MARITIME EXPLORATIONS
THE INTAN SHIPWRECK (10th C.)

Background

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 Java.

 

Spread

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.

 

Recovered Cargo

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.

Intan Wreck Details and Photos

 

Cargo Disposition

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 history.

Publications

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.

2. Treasures from the Java Sea: The 10th Century Intan Shipwreck, Flecker, M., Heritage Asia Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 2, December 2004 - February 2005.

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