Short description

Throughout Southeast Asia, marine archaeology has been a sad story of looting, theft and lost opportunities. The very latest examples from Indonesia are the recent developments around the Nan-Han/Cirebon find, salvaged in a quasi-scientific manner in 2004-05, which until now, at the very moment of the auctioning of the collection, did not become subject of an opposite scientific research, and an as yet unnamed, reportedly early Ming-times wreck, presently salvaged without any scientific involvement. The unsolved administrative issues around these discoveries apparently caused a complete halt to any official permits for survey or salvage of sites under exploration in Indonesia; as a result, various known locations of wrecks in the Java Sea and around Bilitung have been looted freely and, in at least two cases, completely during the very last months while a number of already recovered cargoes slumber, unstudied and unpublished, in warehouses and storages throughout the area. These recent incidents are just another peak of an iceberg of conflicting priorities of the various parties involved in the field, indicating the systemic conundrum in the administrative as well as scholarly handling of underwater finds.