Can a nation afford its own treasure?

This Jakarta Post article reflects on last week’s failed auction and the current difficulties of keeping and maintaining the collection from the Cirebon Shiwreck.

Can a nation afford its own treasure?
Jakarta Post, 11 May 2010

The company proposed to the government its survey and excavation plan, which was issued in February 2004. The recovery process, completed in October 2005, took 18 months.

According to the artifacts’ catalogue, the majority of the ceramics found at the wreck were produced during the Five Dynasties in China’s Zhejiang Province, where an early form of porcelain called the Yue ware were produced.

History enthusiasts protested the government’s plan to auction some of the discovered artifacts.
Even the Cirebon Kasepuhan palace urged the government to cancel the auction and preserve the goods for the sake of the nation’s culture. A protester attending the auction, which took place last week, angrily denounced the process.

However, the National Committee of Excavation and Utilization of Precious Artifacts from Sunken Ships (Pannas BMKT) — a newly formed entity established in 2007 by Presidential Decree — waived off the notion that the country is auctioning away its heritage.

“To be fair, the ceramics found here do not contain Indonesian culture. The ship was passing by, and it sank. Those are all Chinese ceramics,” Culture and Tourism Minister, Jero Wacik, who is also deputy chairman of Pannas BMKT, said during the auction.


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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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