Cambodia recovers artefacts plundered from shipwreck


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The Ministry of Culture has confirmed that the 284 jars taken from a shipwreck off the coast of Sihanoukville are ancient pottery dating from between the15th and 17th century.

Cambodia recovers artefacts plundered from shipwreck
Up to 284 jars plundered from a shipwreck off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia
are ancient pottery dating between the 15th and 17th centuries
[Credit: Khmer Times/ Ministry of Culture]

The jars, which were allegedly taken by a Vietnamese fisherman from the ship, were not reported to authorities at the time.

However, a police investigation led to a raid on the Vietnamese national’s home on September 27 by provincial police, when the nearly 300 jars were found and seized.

According to the Ministry of Culture yesterday, an inspection of the jars, conducted in cooperation with the Department of Culture and Fine Arts of Preah Sihanouk province, confirm they are indeed ancient artifacts.

Director of the Culture and Fine Arts Department of Preah Sihanouk province Buth Bupha said the inspection was conducted on September 29 by a team from the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with local authorities.

“After evaluation, the team concluded that the 284 jars were ancient relics that date back to between the 15th and 17th centuries,” he said.

He said that now the culture department has kept the jars, with the aim of conducting further testing to learn more about them.

The Vietnamese national, identified as Le Van Huon, 42, allegedly extracted jars from the Ream Sea area between Takev island and Russey island and stored them at his home in Sihanoukville.

According to Provincial military police commander Brigadier General Heng Bunty, the jars were handed over to the Provincial Department of Culture to be kept as a national heritage.

Cambodia recovers artefacts plundered from shipwreck
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in cooperation with the Department of Culture
and Fine Arts of Preah Sihanouk Province, inspects the pottery
[Credit: Khmer Times/ Ministry of Culture]

He also confirmed that the suspect has been temporarily detained by the authorities while the case is ongoing.

A Preah Sihanouk province administration notice said the fisherman was arrested on Sunday after authorities determined that he was illegally keeping the 284 jars at his home.

It said that the man is an expert diver and had been spotted in the area of an underwater shipwreck in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coastal city of Sihanoukville, believed to be where the jars were retrieved.

Bupha added that in 2015, several hundred pieces of similar pottery were collected from a sunken Chinese ship nearby Koh Kong island.

History professor Vong Sotheara said he could not say where the jars were made, or where they were on transit too.

However, he did say that the dating of the jars confirms that there was commercial activity in the area during that period of time.

“Officials should further study in detail the pieces to give us a better idea of where they are from. They should also be kept as part of our Khmer cultural heritage. The relics should be kept in a museum to attract tourists and for the public to understand our history.

Source: Khmer Times [October 05, 2020]

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