Tuesday, March 14, 2006


More vessels detained for looting ancient shipwrecks


The Jakarta Post
By Abdul Khalik
March 13, 2006

The Navy says it seized a ship loaded with pottery artifacts in waters near the Thousand Islands on Saturday.

This follows last week's seizure of four ships loaded with similar artifacts in the South China Sea and the arrest of two non-Indonesian nationals for allegedly looting ancient shipwrecks.

The Navy's Java, Sumatra and South China Sea commander, Brig. Gen. M. Jurianto, said that thousands of pieces of pottery, glassware and other artifacts were recovered from the ship, which he says was about to leave Indonesian waters.

"They were about to leave Indonesia to sell the treasure. We arrested 16 people, including the divers, the ship's crew members and the captain. We are now detaining them and keeping the ancient artifacts at our base in Tanjung Priok Port," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The suspects, all believed to be Indonesian nationals, would be handed over to prosecutors.

Jurianto said that archeologists had examined the pottery, and concluded that most pieces dated back to 16th and 17th centuries.

"The recovered items are worth billions of rupiah. We will hand them over to the prosecution service to be used as evidence in court, and, hopefully, they will be forfeit to the state afterwards," he said.

Jurianto said that last week the Navy had also detained four ships and arrested 26 people for illegally salvaging ancient artifacts from a shipwreck off the coast of West Kalimantan.

In the operation, he said the Navy had confiscated over 260 pieces of pottery and glassware taken from a sunken Chinese ship in the South China Sea off Pontianak last Wednesday.

AFP reported on Saturday that the pottery had been examined by archeologists in Pontianak, who dated most of the pieces back to China's Song dynasty (960-1297).

They were lying at depths of up to 30 meters and were recovered by traditional divers.

"We are still investigating whether the two seizures were connected with the cases ... in the Bangka-Belitung Islands and in Cirebon, which involved a number of foreigners," Jurianto said.

A German citizen, identified as Fred Dopperphol, and a French national, identified as Jeane Paul Blanc, were arrested by National Police last Wednesday in their home for taking part in an allegedly illegal salvage operation on a shipwreck located about 70 miles off the Cirebon coast in West Java.

They were charged as suspects and detained by the police, and now each face a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison if found guilty of violating the National Resources Conservation Law.

Both the French and German embassies maintain that their nationals had the necessary permits from the relevant ministries to conduct the salvage operation.

The embassies say that during the pair's arrest, which took place in their home in the middle of the night, they were not given the chance to produce the necessary documents, which were held by their employer.


Dear Madam or Sir:

Please find below the text of a statement regarding the case of the detention of two foreigners in Indonesia in connection with an archaeological excavation conducted here since 2004 which became topic of reports of national and international media; the original is attached in form of a Adobe Portable Document File.

Please, too, kindly pay attention to the unsolved state of affairs concerning the fate of the artefacts excavated in course of the field campaign.

I remain with

Sallanta battu ri Betawi mange ri Katte ['May Regards from Batavia walk to You'] -

Horst H. Liebner

+62.(0)411.; +62.(0)
PO Box 1245, Makassar 90012, Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia

Pusat Riset Wilyah Laut dan Sumber Daya Non Hayati - Research Centre for Sea Territories and Non-Living Resources
Badan Riset Kelautan dan Perikanan, Dep. Kelautan dan Perikanan RI - Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research, Dep. of Marine Affairs and Fisheries RI
Jl. Letjen M.T. Hartono Kav. 52-53, Jakarta 12770, Indonesia
+62.(0)21.791.80.303 ext 4032; (fax) +62.(0)21.791.80.458/9
PO Box 4130 JKP 10041, Indonesia

Note: I'm using a cellular phone for accessing the internet and e-mail. As recently mails did not reach their addressees -seemingly because they got lost 'in the air'- you might have been asked for a receipt message when opening this mail. This is an automatic security function confirming deliverance of the mail which does not intervene with your computer or any personal data you might have stored on it.


Horst H. Liebner


+62.411.; +

Tenaga Ahli Bidang Budaya dan Sejarah Bahari

Expert Staf, Maritime Culture and History

Pusat Riset Wilyah Laut dan Sumber Daya Non Hayati

Research Centre for Sea Territories and Non-Living Resources
Badan Riset Kelautan dan Perikanan, Dep. Kelautan dan Perikanan RI

Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research, Dep. of Marine Affairs and Fisheries RI
Jl. Letjen M.T. Hartono Kav. 52-53, Jakarta 12770, Indonesia
+62.(0)21.791.80.303 ext 4032; (fax) +62.(0)21.791.80.458/9
PO Box 4130 JKP 10041, Indonesia

Jakarta, 12/03/2006

Indonesian and international press (i.e. Jakarta Post, March 09, 2006; ANN, March 10, 2006) reported on the detention of the German Fred Dobberphul and the French citizen Jean-Paul Blancan by the Indonesian police on March 8, 2006, in connection with an accusation of “allegedly stealing ancient artefacts worth millions of dollars from shipwrecks in waters off West Java” [Jakarta Post]. As regards these reports, we would like to inform you on the following:

The “shipwrecks in waters off West Java” in question here obviously refers to the excavation of an Indonesian vessel of the second halve of the 10th century found by fishermen in 2003, 60 nautical miles North off Cirebon, Java. This scientifically conducted excavation started in 2004 based on the survey license B.26/Men-KP/I/2004, January 21, 2004, and the salvage license B.59/Men-KP/II/2004, February 19, 2004, both issued by the Indonesian Department for Marine Affairs and Fisheries on behalf of the National Committee for Cargo Items of Sunken Vessels (PANNAS BMKT – ‘Panitia Nasional Benda asal Muantan Kapal Tenggelam’), and on recommendations issued by eleven (!) Indonesian ministries and institutions, in complete accord with the valid regulations and any legally binding frameworks. Hence, the operations in question here are an entirely legal activity, which, besides, is conducted in close co-operation between Indonesian and international scientists and institutions (see, e.g., the attached statement by the Musée Royale de Mariemont, Belgium, one of the affiliates of this excavation).

Fred Dobberphul as well as Jean-Paul Blancan are scientific divers of world-standing, who in the recent years have been employed in dozens of underwater excavations, besides others in the archaeological campaigns in the ‘sunken cities’ of Heraklion, Alexandria and Abukir, Egypt, and the scientific excavation of the Spanish caravel ‘San Diego’ in the Philippines. They were employed by the Jakarta based holder of the licenses mentioned above, PT Paradigma Putera Sejahtera, as chief divers, and were in charge of supervising the underwater operations. Both individuals have been granted all necessary immigration papers, working permits and other necessary certificates. It should be underlined, that any participation in illegal activities –the layman’s image of ‘looting underwater treasures’– would be far from their line of work as scientific divers.

Leading historians and archaeologists have characterised this find as one of the most important archaeological discoveries of this decade which will positively elucidate our knowledge of Asia’s trade and politics in the 10th century. We therefore clearly question the reported statement by National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam “that the ceramics are from the Tang Dynasty era in China during the period (AD) 618 to 906” [Jakarta Post]. Preliminary evaluation of the results of the field campaign on the mentioned site referred to here points onto a timeframe between ca.960CE and 990CE, thus the later [Chinese] epoch of the ‘Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms’ and the Early Northern Sung period, and the [Indonesian] era of Śrīvijaya and the early East Javan reigns.

Allegations that “earlier on Wednesday several local people living by the sea said the two foreigners had brought out many ceramics from under the sea. The people then alerted nearby police” [Jakarta Post] have –until the publication of the mentioned news– never been content of any of the previous accusations made against this project and the two scientific divers mentioned above. It is well known, that certain individuals in key positions in Indonesia’s economic and political scaffolds right from the start tried to obstruct this completely legal scientific project, very possibly with the aim to gain control over the excavated artefacts. These individuals since 2004 stage a campaign which end January 2006 culminated in the forced termination of conservation and restoration of the artefacts, since the end of the field campaign in October 2005 stored in a Jakartan warehouse for desalinisation and further preservation, and the confiscation of about 400 scientific samples of timbers, metal, various chemical substances and others awaiting further evaluation and analysis in a field laboratory in Jakarta on March 08, 2006, on the allegation that the licenses issued by the Indonesian authorities mentioned above are illegal. However, all assessments of the legality of these licenses conducted by leading national authorities have clearly proven that these allegations are completely unwarranted, and the impedimenta regarding further conservation and restoration as well as the confiscation of the artefacts are evidently a violation of all authoritative Indonesian laws. We therefore suspect that these latest accusations are advanced to continue the mentioned campaign, but in our mere role as scientists clearly have to refrain from any comments regarding the political and legal background of these altercations.

We herewith would like to entreat, that further media coverage of the mentioned incidents be carried out according to established journalistic standards, i.e., a thorough appraisal of the actual circumstances and facts.

We, too, would like to implore you to voice our sincere trepidations concerning the state of the archaeological artefacts which since more than a month could not anymore be handled according to scientific and conservational standards: It clearly has to be feared, that further prolongation of the unsolved sate and detention of the artefacts will destroy the objects, and thus will be most detrimental for our knowledge of Our World’s Historic Heritage. It should be noted, that we, of course, repeatedly forwarded this appeal in form of formal requests to all involved authorities, but until now did not receive any answer what-so-ever.

Respectfully yours,

Horst Liebner
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?