Sat, 05 Apr 2003

C. Java seas may contain treasures

SEMARANG, Central Java: The waters of Central Java may contain treasures scattered in an estimated 74 locations from ships that have sunk centuries ago, a government official said Friday.

Most of the treasures were likely ancient Chinese ceramic and gold barrels, said Hari Purnomo, the maritime office head at the Central Java branch of the maritime and fisheries ministry.

He said 51 locations were identified off the Cilacap regency in the South Sea. Another 14 spots were near the Karimunjawa islands, north of the province in the Java Sea. The remaining nine, he said, were found elsewhere in the Java Sea.

It is unclear what his estimates were based on, but did say surveys were ongoing in the oceans flanking the province.

Ancient Chinese and European traders traversed the waters of numerous regions across the country, leaving behind their precious loads when their ships sank.

Hari said he had not heard of any activities to salvage the underwater treasures.

Ceramic pieces, gold and other artifacts hidden in the shipwrecks in Indonesian waters have often been looted by fortune hunters over the last few years.

The law requires that finders of archaeological treasures and other cultural property must report to the authorities. It also stipulates that 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the finds must go to the Indonesian government. -- Antara