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Gedong Arca Museum  

by on Tuesday, 31 October 2006One Comment | 2,724 views

Those with a keen interest in history should not pass up an opportunity to visit the Gedong Arca Museum, which has a fascinating collection of Balinese heritage pieces. While the museum is not officially recognized as a tourist site, it is an important study centre for students and those with the desire to delve deeper into the ancient beginnings of Balinese civilization.

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The museum is located in the village of Bedulu, which is on the road to the Presidential Palace in Tampak Siring in the regency of Gianyar. Gedong Arca is well known throughout Indonesia as a field archeological museum that was built in 1960 and opened to the public in 1974.

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A diverse collection of ancient Balinese artifacts are on display with items categorized and dated. Some of the artifacts are made from bronze and are early representations from the Hindu religion such as the cakra, which was a weapon used by the God Wisnu, and a priest’s bell used in ceremonial rites. Domestic tools made from stone such as axes, firestones and other utensils made from metal are found in another section of the museum. All of these artifacts, which have been discovered over the years throughout different regions of Bali, are housed in large display cabinets.

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The most fascinating exhibit at the museum is a collection of coffins (sarcophagus) and sourced from around the island. These aged coffins were once a symbol of dedication for deceased leaders and prominent figures in Bali’s old time communities. The sizes vary from small flat coffins to much larger and longer versions. Size also indicated the status of the deceased.

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Most of these tomb structures are generally formed like the body of a turtle with several protrusions and a series of naïve carvings depicting faces with wide eyes, open mouths and tongues poking out. These carvings are believed to possess magical powers that once protected the coffin from negative forces and bad intention. Spells that have also been carved into the coffins were said to repel evil and safeguard the entire community. These coffins have been carefully dug up and brought to the museum in their original condition to be preserved for future generations to see.

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The majority of visitors that come to the museum are students seeking research data and insight into the earliest traces of Balinese civilization. The museum is an educative medium that strives to maintain and document ancient findings.

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Not far from the museum is the temple of Penataran Sasih, which also houses a number of historic relics. Inside the temple compound is a bronze kettledrum known locally as the ‘Bulan Pejeng’ (the moon of Pejeng) because its circular shape resembles the full moon. Scholars have often been amazed by the level of technology related to these ancient relics and artifacts. The kettledrum was most certainly made in Bali as its large mould was also discovered on the island.

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