Pirates plunder ancient underwater artefacts

With all the buzz happening over the new UNESCO sites inscribed last week, this rather alarming story slipped by quietly. Syndicates have reportedly been recovering artefacts from shipwrecks off the shores of the southern Malaysian state of Johor for sale in the antiquities market.

Syndicate Stealing Artefacts In Johor Waters
Bernama, 09 July 2008

The rampant theft of valuable artefacts from sunken ships in Johor waters especially around Mersing and Sungai Johor had caused the country to lose millions of ringgit, said the Johor Historical Society.

Such activities, masterminded by syndicates operating in a neighbouring country, had also resulted in the loss of Malaysia’s own heritage, the society’s committee member, Zaaba Abdul Samad, told Bernama. He said the thieves would pretend to be tourists who were diving to observe the natural beauty of the seabed in Mersing.

Related Books:
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia
Turiang: A fourteenth – century shipwreck in Southeast Asian waters (Aquatic Archeology)

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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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