Thai Treasure Divers Lose Out to Economic Growth

via NHK World, 07 November 2017: An interesting video story from NHK World about the underwater salvagers who operate in the Chao Phraya River that cuts through Bangkok.

Running through central Bangkok is the Chao Phraya River. On it is the city’s largest floating village, Mittakham. About 300 people live there. The community is estimated to be about 100 years old.

A development project means the community is scheduled to be torn down. Its residents are being forced to move from the river that’s given them their livelihoods for generations.

One of them is 53-year-old Jamroen Bua-Sri. Every day, he puts on a steel helmet and goes into the river to hunt for antiques and other treasures. He’s one of about 40 such divers. The river was a crucial trade route linking the ancient capital of Ayutthaya to China and other Asian countries, so it’s surprising what can turn up.

“My grandfather was a fisherman. One day, he found something in the river, and there were people who paid for it. So he began to search for lost treasures in the river,” says Jamroen. He has salvaged more than 10,000 items. He says this is an amulet from the early Ayutthaya Kingdom period that ended in the mid-1700s. Some artifacts retrieved by the divers have even gone into national museum collections.

Source: Thai Treasure Divers Lose Out to Economic Growth – Editor’s Picks – News – NHK WORLD – English

Indonesian shipwreck trove to be auctioned

The contents of a shipwreck found in the waters of the Riau Islands will be split between museums in Indonesia and sold to the domestic market. This might be an interesting case to follow as an alternative way to balance the illicit salvage of underwater cultural properties against state intervention and public partnership. The finds from the ship date to the Ming Dynasty, but I am unable to determine much from the archaeology of the ship as the article is in Bahasa Indonesia. (Thanks to Shu from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre for the heads up).

Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216
Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216

Harta Karun Kapal Dinasti Ming di Batam akan Dilelang
Detik.com, 16 February 2015

Pemerintah akan mengangkat kapal karam dari Dinasti Ming bermuatan aneka harta di Perairan Bintan, Batam, Kepulauan Riau. Bagaimana nasib harta karunnya nanti?

Kasubid Pendayagunaan Sumber Daya Kelautan KP3K Kementerian Kelautan dan Perikanan (KKP), Rusman Hariyanto mengatakan, usai kapal diangkat proses selanjutnya adalah pengumpulan Benda Muat Kapal Tenggelam (BMKT) dan ditempatkan sementara di salah satu gudang penyimpanan di Bintan.

Beberapa BMKT akan dipilih dan dibagikan ke beberapa museum sebagai sumber pengetahuan sejarah. Setelah itu, BMKT yang tersisa akan dilelang di pasar dalam negeri.

Full story here.

The cost of auctioning Vietnamese shipwreck treasures

As interests over the shipwreck off Quang Ngai Province intensifies, this feature discusses the profits to be made from the commercial salvage and sale from shipwrecks in Vietnam, but does little to discuss the academic and archaeological benefits of such salvage.

Antiques collected from a sunken ship in Binh Chau commune, Quang Ngai province, Vietnam Net 20120927
Antiques collected from a sunken ship in Binh Chau commune, Quang Ngai province, Vietnam Net 20120927

Overseas auctions of Vietnam’s antiques: good and bad
Vietnam Net, 27 Sep 2012
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Shipwrecks and Shark's Fin Soup

I was on holiday when the Smithsonian announced that it would not be hosting the Belitung Shipwreck exhibition last month. Much inked has been spilled, particularly by commentators in Singapore decrying the decision. Here’s a roundup and my take.

Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck
Changsha Wares from the Belitung Shipwreck

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Nan'ao-1 gives insight to ancient black market trade

Despite a trade ban in the 16th century, salvage from the Nan’ao-1 off Shantou City reveals that there was a healthy demand for Chinese export goods, leading ships to engage in illegal trade for profit.

Ancient ship gives up hoard of rare porcelain
Xinhua, via the Shanghai Daily, 03 May 2010
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Salvage work on South China Sea shipwreck resumes

Salvage works on the wreck of the Nan’ao No. 1, a Ming Dynasty-era ship sunk off the coast of Shantou in Guangdong, China, is set to begin with the start of the good-weather season that starts from now until June.

Relics to be salvaged from ancient ship
China Daily, 10 April 2010
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Vietnam bemoans loss of underwater heritage

Underwater archaeology is an expensive endeavour, and sometimes there’s not enough in the budget for the state to sponsor the recovery of artefacts from under the sea. And without proper safeguards, this usually means that shipwreck finds usually end up in the black market. The story carries a reference to a Singaporean company who salvaged a 15th century Thai ship with the blessing of the Vietnamese government, but it’s the first time I’ve heard of it.

Sunken treasures remain out of reach [Link no longer active]
Viet Nam News, 25 July 2009
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Shipwreck treasure hunting in Indonesia

A feature on Klaus Keppler, who salvages shipwrecks in the seas of Indonesia. Unfortunately the article is more about how lucrative (or unlucrative) such ventures may be, rather than the archaeological value of the finds.

Cannons and china – treasure hunting in Indonesia
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, vis Monsters & Critics, 23 July 2009
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Salvaged shipwreck claimed by museum leaves divers high and dry

Salvaging a 19th century steam-engine shipwreck turns out to be more trouble than its worth, as a group of farmers-turned-divers found out. The Vietnamese pair, who supplement their income by selling salvage recovered from the bottom of the Red River ran into trouble with the authorities when the local authorities declared the shipwreck an ancient artefact to be claimed under the museum.

Sunken treasure
Vietnam Net Bridge, 04 April 2009
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