In a mountainous corner of Indonesia lies a hill, dotted with stone terraces, where people come from around the country to hold Islamic and Hindu rituals. Some say the site has a mystical air, or even that it might hold buried treasure.
The partially excavated site, Gunung Padang, is a relaxing place to spend an afternoon. It’s also at the center of a raging debate.
Archaeologists say that the hill is a dormant volcano and that ceramics recovered there so far suggest that humans have been using the site for several hundred years or more. But some Indonesians, including an earthquake geologist and a president who left office in 2014, have suggested that the site may have been built far earlier by an as-yet-undiscovered ancient civilization. Their narrative has spread for more than a decade within the country but not very far beyond it —