Fossil Hunter turns Museum Curator

This Jakarta Post story features the head of the Mahameru Museum in Blora, Java and the story of how he became a trader in fossils and antiquities into its eventual protector as the head of a museum, as well as the challenges he faces in keeping the museum collections intact.

Gatot Pranoto: Fossil hunter leaves past behind
Jakarta Post, 20 November 2009

Gatot Pranoto is no stranger to fossils. At the age of 21 – in 1980 – he was already a well-known trader of antique goods in Central Java, East Java and Yogyakarta.

Some of those antiques were ancient fossils. Blora and its surroundings is a treasure chest for fossil collectors, as the region was once home to the Bengawan Solo River, a site where millions of fossils long buried are only now being discovered.

Diggers last year stumbled upon the elephant tusks now kept in the museum. They also found fossils of an extinct Asian species of mammoths, still intact. These fossils are now kept in the Bogor Museum.

For nearly 10 years, Gatot Pranoto, who graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, worked as a hunter and seller of antique goods including fossils.

Which means he has sold countless thousands of this nation’s cultural heritage to buyers overseas, especially historic artefacts from Blora city.

“When I was on the top of my trade, I became an antique goods trader, mainly concerned with satisfying my materialistic needs,” he said.


Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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