‘Rare honour’: Griffith archaeologists win top Indonesian award

Professor Maxime Aubert and Adam Brumm from the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research (GCSCR) and the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE).

A team of Griffith University archaeologists has received the prestigious Achmad Bakrie Award, one of the most important awards in Indonesia for science, technology, social thought and literature.

Griffith University PhD student Adhi Agus Oktaviana. Credit: Justin Mott.

Administered by the Achmad Bakrie Foundation, the award recognises the Griffith team’s ground-breaking research into rock art dating on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and in the neighbouring province of Kalimantan in East Borneo.

Research conducted by the Griffith team in the caves of this region has revealed some of the oldest known rock art attributed to our species, including an ancient ‘lost masterpiece’ depicting Sulawesi warty pigs dating to at least 45,500 years ago and a remarkable hunting scene of similar antiquity.

Among the recipients of the Achmad Bakrie award were Griffith University PhD students Adhi Agus Oktaviana and Basran Burhan, as well as Dr Pindi Setiawan, assistant professor in art and archaeology at the Bandung Institute of Technology (Java), and an adjunct academic in the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research (GCSCR).

Only Indonesian citizens are eligible to receive the Achmad Bakrie Award; however, Griffith’s Professor Maxime ‘Max’ Aubert and Professor Adam Brumm received honourary awards in the category in recognition of their roles in co-leading the Indonesian research.

Griffith doctoral students Oktaviana and Burhan are part of a new generation of Indonesian scholars whose research is changing our understanding of the early human story.

“I hope the passion and devotion of these researchers will inspire future generations of Indonesian students to consider a career in archaeology or cultural heritage studies more broadly,” said Professor Brumm, an archaeologist in Griffith University’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution.

Griffith University PhD student Basran Burhan. Credit: A.A. Oktaviana.

“This important prize recognises a successful scientific partnership between Australia and Indonesia and will surely lead to more collaboration between our two countries,” said Professor Aubert from GCSCR.

“This award recognises the research we have done into the prehistoric rock art of Indonesia and will motivate us to initiate new expeditions in unexplored areas,” Oktaviana said.

The Achmad Bakrie award was presented to the team in a formal ceremony in Jakarta on August 14.

Previously, the Griffith team’s cave art dating research in Indonesia has made Science magazine’s top-10 scientific breakthroughs of the year list on two occasions (2014 and 2019). It was also included in National Geographic’s top-20 scientific discoveries of the decade.