Borobudur is a Buddhist temple located in central Java (Indonesia). It is made of andesite, a volcanic rock common in the area—nearby volcano Mount Merapi is andesitic. But I have some troubles identifying the exact provenance of the stones. While looking for it, I have found various, contradictory claims.

For example, this architecture site says:

Borobudur Temple is made with andesite stones taken from neighbouring stone quarries.

Without further precision. On the contrary, this touristic site says:

Archaeologists have never discovered the quarry, where they mined and processed stones for its construction.

Finally, this UNESCO document says (p. 15):

The building material was not collected from quarries, but taken from neighbouring rivers.

This last one is interesting, as I know that blocks of andesite for sculpture are still extracted from lahar deposits in rivers around Merapi volcano (De Bélizal et al., 2011).

Considering the size of the temple, its construction must have required a large volume of stones, which should have left a trace in the landscape (although the landscape has changed a lot in a millennium due to volcanic eruptions!).

Where did Borobudur stones come from?

  • 7
    Of the 3 sources, I'd expect UNESCO to have had more concern about getting those particular facts right. It's kinda their job (rather than architecture or tourism).
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 18 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


I would ignore the first source which probably just assumed the stone was quarried despite the lack of evidence for that.

Consistent with the other two sources in the question, Jacques Dumarçay states:

The stone used throughout the monument is andesite, most likely collected in the nearby rivers where different volcanic eruptions had carried down large quantities of variously shaped rocks.

If there were any archeologist claiming to have found evidence of a quarry, a web search should easily turn that up, but it does not.

  • 2
    Technically, if stones are quite often taken from a particular river, it counts as a quarry. Which means its possible by that interpretation that the first two sources are both right, and the third is half right.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 18 at 21:30
  • Nice find, thanks! Although this "most likely" is a bit unsatisfactory... In the meantime I found another source: Borobudur, Golden Tales of the Buddhas, by John Miksic, which states the same thing: "The monument is built of over a million blocks of stone laboriously hauled up a hill from a nearby riverbed, then cut and carved with great artistry." Again with no source to this claim. I'd love to track down the original source of this hypothesis and the evidence supporting it, although it could be written in Dutch... Commented Jun 19 at 7:51

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