Lampung in The Past According to F.G. Steck

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons - F.G. Steck (Capt. Infantry) is a Dutchman who records the situation of the people and the natural environment in the Lampung region, Indonesia.

The report he made was for the benefit of the KNIL Infantry (Koninklijke Nederlands(ch)-Indische Leger) or literally the Royal Dutch East Indies Army --- the first decade of the 19th century AD.

In "Topographische en Geographische Beschrijving des Lampongsche Districtten Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië" deel 4. Amsterdam, Batavia: Frederik Muller, G. Kolff, 1862, F.G. Steck recorded many things about life and nature in Lampung at that time.

According to him, Lampung in the past was famous for its forests with quality timber, especially in the Tulang Bawang area.

In this area, according to his report, many good and high quality timber trees grow. Rivers in this area facilitate the transportation of these logs.

In fact, he also described the situation in Tulang Bawang, which he knew as one of the ports and trade centers in Lampung.
At that time, the Lampung people planted rice, pepper and cotton. Farmers in the coastal areas plant rice in the fields. Indeed, rice fields are only in the coastal area.

The deep rivers with steep cliffs on either side of their flow in the inland areas of Lampung are difficult to rely on for irrigating rice fields. The Lampung people plant rice in dry fields.

Before being able to farm, Lampung farmers have to clear the land first. The wood of shrubs and shrubs is cut; big trees cut down. Then, everything is allowed to dry, then burned.

Usually, the first year the farmers plant corn, beans and other crops. New rice is planted for the second year, interspersed with corn and beans.
In higher areas, cotton becomes a distraction. If the soil on the land is fertile, the third year rice is planted again and the fourth year is cotton.

After the fertility of the land is reduced, the farmer will move to new land. This is what makes Lampung people move around.

Sometimes, fields in areas that are not fertile—such as in the middle of the Sapoedi area—have to be allowed to become forest again before they can be cultivated again. It may take up to 30 or 40 years.
This farming system with shifting cultivation was perhaps very strange in the eyes of the Dutch who lived in a small country.

In the Netherlands, farmers cultivate their agricultural land intensively. They are forced to develop techniques and strategies for cultivating the soil so that their land always has good harvests.

Even if they wanted to, for Dutch farmers, it was not possible to implement a shifting cultivation system.

Rice planted in the fields is enough to meet the needs of life. Pepper, which used to be a source of wealth when the Sultanate of Banten ruled in this area, is not much anymore.

A few years before Steck wrote, many people started to plant pepper again. Besides that, in Lampung more and more people were planting coffee.

This was even done spontaneously by the people of Lampung without encouragement from the Dutch East Indies government. Coffee trees were planted as hedges bordering pepper gardens.

In various places, many people raise silkworms. However, these caterpillars were apparently only able to produce small cocoons. The silk fiber from the cocoons is not of the best quality.

However, even though it is not an export commodity, silk from Lampung is processed, painted and woven into sarongs and shawls.

Apart from buffaloes, which are indeed numerous in Lampung, not many livestock are kept. Other livestock, such as goats and sheep, were imported from Java.

There are no cows in Lampung. That said, cattle in Lampung do not want to breed. Not even a lot of horses. The horses were owned by Dutch East Indies government officials and military officers.

The horses were brought in from outside Lampung and after the owners returned to Holland or moved back to Java, the animals were left in Lampung.

Trade and shipping are increasing. Most of the commodities traded outside Lampung are pepper and forest products, especially rubber, resin, rattan, beeswax, ivory, cotton and coffee.

Commodities imported to Lampung include rice, salt, iron goods and equipment, pottery, porcelain and textiles.

Even though there has been progress in the field of shipping, for the Lampung people themselves it doesn't mean much. Because the activity was almost entirely carried out by people from outside Lampung. It is not surprising because the Lampung people are not a seafaring nation.

The main markets and trade centers are in Telok Betong and Paloeboe, which are better known as Sekeppel in Teluk Lampung.

Then, Borneo, Napal and Sepoeti in Samaka Bay; Assahan in Sekampong; Eanto Djaija in Pagadoengan; Seringkebow at Sepoetie; and Mengala in Toelang Bawang.

In Seringkebow a demang was appointed, specifically to pay attention to the interests of the Dutch East Indies government and foreign traders.

In Asahan, which used to be an important trading center, there was a harbormaster who was in charge of supervising trade (and shipping) in the area.

Once upon a time, the syahbandar was appointed by the sultan of Banten. At that time, a syahbandar was very powerful and influential in his area. Now these titles and positions no longer mean much.
On the Oempoe River near Boemi Ratoe there is gold. The precious metal is mined by local residents. There are not many in number and the quality is not special. Gold is light gold.

Lampung's wealth is not in the form of gold and diamonds buried in the recesses of the earth. His wealth, the verdant wilderness on the surface of the earth.

Lampung has a lot of good and high quality wood. The most famous wood from the Toelang Bawang and Sepoetie areas.

The large rivers that flow in the two areas make it easier to transport the logs.

In the Asahan area around Sekampong, many teak trees grow. Unfortunately, those expensive woody trees are a bit neglected.
The paths in the wilderness often branch off to the left and right. When traced, the roads usually end in a rubber tree or a medang tree or end in wide-spreading swamps or disappear into a river.

Those roads, which are even smaller than the paths, are the roads made by the gatherers of forest products.

People who want to look for rubber, rattan, beeswax and honey are forced to go to the recesses of the forest.

Sometimes, people open a path in the forest to make it easier to carry logs and rattan to the river. Transportation by water is much easier to do.
In the animal world, elephants and rhinos can perhaps be considered employees of the Department of Public Works.

These animals usually choose to always cross the forest on the same path. His large body size automatically uprooted trees and shrubs on the sides of the road they were on.

Humans tracing that path will easily recognize the tracks of a herd of elephants or rhinos that opened them.

However, those who are not used to walking in the forest will still find it difficult to find their way without the help of a guide.

Without the help of guides, the Dutch infantry would not have been able to find their way. Even contemporary researchers will get lost without a guide.

In the last quarter of the 19th century AD, Lampung was divided into five districts, namely Telok Betong, Sekampong, Sepoetie, Toelang Bawang and Samangka.
These five districts have clear boundaries except for Telok Betong. Telok Betong, led by a regent who lives in Telok Betong.

The rivers form the natural boundary between Telok Betong and the Samangka and Sekampong areas.

The islands of Lagundi, Seboekoe, Sebessie and Krakatou in the Sunda Strait and the islands in Lampung Bay are also included in the Telok Betong District.

Sekampong is bordered by Samangka, Telok Betong and Sepoetie. This area was also led by the Telok Betong regent. The Sepoetie District, led by a prince who lives in Tarabangie Hamlet, is bordered by Toelang Bawang, Samangka, Sekampong and the Java Sea.

The Toelang Bawang District is bordered by the Palembang Residency to the north, the Sepotie District to the south and the Java Sea to the east.

This district is led by a demang who lives in the hamlet of Mengala. Under him was a sub-demang who led Boemi Agong. The sub-demang lives in Gebang.

The last district, Samangka District, is bordered by the Bengkulu Residency to the north and west.

To the south, Samangka Bay is the boundary. The islands scattered in Samangka Bay are included in its territory.

To the east, the district is bordered by Telok Betong, Sekampong and Sepoetie. This area is led by a depati who lives in Bornei.

According to Speck, before the arrival of the Dutch, the elders were the leaders. After that, the hamlet or village population chose someone as a leader who was then appointed by the authorized Dutch East Indies officials.

In carrying out their duties, the chosen leader is accompanied by elders in their respective hamlets/village. Problems that could not be resolved were submitted again to the head of the district in his place.

In Telok Betong and Samangka, there are still clan areas consisting of several villages.

Each village is led by a village head who is under the clan head. The heads of the clans are under the leadership of the Telok Betong regent or Samangka depati.

In Lampung, the Telok Betong regent is considered the highest indigenous leader. Together with other District heads, regents were officially appointed by the Dutch East Indies officials who were authorized and entitled to receive salaries from the Dutch East Indies.

A special demat is assigned to Seringkebow Hamlet, Sepoetie District, to handle smuggling cases.

In general, leaders in Lampung do not have great power over the people they lead.

The penalties imposed for violations are not too severe (in the eyes of the Netherlands) and can be replaced by paying a fine. In fact, the death penalty can be replaced by paying a bangon.

In the interest of military activities, F.G. Steck observed, collected data and assessed the characteristics, character and life of the people of Lampung.

It should be noted that at that time the observations - the assessment of the results of the observations - tended to be made from the point of view of Dutch culture.

The cultural relativism approach is not known at all. So that the judgments of Europeans regarding ethnic groups in the archipelago are sometimes unpleasant to read.

At that time, according to F.G. Steck again, most areas in Lampung have not been touched by human hands.

People who come to Lampung come by sailing ship and anchor at beaches that are not all suitable for large ships anchoring.

However, a journey (whether for military affairs, trade, religious missions, or tourism) does not stop at the seashore.

Travel to the interior of Lampung is mainly done via river cruises.

However, for people who are not familiar with the area they face, there are also many obstacles and dangers that threaten the safety of their journey.

The rivers in Lampung empty into three places, namely Semaka Bay, Lampung Bay and the Java Sea.

The rivers that flow into Semaka Bay originate from springs between Bukit Barisan and the range of hills starting from Mount Abung.

The river that empties into Lampung Bay originates from springs in the hills west of Rajabasa and Lubuk Iti.

Then, the rivers that flow into the Java Sea originate from springs to the west and south of Mount Abung and east of Mount Rajabasa.

Traffic through the river is not simple. Not knowing the local natural environment will get into trouble.

Some ordinary rivers suddenly rise in tide, especially those near their original springs. At that time, even the nearby footpaths would be under water.
The rivers break and multiply; not all of them are navigable. Small rivers are mainly used by local residents to irrigate their agricultural land.

Several rivers such as the Semaka River are navigable if the captain of the ship is accompanied by a good river guide, so that he is not constantly hampered by fallen tree trunks, floating islands and rocks in the riverbed.

In the Mesuji area, the river's springs originate on Matawalu Hill. Not far from its source, the river flows eastwards bounded by steep banks.

In the Umbul Mesuji area, the river turns north and then merges with the Batanghari River.

The ebb and flow of the river is easily observed with the naked eye. Therefore, the difference in surface sometimes reaches almost half a meter.

This river is navigable by large ships starting from the Umbul Mesuji area. Over time, the river becomes deeper and wider. Its steep bank becomes flat.

The surrounding environment is full of nipa forest and fire wood. During the rainy season, this area floods far inland.

At that time, this area could not be used as a place to land even though the dunes at the mouth could be passed easily.

Near the Javanese Umbul Tunggal, the Mesuji River merges with the Batanghari River which branches again with the Itam and Komering Rivers.

These rivers are navigable by boats from Mesuji to Palembang. In the mid-19th century AD, it took 5-8 days to go through it.

An unforgettable river in Lampung is the Tulang Bawang River, the largest in the entire area.

This river was formed by the merging of water from four smaller rivers, namely the Umpu River and the Besai River which became the Right Way and the Sungkai and Rarem River which became the Left Way.

In some places on the shallows, only small boats and rafts can pass. Generally, the Tulang Bawang River can be navigated by boats of 2-4 koyang.

During the rainy season and when the water is high, boats and boats can safely sail on it.

Is that koyang? This term is no longer in the Big Indonesian Dictionary and is not in the Dutch dictionary.

Koyang, a unit of weight commonly applied to the cargo of a boat or ship. One koyang is equal to 125 kilograms. So, the 10 koyang ship is capable of transporting 1,250 kilograms of goods.

If so, the river that can be passed by a 10 koyang boat must be deep enough so that the ship does not run aground on the bottom.

According to the estimates of F.G. From Steck, to Menggala, the river was even deep enough for Dutch East Indies steamers to pass through. The depth of the Tulang Bawang River is not necessarily safe for small or large vessels to pass through.

The river winds its way through a natural environment that is beautiful to the layman's eye, but dangerous to skippers and rowers.

The river flow suddenly rushed against the big rocks and then suddenly fell down like a foamy waterfall.

Residents living in the hilly areas around it bring forest herbs to sell in Asahan on rafts made of bamboo.

What a mess, F.G. Steck was amazed to see the cleverness of his captain in driving the heavy laden rafts. Although the waters through which are dangerous, accidents almost never happen.

An interesting thing is the number of hot springs in Lampung. F.G. Steck marked places with the name "Ilahan".

Because there is a hot spring with a river of the same name. In Kalianda, there is a hot spring like this.

In some places, it is impossible for one to dip bare feet in the hot springs, nor on the rocks in the hot springs.

An egg that is placed in water will be thoroughly cooked, although not until it becomes hard. Residents around Kalianda bathe and bathe there to treat various skin diseases.

Between Banjarmasin and Belalau Hamlets there is a natural salt source. F.G. Steck noted this carefully. This is because salt was a very expensive commodity at that time.

The famous salt source is near the Umpu River. The river water tastes salty brackish on the tongue. The rocks that appear on the surface of the water appear whitish in color by the salt crystals that coat them.

Residents of that area use salt to season their dishes. That was done by F.G. Steck and his entourage.

Salt not only tastes salty, but is also good for treating mumps, wrote F.G. Steck. (*)

References: F.G. Steck (Infantry Captain). Topographische en Geographische Beschrijving des Lampongsche Districts in Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië deel 4. Amsterdam, Batavia: Frederik Muller, G. Kolff. 1862.

Source: Lampung Post, Sunday, April 6 2014.

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