Rumah Budaya Sumba
Lembaga Studi dan Pelestarian Budaya Sumba
Sumba Cultural Research and Conservation Institute
(+62) 0811 189 2908


The first edition of Rumah Budaya Sumba website originates the script particularly on this part from SUMBA: Forgotten Island book depicting the thought of Father Robert Ramone, CSsR briefly explain core element of culture in Sumba.

Megalithic Tombs

Geologists refer to Sumba as ‘living megalith culture’. It is common to see massive megalithic tombs in most villages throughout Sumba.

These megalithic tombs are made from stone, usually hard limestone or the famous Tarimbang rock from Tarimbang Beach which more expensive and bears a resemblance to marble. The large flat stone is supported by four pillars, each about 1.5 metres high. The tombs look similar to an altar and weigh anywhere from 40 to 70 tons.

In order to get these huge sections of stone to the village the Sumbanese have ceremony known as ‘Tingi Watu’ (literally translated as ‘pull stone’). Even before this ceremony takes place, permission must first obtained from the Marapu ‘stone keeper’ spirit.

This ancient ceremony requires a lot of money, firstly to buy the stone and all the animals needed for the ceremonial sacrifices and for feeding the many people that take part. Therefore this is a ceremony only for those that can afford it.

The final ritual is the carving of Marapu symbols into the stone of the tomb. Most symbols are related to the journey into the afterlife

Traditional Houses

Traditional Sumbanese house isn’t just a dwelling place. It is a work of art, bursting with symbolism and ancient customs.

Four huge wooden pillars support the structure of the traditional house. These four pillars represent the four main compass points: north, south, east and west. In the middle of the spacious living areas sits the fireplace, which symbolizes the sun.

Every pillar is encircled by a bif ring made of wood or stone which signifies the ‘lingga’ and ‘yoni’ or the male and female sexual organs. Many features of the architecture of the traditional house are related to sexual aspects of life and fertility.

The customary high-peaked roofs are designed to safely store precious heirlooms and valuable. They also represent the harmonious relationship between the human being and the Marapu spirits.

These houses are usually arranged in rows around an open space which contains a sacred area called ‘natara paddu’ where tribal ceremonies take place and megalithic tombstones stand guard while the spirit of the ancestor are said to rest in peace.