The strange world of human sacrifice.. can it be true that in the 20th century foetuses, children, or their heads, were immured into buildings, like in the medieval legends? Most anthropological or sociological analyses tend to explain away this as a rumour, lacking eyewitnesses, and using theory rendering the local or subaltern voices insignificant, as if arising from external social forces and power relations. Why are sacrifices in connection with construction thought to be needed? And how does the type of building correlate with the nature of the sacrifice? Find out all about this in the article below which relies on relatively recent oral history and eyewitness accounts.
Abstract: 20th century. Europeans also featured in such rumours, especially in the eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and in the context of church construction, several decades after independence. This article discusses previous research on the construction sacrifice rumours and various construction sacrifice traditions which are viewed as local expressions of one ancient tradition. It harnesses oral history as its methodology with crucial eyewitness data from fieldwork in eastern Indonesia and recordings are available in a digital repository (Kaipuleohone). The data affirms that headhunting and kidnapping for construction sacrifice was practised on Flores during the mid to late 1900s. Strong evidence is presented of collaboration between one missionary and his local assistants, particularly a notorious witchdoctor-cum-‘kidnapper-headhunter’. The author concludes that the rumour is not merely folklore.
To cite this article: Stefan Danerek (2017) Construction sacrifice in Eastern Indonesia, Indonesia
and the Malay World, 45:131, 88-107, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2017.1247547