The authorities of Gampong Pande in Banda Aceh, a village where an oyster gatherer on Tuesday found a cache of dirham (gold) coins, closed the area after people, some even laden with heavy equipment, flocked to try their luck.
“We were forced to close the site temporarily pending a further decision by the Aceh provincial administration,” Kutaraja district secretary TM Syukri said on Wednesday.
Many were worried about the damage the sudden influx of outsiders could inflict on the historical cemeteries located on what was once the realm of the Aceh Darussalam kingdom.
Villagers were supportive of the decision because they feared the discovery site, which is next to their village, could be vandalized by outsiders.
“The problem is that people from other regencies and cities such as Pidie have begun to arrive,” said Syukri, adding that despite the furor locals were still allowed to gather oysters.
Kutaraja district head Yusnardi called on anyone who had found gold coins, intentionally or not, to hand them over to the city administration.
“The administration will provide compensation,” he said as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Residents had been selling the coins for Rp 350,000 (US$30.15) for a coin the size of a button and Rp 800,000 for a coin the size of the current Rp 100 coin.
Meanwhile, the Aceh Cultural Heritage Conservation Agency said it was prepared to deploy experts to study and examine the interesting finds.
The Aceh Darussalam kingdom dates back to around the year 553 Hijriyah or 1100. The site where the gold coins were found was ruled over by the Meukuta Alam dynasty. The neighboring kingdom was ruled by the Darul Kamal dynasty. These two neighboring dynasties merged and formed the Aceh Darussalam kingdom, which was led by Acehnese Sultan Iskandar Muda Johan Pahlawan Meukuta Alam.
Despite being rich in history and cultural significance, the site suffered neglect and due to the lack of care and attention the old cemeteries, belonging to sultans and other royals, have been submerged by swampy, sea water. The 2004 tsunami also took its toll on the site, which had been an inland area before 2004.
“The site was a strategic location for Aceh Darussalam at that time. Many experts lived close to where the gold coins were found,” said Aceh historian A. Rahman Kaoe, adding that the experts were from various regions in Nusantara, such as Java, as well as other countries such as India and China.
“That is why not far from the discovery location there are villages called Kampung Jawa [Java village] and Kampung Keling [Tamil village],” he said.
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