The Megalithic Tombs of the Minahasa

Located at Woloan Village near Tomohon, North Sulawesi, is an ancient historic cemetery where Minahasan ancestors are buried and is a remnant of the megalithic age.


Waruga is the local terminology for the megalith inheritance which is part of the group of stone coffins in the Minahasa. These objects consist of two parts, the container part and the cover part for the body. Both these parts are made of one piece of stone (monolith), usually in the form of a square box (cube) for the container part and a few are shaped in the form of an octagon or round. Other than that, the cover has the shape of the roof of a house.

These Waruga function as a grave for people who died within one family. It is assumed that each waruga is used to bury a few family members that had died. In the waruga, usually human bones are found along with other objects like: Chinese ceramics, decorative accessories and copper items, as well as beads. The bones are remnants of humans that were buried along with some possessions like: plates, mugs, other kinds of ceramics, bronze bracelets, bronze necklaces, bronze knives, bronze hatchet, beads and other items.

Megalithic Waruga coffins
Megalithic Waruga coffins

The majority of waruga are decorated, the container as well as the cover. These decorations consist of motifs of human, stylized plants (spiralling upward), geometric motifs (lines, triangles and others), animal motifs etc.. Remarkable waruga decorations are humans with legs spread wide and women giving birth. Amongst the waruga there are those that are quite big, namely: a container with a height of 1.5 metres, a width of 1 metre and a cover height of 1.45 metres, whereas the total height is almost 3 meters. In total there are 1335 pieces of stone coffins called Waruga in the Minahasa.


Waruga in the Minahasa are spread almost all over the Minahasa, namely in the sub districts Likupang, Tonsea, Tomohon, Tolour, Kawangkoan, and Amurang. But it was here near Woloan Village (where there are also some very friendly locals and traditional architecture) where I had the chance to see my very first warugas, and it was a very moving experience. I have seen similar mass graves in the central parts of Sulawesi at Tana Toraja, but it seems nobody does death quite like the Minahasa!

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