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Batu Aceh (Acehnese Stones)


Batu Aceh is a type of gravestone. These gravestones, carved by the Acehnese between the 15th and 19th centuries, were widely distributed in the Malay Indonesian archipelago, and were used to embellish the graves of Malay royal families and chieftains. These tombstones deserve to be regarded as a prominent heritage of Malay civilisation. Their form and decoration show a combination of the art both pre and post the arrival of Islam. Their inscriptions, besides recording the name of the deceased and the date of death, also have quotations from the Quran and poems, which contain death as the central theme. Some of the gravestones are regarded by the local people as Keramat (Shrines). Keramat once played an important role in the Malay social system even through belief in and visiting Keramat is against the teaching of Islam. They have however been preserved here as symbols of Malay creativity, inventiveness, artistry and a way of life of the past.