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14 May 2006 (The Electric New Paper) – Legal battle between a German treasure-hunter and his German agent, both based in Singapore. Tilman Walterfang recovered a huge cache of Chinese Tang Dynasty artefacts dating 1,200 years in from “the waters between Malaysian and Borneo” (apparently off an Indonesian island). The artefacts have been sold to Singapore’s Sentosa Corp. The legal battle aside, the sale of sunken “treasure” is indicative of the extremely low legislative and academic support of archaeology in the region.

Sunken treasure turns sour

Mr Walterfang went in search of the treasure off the Indonesian island of Belitung between Borneo and Sumatra when he first heard of the ancient treasure from fishermen.

What he discovered on the seabed was tens of thousands of Chinese Tang dynasty artefacts dating back about 1,200 years.

It was enough for Mr Walterfang to quit his job in Germany .

In Indonesia, he and his partner, Mr Matthias Draeger, spent millions of dollars to salvage the treasure.

Seven years after their astounding discovery, they sold the treasure to Singapore’s Sentosa Leisure Group for what is understood to be about US$32 million ($50m) last year.

Related Books:

Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells

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2 Replies to “Sunken treasure cheer turns sour”

  1. “The artifacts, have now been revealed to the world with the assistance of the Smithsonian Institution; and thanks to Tilman Walterfang’s ethical philosophy, the cargo was not sold off piece by piece to collectors; rather, it was kept intact as one entire collection, so that it could be studied in its original context. Walterfang kept the precious cargo in private storage for years, where they have been painstakingly desalinated, studied and carefully conserved.”  

    ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArtScience_Museum#Belitung_shipwreck_treasure
    ~ http://tilmanwalterfang.org
    ~ http://wreckwatch.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/editorial-tang-treasures-monsoon-winds-and-a-storm-in-a-teacup/
    =========================================

  2. The Belitung shipwreck excavation led by Tilman Walterfang was legally approved by the Indonesian government. As a collaboration between local government, archeologists and international museums, and Walterfang’s company it was a good example of a pragmatic solution to preserving underwater cultural heritage.

    As Ark-Royal mentions the collection was carefully restored to a high standard and was sold as one unit to allow for future study. This was a great find that was carefully managed by Walterfang’s company and is now on display to the public in Singapore.

    The links above are a good starting point to learn more about the discovery

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