The Palace on the Hill

Pak Mansur surveys Bukit Cina

Allangkanangngé ri La Tanété – The palace on the hill ridge – or Bukit Cina, is one of the most important historical sites in South Sulawesi. The low hill lies at the heart of the Bugis speaking region, a few kilometers east of the great lakes. The summit of the hill is held to have been the palace centre of an early Bugis kingdom called Cina (pronounced Chee-na). 

Cina is not found in the historical records of South Sulawesi other than as a source of status for the rulers of historically later kingdoms. This suggests that Cina had declined or disappeared before the development of writing around 1400. The kingdom does, however, figure prominently in the Bugis poetic epic La Galigo, which is believed by many scholars to retain a memory of a distant past.

The hill was first examined by Kaharuddin in his undergraduate thesis in 1994. In August 1999, an OXIS team led by Dr Ali Fadillah carried out a survey of the summit of the hill and opened a one by one metre test pit on the raised earth platform which lies on the broadest part of the summit ridge. Time constraints meant the abandonment of the test pit before reaching sterile earth.

In June and July 2005, an OXIS Group team comprising Ian Caldwell, Stephen Druce, Budianto Hakim and Campbell Macknight, with Pak Mansur as surveyor, carried out a full theodolite survey and surface collection of the hill. The team reopened the 1999 test pit and excavated down to sterile earth. Two other 1 x 1 metre test pits, were excavated alongside the first test pit and revealed a similar stratigraphy,. Clear evidence of the forest floor was found at a depth of 0.8 m in the form of light brown soil. Charcoal found just above this layer was AMS dated at the Waikato laboratory to 1215-1290 CE  with 95.4% probability. This is the earliest date yet recorded for what appears to be an early rice-based Bugis kingdom.

The results of the 1999 excavations was published as Bulbeck and Caldwell (2008). The results of the 2005 excavations were published in O’Connor, Sue, David Bulbeck and Juliet Meyer (2018). See under Articles and Books.