The arrival of Islam on the island of Sumbawa occurred some time during the 17th century through sailors and settlers from Makassar in south Sulawesi. Unlike the square shaped tombstones and elaborate mountain and tree designs on the grave markers of Java and Sumatra, the shape of this example from the eastern island of Sumbawa suggests the influence of local woodcarving traditions. Engraved with an elegant design of Arabic calligraphy and flower, vine and rope-like motifs, this stone was most likely used to commemorate the burial place of a person of high standing. The holes drilled into the sides suggest that this marker may have supported a metal enclosure.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label