Down on their luck, farmers turn gold diggers

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27 February 2007 (Jakarta Post) – Indonesian farmers turn to treasure hunting in times of drought to raise money, oblivious to the archaeological value of the artefacts.

Jakarta Post, 27 Feb 2007

Down on their luck, farmers turn gold diggers

It was seven months into the drought last month and the farmers of Pedes district in Karawang, West Java, were at their wits end thinking of ways to make a living.

Then one of them hit on something — literally — when he was digging in a field. Beads of gold and stone, ceramics and human bones protruded from the freshly dug earth.

“You can’t imagine what it was like to strike gold after being broke for months,” 56-year-old Wijaya, one of the Pedes residents who spent days and nights digging for ancient treasure in one of the rice fields near his house, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Living just an hours drive from archeological sites dating back to a prehistoric era did not make Wijaya and his neighbors aware of the historical value of the beads they found.

Illegal excavations are common practice in the country, with some fully aware of the fact they are breaking the law stipulating that artifacts that are more than 50 years old belong to the state.

Some others, like those who found ceramics and coins in Jakarta’s Old Town, were simply ignorant they were erasing traces of history for the sake of some extra cash.

Meanwhile, archeologists are too busy playing Indiana Jones or seeking funding support to preserve ancient sites and the government cannot be relied upon.

“The public cannot be blamed for what has happened all too often. We have to support public archaeology if we want to raise community awareness,” said Peter Ferdinandus, a researcher with the National Archaeological Research Center.

Public archaeology is a branch of modern archaeology that focuses on increasing public awareness and education about archaeology and that promotes legislative attempts to provide funding and protection for archaeological sites.

Sites tell of prehistoric societies


27 February 2007 (Jakarta Post) – A short archaeological overview of Karawang, a city east of Jakarta.

Sites tell of prehistoric societies

Mention Karawang, a city around three hours east of Jakarta, to most people and you’ll bring to mind images of rice fields or the lyrics of nationalist poet Chairil Anwar.

But few are aware that the area is home to 31 different archaeological sites from several civilizations. Some have been restored, while many others remain buried beneath the rice fields.

Frenchman Jean Boisllier was the first to conduct research in the area, digging in Cibuaya on the city’s outskirts in 1959.

His discovery revealed the remnants of a civilization close to the ancient kingdom of Tarumanagara, but later investigations have revealed finds dating back to prehistoric times.

Three years after Boisllier, a team of archaeologists led by R.P. Soejono found clay pots, tools, beads and human bones from a community that lived around 2000 to 1500 years ago in what is now Buni, in Bekasi. Now known as the Buni community, the items found in the area show the ability of their craftsmen.

A year later, noted researcher Edi Sedyawati studied statues depicting the Hindu god Vishnu that had been found in Cibuaya and concluded that they were from an 8th century civilization, along with a brick monument in the area.

In the 1980s, mounds of soil rising over the rice fields of Batujaya, west of Cibuaya, turned out to be ancient masonry constructions thought to date back to the 4th century.

Related Books:
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage
Prehistoric Indonesia: A reader

Historical Treasure Troves Looted: West and Central Java

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21 January 2007 (Jakarta Post and Reuters, by way of – New archaeological finds in Java are being looted by local villagers, with reports of hundreds of kilogrammes of gold being taken from graves and sold in the black market.

Historical Treasure Troves Looted: West and Central Java

It appears that too many Indonesian farmers and the ilk have been watching Lara Cross and Tomb Raider recently. There have been two important archaeological finds in Central and West Java – both were looted.

The finds were in tombs in a rice field at Kendal Jaya village east of Jakarta, and the other in Sleman near Magelang in central Java.

In West Java, farmers have sold hundreds of gold artifacts stolen from skeletal corpses unearthed at a newly-found ancient burial complex. The skeletons had chains of gold rings around their necks, heads, hands, and feet.

They were buried with other accessories made of precious stones or gold as well as axes and other pottery articles. Between 15 and 25 people are estimated to have been buried at the site at a depth of only about 1.5 meters (five feet).

Archaeologists expressed concern at reports that hundreds of villagers have been selling gold necklaces and ornaments that they found at the site over the past week.

Archaeological agency official Manggar Sariayuwati said it was estimated the relics dated back to an 8th or 9th century Buddhist kingdom.

And, an archaeological team working in Magelang district near Yogyakarta have also unearthed a site from the Mataram Kingdom dating back to the ninth century AD.

The site at Losari village is believed to possibly be even bigger than the famous Borobudur Buddhist monument near Yogyakarta city, which also dates back to around the ninth century.

The head of the Yogyakarta ancient heritage office, Manggar Sariayuwati, said that the findings were estimated to be dated from the eighth to the ninth century AD.

Java has many ancient sites dating back to the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms that flourished from the seventh century onwards.