INTAN SHIPWRECK (10th C.)
The Intan Wreck was
found by Indonesian fishermen only 10 miles from the Java Sea
Wreck. The navy arrested the fishermen when they started to plunder
the wreck, and gave the position to an Indonesian salvage licensee.
Flecker carried out an investigation survey, and then directed
the full excavation for a joint-venture incorporating the Indonesian
licensee and the German company, Seabed Explorations, in 1997.
The site turned out
to be a magnificent find, the oldest Southeast Asian wreck with
a complete cargo. Carbon dating augmented ceramic and coin analysis
to confirm a 10th century AD date. While little of the hull remained,
timber identification and structural details indicated that the
ship was an Indonesian lashed-lug craft. She was probably bound
from the Srivijayan capital, Palembang, to central or eastern
As the cargo was not
too extensive, a low budget excavation was conducted from a modified
fishing boat, with a second boat relaying the artefacts to Jakarta
for conservation. Diving was by means of hooka with in-water decompression
at this relatively shallow site, and excavation was carried out
with water dredges.
The recovered cargo
was extremely diverse. It consisted of several thousand Chinese
ceramics, Thai fine-paste-ware, base metal ingots of bronze, tin,
lead and silver, Indonesian gold jewellery, bronze religious and
utilitarian artefacts, Chinese mirrors, Arab glass, iron pots,
and a wide range of organic materials.
Wreck Details and Photos
The entire Intan cargo
is believed to have been returned to Jakarta as part of the division
of proceeds deal on the Belitung (Tang) Shipwreck cargo, which
was excavated by the same company. Housing the Intan collection
may also be part of the deal. As yet there seems to be no public
access to the material, which is immensely important to Indonesian
1. The Archaeological
Excavation of the 10th Century Intan Wreck, Flecker, M., Ph.D.
thesis, National University of Singapore, 2001: BAR International
Series 1047, Oxford, 2002.
from the Java Sea: The 10th Century Intan Shipwreck,
Flecker, M., Heritage Asia Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 2, December 2004
- February 2005.