The Wallanae River in Soppeng and Bone Regencies, which is tipped in the Lompobattang-Bawakaraeng mountains and empties into Bone Bay, leaves traces of ancient times.
By Eko Rusdianto
Wall Wallanae River in South Sulawesi, around the 1920s or 1930s. Photo; Tropenmuseum.
The river is like a river. However, who would have thought the coast holds a million mysteries. Like Pandora’s box of scientists, from the 1940s to 2009 several findings stunned science.
In this place, ancient fauna burst from the depths of the land, there are ancient elephants (Elephas celebensis), giant stingrays, ancient crocodiles (Crocodylus sp), ancient pigs (Celebochoerus heekereni), to stone artifacts.
The vertebrate fauna fossils were first discovered in 1947 by Hendrik Robert van Heekeren, a Dutch archaeologist, in the village of Beru on the Cabenge-Pampanua axis in Soppeng Regency. This finding, continues to grow which finally parted thousands of vertebrate fossils in the river.
In 1997, Gert van Den Berg, a researcher from the University of Wolongong Australia, divided the three stages of migration of fauna in Wallanae. From the beginning of the Pleistocene in 2.5 million years ago, until the Holocene period of 10,000 years ago.
Two years later, Gert van Den Berg, together with the Indonesian Center for Geological Studies, re-uncovered his findings on the stone tools at the Talepu site, Soppeng Regency, Wallanae coast. The results were in January 2016, through a series of material tests using the tool-age Uranium Series 118 thousand years ago.
How did you imagine 118 thousand years ago? What is the appearance and face of Wallanae or South Sulawesi in general? In the early Eocene era about 50 million years ago, Sulawesi was still far from its present form. Sulawesi Peninsula (South Sulawesi) is still a straight line to the northern peninsula (North Sulawesi). Whereas the southeast peninsula (Southeast Sulawesi) is still associated with Bone Bay. While the eastern part of Kalimantan is still in contact with the central part of Sulawesi. And the eastern peninsula (Banggai and Sula) is still a separate island.
And in 40-30 million years ago, there was a basin between Kalimantan and Sulawesi that formed the Makassar Strait. And about 34 million years ago, land was lifted and formed several river deltas and made Banggai fused with the island of Sulawesi.
This condition is expected to be the starting point for the arrival of fauna due to the shallow waters of the Makassar Strait, as a land bridge to Sulawesi from the Sunda Exposure. Large mammals such as Babyrousa (Deer Pig) are thought to have inhabited central Sulawesi with the ancestors of Tarsisus. Until the late Miocene and early Pliocene period between 5 and 4 million years ago, Sulawesi finally formed to resemble its current form.
Meanwhile, Wallanae is still covered in deep sea water. Then 700,000 years ago, there was a decline in sea level, and turned the Wallanae Valley environment into land. And formed the lake basin of Tempe.
During this period it was considered the migration of the second wave of Asian fauna or Sundanese Exposure to Sulawesi. Coral islands narrow the waters as a natural barrier for fauna to reach Sulawesi. It is estimated that the large fauna of the Elephantoid family (Ancient Elephant) reached South Sulawesi from the southwest.
Archaeologist Archaeological and Heritage Center (BP3) of South Sulawesi, Rustan in the 100 Years of the Indonesian Archaeological, explained two alternative migration of fauna to Sulawesi. First from the Sunda Exposure to the Small Sea, Pasalima, Kalu-kalukuang, Doang-Doangan, and the Spermonde islands. As for the second route, from Madura to Kangean, Middle, Sabalana and Tanakeke. “Some researchers agree that elephants from the past can swim up to tens of kilometers,” Rustan said.
Furthermore, according to Rustan, information about the presence of humans as part of the fauna in Sulawesi at this time, was still very minimal. The findings of stone artifacts on the oldest terrace of Wallanae have not shown an insitu discovery because they could have been made by humans later when the terraces were formed which are thought to be in the late Pliocene-early Pleistocene age.
The massive stone artifacts in Cabbenge (Wallanae Valley region) known as the Cabbenge Industry are parallel to the Pacitan Industry on Java which is equivalent to the age of 35,000 to 12,000 years ago. “So it could be that the evolutionary tradition of stone tools is parallel in time, or is it a representation of adaptation to a different environment,” he said.
The abundance of artifact findings, both fossil fauna and stone tools in the Wallanae Valley, raises the question of where are the stone tool makers? Has a human skeleton been found? Apparently, since decades ago until now, on the coast of Wallanae has never been found by humans. Even South Sulawesi in general.
The findings of stone tools that are estimated to be 118 thousand years ago, are assumed to be contemporaneous with hominin (Homo florensiensis) on Flores from 200 thousand to 700 thousand years ago. “But remember, the age of 118,000 is still young. Not so old, “said Iwan Sumantri, archaeologist-cum-anthropologist at Hasanuddin University in Makassar.
According to Iwan, human cultural objects must be seen from the perspective of the times. The technology of the use of cultural objects, at one time was slow compared to human migration. However, at some stage that cultural object can quickly surpass human migration itself.
In comparison, Homo erectus lived 1.5 million years ago and early Homo sapiens also used simple stone tools. “So to associate the stone tools with a certain human being, it is rather difficult and should find a human maker,” said Iwan.