Artifacts stolen from National Museum

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Fri, September 13 2013, 11:04 AM
Stolen history: National Museum director Intan Mardiana (left) briefs journalists on Thursday about the recent theft of four gold-plated artifacts from the establishment. Intan said the heist probably happened on Wednesday night. (JP/P.J. Leo)

Four precious golden artifacts from the ancient Mataram period have gone missing from the National Museum in Central Jakarta, with officials from the Education and Culture Ministry scrambling to find the items, including by calling international auction houses to join its investigation.

“We discovered on Wednesday at 9:10 a.m. that four historical golden artifacts were missing,” the ministry’s director general for culture, Kacung Marijan, said in a press conference on Thursday.

Kacung said the four missing artifacts were a dragon-shaped plaque, a scripted crescent-shaped plaque and one Harihara plaque, as well as a small golden box.

The items were first discovered in the ruins of the Jalatunda ancient royal kingdom bath and in the Penanggungan Temple in Mojokerto, East Java. These gold items, which are usually called peripih, are believed to be the symbol of Hindu gods and goddesses’ power. The items are also believed to be the soul of the temple, which represents the four elements of water, air, fire and earth.

All the missing items were displayed together in a glass showcase located inside the Archeology Gold Artifacts Room on the second floor of the National Museum’s A building.

“The showcase had been forced open by someone,” he said.

The closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the building were not working properly when the incident took place. The museum administration said it had no information on whether the CCTV cameras were damaged.

“We haven’t checked the CCTV condition for a long time,” said the head of the National Museum, Intan Mardiana.

Intan added the museum administration had improved security measures by deploying eight more security guards to protect the valuable collections.

The burglary occurred soon after the museum administration had added more security personnel.

“We have reported this burglary to the Metro Gambir Police,” she said. “The police are investigating four of the museum employees.”

Kacung said the ministry would cooperate with the international auctioneers, including with well-known auction house Christie’s, to help find the stolen artifacts and prevent the collection from being taken overseas.

“Based on our past experiences, when an ancient collection went missing, Christie’s helped us return it to the Indonesian government,” Kacung said.

Kacung added that most museums in the country had weak security systems and that the ministry was planning to evaluate the security systems at the museums.

The National Museum has about 141,000 objects with collections of items in four categories: prehistoric, archaeological, ceramics and ethnographical collections.

After a renovation, the museum was officially reopened on June 20, 2007 by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and became one of the biggest museums in Southeast Asia. The museum was originally opened in 1868.

The latest theft is the third in the museum’s history. In 1990, the National Museum lost its ceramics collection as well as a number of Basuki Abdullah paintings. 

Police investigations revealed the museum’s employees were involved in the two previous burglary cases. (tam)

Missing treasure

1. Item: Crouching dragon-shaped golden plaque 
Characteristics: Found in the ruins of Jalatunda royal kingdom bath at Mojokerto, East Java, in 10 B.C. The dragon is still in good condition with a clear shape to its mouth, teeth and tongue.

2. Item: Scripted crescent-shaped golden plaque
Characteristics: Found in the ruins of Jalatunda royal kingdom bath at Mojokerto, East Java, 
in 10 B.C. The crescent has triangles on the tip of both sides, which look like claws.

3. Item: Small round golden box
Characteristics: Found in the ruins of Jalatunda royal kingdom bath at Mojokerto, East Java,
in 10 B.C. The box is small with an uneven surface and is made of a thin gold piece.

4. Item: Harihara golden plaque
Characteristics: Found in Penanggungan temple at Mojokerto, East Java, in 10 B.C. The plaque has a Harihara god relief and a blossoming flower decoration.

politik dan hukum

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