The Jakarta Post
After months of being choked by haze from land and forest fires, residents of Ogan Komering Ilir in South Sumatra seem to have literally struck gold after they recently unearthed ancient treasure on land that had been cleared by burning.
The archeological objects were found on burned peatland in various locations in the regency, which is thought to have been a trading center during the era of the Sriwijaya kingdom era in the seventh century until the emergence of the Palembang sultanate in the 12th century, said Retno Purwanti, an archeologist from the South Sumatra Archeological Center.
The hypothesis was supported by the discovery of parts of a boat, such as paddles and a helm, in Tulang Selapan, Cengal and Air Sugihan districts in the regency, she said.
"Local residents found gold and jewelry, including an ancient necklace called a mata kucing [cat’s eye],” Retno said as quoted by kompas.com on Wednesday, “Based on our research, the unearthed jewelry was made in Egypt and Indo-Pacific countries.”
She added that this was not the first time local residents had found ancient objects on burned peatland, as similar discoveries were made around four years ago when wildfires also struck the province.
In 2015, official data recorded an area of more than 600,000 hectares of land in the province was engulfed by fire, so bad that the fires made international headlines as they caused a transboundary haze that affected the neighboring countries of Singapore and Malaysia.
"Local residents did not even need to dig deep to find jewelry as well as precious metals [at that time]," Retno said.
Archaeologists, however, faced difficulties in their attempts to conduct complete research regarding the ancient objects found in the area as some local residents reportedly took the unearthed objects without reporting their findings to local authorities.
"Many of the residents are tempted by the high prices offered by collectors," she went on to say.
According to data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, around 11,826 hectares of land across South Sumatra have been engulfed by forest and land fires throughout this year. The fires have caused a thick haze in major cities in the province. (kuk)