Calls for better legislation to protect Indonesia's sunken treasures

Indonesia faces increased calls for better legislation to monitor and protect underwater treasures found in its waters, in the wake of the recent auction attempt of the Cirebon shipwreck treasures.

Indonesia Criticized for Murky Rules on Sunken Treasures
Jakarta Globe, 14 May 2010

Given the country’s thousands of sprawling islands, key shipping lanes and bounty of shipwrecks, the government should immediately draft legislation on the recovery and management of sunken treasures, stakeholders said.

Last week’s lack of bidders at an auction of 10th-century ceramics and jewelry recovered from the depths was clear proof that the government had a long way to go toward managing such items, said speakers at a discussion organized by the Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI) in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Ratu Raja Arimbi Nurtina, a spokeswoman for the Cirebon royal family at the Kanoman Palace, said the recovered items had been taken from the waters off Cirebon, West Java, without the involvement of local residents.

“I regret the decision to take these treasures and put them under the hammer,” she said. “Even though they were, strictly speaking, not ours, it would have been better to consult with us on the matter.”


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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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