Roof-ridge panel with crouching human figures

DATE:
18th–19th century or earlier
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Ironwood (Koompassia: Leguminosae)
CLASSIFICATION:
Architectural elements
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 17 x 34 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (43.18 x 87.63 x 8.89 cm.)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia , Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund
COPYRIGHT:
This work is in the public domain. Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.
OBJECT NUMBER:
1996.181

General Description

Three squatting figures with their elbows posed above their knees are carved in relief on this architectural panel. Judging by its scale and tapered shape, it was most likely the central panel from a small mausoleum or shrine house. The figures most likely refer to sacrificed slaves, or helpers of the dead, whose lives were taken at the end of a funeral cycle. In pre-colonial times, aristocratic structures in many parts of Indonesia were sanctified by the bodies of sacrificial victims that were placed under key architectural posts or at cardinal points. This was done to solicit the blessings of the ancestors and to properly settle or stabilize structures.

This roof-ridge panel miraculously survived because it was buried in a riverbed. One side was face down in the mud, protected from the force of rushing water. The other side has more erosion as a result of being washed over by the river’s current before also being buried beneath mud.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.