Have Sumatran fishing crews found the fabled Island of Gold? | Indonesia

It was a fabled kingdom recognized in historical instances as the Island of Gold, a civilisation with untold wealth that explorers tried in useless to search out lengthy after its unexplained disappearance from historical past round the 14th century. The location of Srivijaya might lastly have been found – by native fishing crews finishing up night-time dives on the Musi River close to Palembang on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Their extraordinary catches are treasures starting from a lifesize eighth-century Buddhist statue studded with valuable gems – price thousands and thousands of kilos – to jewels worthy of kings.

A fisher prepares to freedive with a hookah breathing system, and iron chain for a weight belt, in the Musi River at Palembang in search of sunken treasure.
A fisher prepares to freedive with a hookah respiratory system, and iron chain for a weight belt, in the Musi River at Palembang in search of sunken treasure. {Photograph}: Scott Stemm/Pictures courtesy of Wreckwatch Journal

Dr Sean Kingsley, a British maritime archaeologist, mentioned: “In the final 5 years, extraordinary stuff has been arising. Cash of all intervals, gold and Buddhist statues, gems, all the sorts of issues that you simply would possibly examine in Sinbad the Sailor and suppose it was made up. It’s truly actual.”

He described the trove as definitive proof that Srivijaya was a “waterworld”, its individuals residing on the river like trendy boat individuals, simply as historical texts document: “When the civilisation ended, their wood homes, palaces and temples all sank together with all their items.”

He mentioned: “Bobbing above snapping crocodiles, the native fishers – the trendy sea individuals of Sumatra – have lastly unlocked the secret of Srivijaya.”

Analysis might be revealed in the newest problem of Wreckwatch magazine, which Kingsley edits. The Srivijayan research varieties half of a 180-page autumn publication which focuses on China and the Maritime Silk Highway.


Kingsley famous that, at its top, Srivijaya managed the arteries of the Maritime Silk Highway, a colossal market through which native, Chinese language and Arab items have been traded: “Whereas the western Mediterranean world was getting into the darkish ages in the eighth century, one of the world’s biggest kingdoms erupted on to the map of south-east Asia. For over 300 years the rulers of Srivijaya mastered the commerce routes between the Center East and imperial China. Srivijaya grew to become the worldwide crossroads for the best produce of the age. Its rulers amassed legendary wealth.”

Ancient and early modern Palembang on Sumatra was largely built in the water and then sank.
Historic and early trendy Palembang on Sumatra was largely in-built the water after which sank. {Photograph}: Tropenmuseum, Collectie Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

He writes: “From the shallows have surfaced glittering gold and jewels befitting this richest of kingdoms – the whole lot from instruments of commerce and weapons of battle to relics of faith. From the misplaced temples and locations of worship have appeared bronze and gold Buddhist collectible figurines, bronze temple door-knockers bearing the demonic face of Kala, in Hindu legend the legendary head of Rahu who churned the oceans to make an elixir of immortality. Bronze monks’ bells and gold ceremonial rings are studded with rubies and adorned with four-pronged golden vajra sceptres, the Hindu image for the thunderbolt, the deity’s weapon of selection.

“Beautiful gold sword handles would have graced the sides of royal courtesans, whereas bronze mirrors and a whole lot of gold rings, many stamped with enigmatic letters, figures and symbols, earrings and gold necklace beads resurrect the splendour of a service provider aristocracy going about its each day dealings, stamping transport manifests, in the palace complicated.”

Why the kingdom collapsed is unknown. Kingsley speculates that it might have been Asia’s reply to Pompeii, falling sufferer to Indonesia’s effervescent volcanoes. “Or did the fast-silting, unruly river swallow the metropolis complete?”

Gold and ruby-studded jewellery, 8th-10th centuries, found in the river.
Gold and ruby-studded jewelry, Eighth-Tenth centuries, found in the river. {Photograph}: Scott Stemm/Pictures courtesy of Wreckwatch Journal

With out official excavations, proof that might reply such questions might be misplaced. Treasures now retrieved by the fishers are merely being offered earlier than archaeologists can correctly research them, ending up with antiquities sellers, whereas the fishers utilizing harmful diving gear and buckets obtain a pittance of the true worth.

“They’re misplaced to the world,” Kingsley warned. “Huge swathes, together with a surprising lifesize Buddhist statue adorned with valuable gems, have been misplaced to the worldwide antiquities market. Newly found, the story of the rise and fall of Srivijaya is dying anew with out being advised.”

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