Botanical collecting in Leuser, Part I

June 11 1904 Pringgo

Pringo Atmodjo, a Javanese botanist at the’s Lands Plantentuin te Buitenzorg, collected this species of St. John’s wort on 11 June 1904 in Alaslanden in northern Sumatra. He was surveying for plants as part of a Dutch military expedition through the Gajo, Alas, and Batak lands. Over the course of six months, the troop traveled across the highlands, from Lhokseumawe on the coast to tanah Batak, on a mission to pacify the interior of Aceh. The Hypericum above was collected just 3 days before the company’s violent raid on Koeto Reh. Luitenant-kolonel van Daalen’s massacre at Koeto Reh saw 313 men, 189 women and 59 children dead among those defending their homes. It was one of the worst massacres of indigenous people in the East Indies. The Dutch lost two men.

Atmodjo compiled an extensive herbarium collection on the expedition, gathering 544 species in total. Porters on the expedition, mostly Javanese and Ambonese, carried and maintained his traveling herbarium. Each month, Atmodjo sent coolies, most of whom were forced laborers, with his specimens back to Koeta Radja (Banda Aceh) for storage. The plants were studied and catalogued in Buitenzorg (Bogor) at the botanic gardens and research station.

This was the first colonial botanical exploration of the Leuser region. Atmodjo’s accompaniment on such an important mission for the Dutch offers insight into the place of bioprospecting in the imperial project.

04165 29730-Z

Koeto Reh massacre on 14 June 1904 in Tanah Alas, Sumatra


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