important should have existed here, the archaeological team said.