Image: Toraja burial site near Londa
Toraja burial site near Londa, South Sulawesi. Below the gallery of tau tau figures is the house-shaped palanquin of a recently interred corpse, 1972.
- © Australian Museum Archives
Prior to the 17th century, Torajans were buried in elaborate, boat-shaped wooden coffins stored at the base of cliffs. After heirlooms were extensively plundered, Torajans began burying their dead in high cliff-face vaults. It is now common for people to be buried in family vaults.
Wooden human figures called tau tau accompany the deceased on their journey from the funeral house to the burial ground, where they watch over both the living and the dead. Once carved only for wealthy families, they are now status symbols used by a range of families.