The Toraja people from South Sulawesi (Indonesia) are well known ethnographically for their elaborate funerary ceremonies and conspicuous kinship houses. Less attention has been given to their liang pa’ (‘cut tombs’) monuments, which are costly collective graves executed by specialised stone workers for noble families. This tradition in all likelihood started in the late 17th century and is still living today, which offers a unique opportunity for archaeologists to investigate its material, social, ritual and economic dimensions. This paper is based on recent ethno-archaeological fieldwork in Tana Toraja, combining sites survey and interviews with tomb owners, stone workers and ritual specialists. It describes the different steps involved in the complex process of creating a tomb, from reserving a location on a rock face, to the negotiation of the costs, organising and carrying out the cutting work, and the use of the extracted stone material for other purposes. The research shows how economic, technical and ritual considerations are intertwined throughout the process. Creating a rock-cut tomb in Tana Toraja is not just a technical enterprise: it is also an expression of traditional beliefs, of the ritual relationship between the Toraja and their landscape, and the social value of stone as a material associated with death and status.
|Title of host publication||Carved in Stone|
|Subtitle of host publication||The Archaeology of Rock-Cut Sites and Stone Quarries|
|Editors||Claudia Sciuto, Anais Lamesa, Katy Whitaker, Ali Yamac|
|Publisher||British Archaeological Reports|
|Publication status||Published - 29 Oct 2021|
|Name||BAR International Series|
- rock-cut tombs