A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or another form of significance. It also legally protected by international treaties and judged important to the collective interests of humanity. Indonesia as a country with cultural and historical phenomenon respectively put 8 sites into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

1. Borobudur Temple Compounds

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia

This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.

The Borobudur Temple Compounds consists of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples situated to the east on a straight axis to Borobudur. The two temples are Mendut Temple, whose depiction of Buddha is represented by a formidable monolith accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, and Pawon Temple, a smaller temple whose inner space does not reveal which deity might have been the object of worship. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana.

The temple was used as a Buddhist temple from its construction until sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries when it was abandoned. Since its re-discovery in the 19th century and restoration in the 20th century, it has been brought back into a Buddhist archaeological site.

2. Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia
Photo: seminyaktimes.com

The cultural landscape of Bali consists of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 ha. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as subak, that dates back to the 9th century. Included in the landscape is the 18th-century Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayun, the largest and most impressive architectural edifice of its type on the island.

The subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world, and nature. This philosophy was born of the cultural exchange between Bali and India over the past 2,000 years and has shaped the landscape of Bali. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago despite the challenge of supporting a dense population.

The authenticity of the terraced landscapes, forests, water management structures, temples and shrines in terms of the way they convey Outstanding Universal Value and reflect the subak system is clear. The overall interaction between people and the landscape is however highly vulnerable and, if the sites are still to reflect the harmonious relationship with the spiritual world and the ancient philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, it will be essential for the management system to offer positive support.

3. Prambanan Temple Compounds 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Compounds consist of Prambanan Temple (also called Loro Jonggrang), Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple, and Lumbung Temple. Prambanan Temple itself is a complex consisting of 240 temples. All the mentioned temples form the Prambanan Archaeological Park and were built during the heyday of Sailendra’s powerful dynasty in Java in the 8th century AD. These compounds are located on the border between the two provinces of Yogyakarta and Central Java on Java Island.

Prambanan Temple Compounds contains the original structures that were built in the 9th century AD. The temples collapsed due to earthquake, volcanic eruption and a shift of political power in the early 11th century, and they were rediscovered in the 17th century. These compounds have never been displaced or changed. Restoration works have been conducted since 1918, both in an original traditional method of interlocking stone and modern methods using concrete to strengthen the temple structure. Even though extensive restoration works have been done in the past and as recently as after the 2006 earthquake, great care has been taken to retain the authenticity of the structures.

4. Sangiran Early Man Site 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia

Sangiran Early Man Site is situated about 15 kilometers in the north of Solo town in Central Java, Indonesia, covering an area of 5,600 hectares. It became famous after the discovery of Homo erectus remains and associated stone artifacts (well-known as Sangiran flake industry) in the 1930s. There is a very significant geological sequence from the upper Pliocene until the end of Middle Pleistocene by depicting the human, faunal, and cultural evolutions within the last 2.4 million years. The property also yields important archaeological occupation floors dating back to the Lower Pleistocene around 1.2 million years ago.

The macrofossils that appear abundantly from the layers provide a detailed and clear record of many faunal elements, while the property reveals more than 100 individuals of Homo erectus, dating back to at least 1.5 million years ago. These fossils show the human evolution process during the Pleistocene period, particularly from 1.5 to 0.4 million years ago. Inhabited for the past one and a half million years, Sangiran is one of the key sites for the understanding of human evolution. More discoveries of stone tools have been made since. These human, fauna, and stone tool materials were deposited within its unbroken stratigraphical layers.