The Landscape Project


In 1693 the VOC drew up a detailed map of the coastline of Sulawesi, which it controlled as regional overlord. The intention was to record the political landscape but took into account major features, such as the rivers and hills that formed boundaries between major and minor kingdoms.

The Changing Landscapes project will involve two research stages. The first is a systematic comparison of early twentieth-century Dutch maps with the original held in the Rijksarchiev in the Hague. The second stage will involve ‘ground-proofing’ the map in Sulawesi in the summer of 2012. This will involve visiting many of the settlements marked on the map and discussing with locals topographical anomalies such as altered river courses, the sites of old settlements, and political alliances remembered in oral tradition. The aim is to relate the map to the physical landscape of modern South Sulawesi in order to shed light on Dutch knowledge of the peninsula, as well as changes in hydrology and landscape use over the intervening centuries.

The two-year project was led by Rose Ahmet. 


Searching for Barasaq. A one-day field survey in South Sulawesi

Rose Ahmet and Ian Caldwell

August 2014

One of the pleasures of researching the history of early South Sulawesi is the possibility of discovering not just lost cities but entire kingdoms. Of course one must qualify the terms cities and kingdoms, but if one considers Europe in the late middle ages and the early modern period (1400-1600) our usage does not seem unreasonable. The settlement of Malangke in Luwuq, discovered in 1995, had by the end of the sixteenth century a population of some 10,000-15,000 souls, making it equal in size to York, England's fifteenth-largest city (Bulbeck and Caldwell 2000). Social and political groupings were often much smaller in this period, as is reflected by the size of surviving European mini-states such as Liechtenstein (160 sq km), San Marino (61 sq km), Monaco (2.02 sq km), and the Vatican City (0.44 sq km). Small is not always unimportant: it is salutary to remember that Troy II, a possible candidate for the original Trojan War (Nicholson 2014), would have fitted comfortably into Stonehenge – a diameter of 284 feet!

We first came across the kingdom of Barasaq in the summer of 2011 while making an inventory of place names on a Dutch map of South Sulawesi drawn up in 1693. Initially we thought that the capital letters spelling BARAS reflected a miss-spelling of Maros, the modern town of that name. But Baras is too far north, and inland, whereas Maros lies to the south, and is on the coast. We began to realise that Baras was the name of a small kingdom north of Maros and south of the well-known kingdom of Siang. We identified a reference to the defeat in 1667 of a polity named Barasa by an army from Soppeng; its inclusion with a list of eight other west coast kingdoms, including Siang, helped confirm the identification (Andaya 1981). Support for the idea that Barasa was once an independent kingdom was found in a handful of references in the catalogue of the Makassar Arsip Nasional manuscript archives recording a silisilah (genealogy) of a karaeng (prince) of Barasa, and a war between Barasa and Gowa in which Gowa was the victor. Consultation with a Makasar-speaking colleague encouraged us to add a glottal stop, -q.

In August 2012 we visited South Sulawesi to conduct research on the map, and a field trip to Barasaq was top of our to-do list. Using both the 1693 map and an eighteenth-century copy from the Atlas Isaak Van de Graaf (1806), we had deciphered the names of the six settlements that appear to have comprised this small kingdom as Bangapanne, Potobacka, Mangimba, Limbung, and Sorbodang.

To conduct field research in South Sulawesi and to locate historical toponyms it is imparative to draw upon local knowledge. As Drs Budianto Hakim, the deputy director of the Makassar Archaeology Office was away in Jakarta, we called on Drs Rusli, deputy director of Balai Pelestarian Peninggalan Purbakala, who kindly arranged for a member of the staff, Pak Ahmed Kadir, to accompany us on a quest to locate the former kingdom. It was later that we discovered that, by one of those curious coincidences of fate, Pak Ahmad had been born and had attended primary school in Mangemba, one of the toponyms that would enable us to locate Barasaq. 

We set off the next morning with a car, a driver, and Pak Ahmad. After a breakfast of sop saudara in Pangkajene – a town noted for this dish – we travelled south for a couple of kilometers and then turned east along a small road. As we drove inland, the rice fields became increasingly interspersed with isolated karst formations, rising almost vertically from the surrounding fields. The asphalted road climbed gradually upwards, and after twelve kilometers finished at Tangaparang, a small settlement of  a dozen or so widely spaced houses. Here we took a GPS reading of S.04 54.328 E119 36.62; then we walked back a short distance to the hamlet of Mangemba, S.04 54.312 E.119 36.392. 


Sekolah Dasar Negeri No. 2 Tangaparang at Mangemba

Consulting the Dutch maps, we decided that Bangapanne was almost certainly Tangapareng – on the 1693 and 1806 maps Bangapanne is situated immediately west of Mangimba (Mangemba). A third toponym, Limbung, depicted on both maps, was identified by a local schoolteacher as Lembang, a graveyard lying due west of Mangemba (S.04 54.263 E.119 36.699). All three are hardly more than a stone’s throw from one another in the small valley depicted on the 1693 map. Potobacka and Sorobadang, the first of which is shown lying between Mangimba (Mangemba) and Bangapane (Tangaparang), and the second west of Limbung (Lembang), but omitted on the 1806 map, remain unidentified.

The three settlements lie in a small, flat-bottomed valley leading down to a larger, wider valley to the west. With more time, we might have explored the lower valley, as this and the lands leading down to the coast may have formed part of this small kingdom.

Barasaq fields

The path from Lembang leading down to the western valley

We had earlier speculated that the palace site of Barasaq may have lain nearer the coast, perhaps on the lower reaches of the Salo Mallelleng, the main river in the catchment of this area. This river rises in the valley to the north of Barasaq but the Salo Mangemba, which joins the Salo Mallelleng at near the main road flows through the lower of the two southern valleys. Such an arrangement could have supported a small west-coast kingdom with a karaeng (prince, king). However, it is hard to imagine how the small valley in which lie Tangaparang, Mangemba and Lembang could have supported anyone more significant than a matoa (headman, chief).

It is clear from our visit that the geomorphic features shown on the 1693 map are not simply decorative (at least in this instance) but depict quite clearly the valley in which the three identified settlements are located. Considering the insignificance of its extent, we conclude that the name of the kingdom was placed in the valley for reasons of cartographic convenience. Other topynyms which might have formally belonged to Barasaq remain to be identified. Further research in the western valley, and the lands leading down to the coast, may lead to a better understanding of this small kingdom. We were reminded throughout of the invaluable nature of local information, and the importance of working with local institutions and authorities when carrying out even simple fieldwork.


Andaya, L. 1981. The heritage of Arung Palakka. A history of South Sulawesi (Celebes) in the seventeenth century. The Hague: M. Nijhoff.

Atlas Isaak Van de Graaf. 1806. Plates from this atlas are held in the Rijksarchief in the Hague. See Isaac de Graaf, G G Schilder, Rosemary Robson-McKillop, J R van Diessen et al. 2006. Atlas Isaak Van de Graaf. Grote atlas van de Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie. Voorburg: Asia Maior/Atlas Maior.

BAKOSURTANAL Badan Informasi Geospacial

Bulbeck, David and Ian Caldwell. 2000. Land of iron. The historical archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana valley: results of the Origin of Complex Society in South Sulawesi Project (OXIS). Hull: Centre for South-East Asian Studies, University of Hull.