Tuesday, November 21, 2017

VICE: Indonesia Can't Stop Its Illegal Treasure Hunters

The illegal antiquities trade is robbing the country of millions of dollars and no one seems to have a plan to stop it. (Adi Renaldi, "Indonesia Can't Stop Its Illegal Treasure Hunters" Vice, Nov 20 2017)
Indonesia's lost treasures keep going missing. Conservations say that a flood of illegal treasure hunters are digging up artifacts in rice paddies in the Central Java district of Sukoharjo—a region hundreds of miles outside Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta—and selling the valuable items on the black market. Local officials declared a site in Sukoharjo's Joho village a conservation zone three years ago after evidence of an ancient Buddhist temple was discovered nearby. But the classification has only increased the appetite of looters who are willing to pay local farmers as much as $222 a day for the right to dig for buried treasures under the cover of darkness. "We haven't calculated it, but if this has been happening since the 1990s, then we have lost so much money," Darno, the head of the local culture and heritage foundation, told VICE. "The government doesn't seem to realize the potential of historical sites." The money is a vital resource for the village's rice farmers, who would typically make nothing off their paddies during the dry season. But it's also proven to be a difficult crime to prosecute. And with little risk of being caught, there are few reasons for farmers in Joho village to not offer their fields up to treasure hunters who are willing to pay cash up-front. "I know nothing about the heritage," one farmer, a man named Mariman, told the Jakarta Post. "Someone says they want to rent my field... I just allow them.
If the foreign government cannot look after its past, then why should collectors here tke the blame for their omissions?

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