The bronze images provide a wealth of information about the history of Indonesia. Not only about artistic developments but also the meaning of rituals, the use of materials, trade relations, economic developments and the colonial past. These are small images of Hindu and Buddhist gods and ritual objects. Most of them were found on Java but do not originate from there. Not surprising really, given that Java has never been rich in metals.
The sculptures are centuries old: they were made between the 8th and 15th centuries. Java was a Hindu and Buddhist centre in that period. From the 5th century Indian culture had an enormous appeal in parts of Indonesia. Local rulers started using Sanskrit, the language of the Indian elite and founded Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Between the 7th and 15th centuries a flourishing culture developed on Java, leaving us spectacular monuments, like the Buddhist Borobudur and the Hindu temple of Prambanan. Cultural connection, exchange of knowledge and trading contacts had long been the order of the day in this region.
It is not entirely clear how and why this process of cultural exchange with India started. The Indonesian bronzes from our depository can throw new light on this. Research by art historians show that some images are very similar to Indian images and probably come from India. There is also a mirror that must have come from China. From recent research on shipwrecks in the Java Sea we know that metal staves were imported. Technical research on the metal of these bronzes would help to us gain a more complete picture of the contact between Indonesia and the outside world.