Category Archives: INDONESIA

31,000-year-old skeleton missing lower left leg is earliest known evidence of surgery, experts say

31,000-year-old skeleton missing lower left leg is earliest known evidence of surgery, experts say

31,000-year-old skeleton missing lower left leg is earliest known evidence of surgery, experts say
Australian and Indonesian archaeologists stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a young hunter-gatherer whose lower leg was amputated by a skilled surgeon 31,000 years ago.

A 31,000-year-old skeleton missing its lower left leg and found in a remote Indonesian cave is believed to be the earliest known evidence of surgery, according to a peer-reviewed study that experts say rewrites understanding of human history.

An expedition team led by Australian and Indonesian archaeologists stumbled upon the skeletal remains while excavating a limestone cave in East Kalimantan, Borneo looking for ancient rock art in 2020.

The finding turned out to be evidence of the earliest known surgical amputation, pre-dating other discoveries of complex medical procedures across Eurasia by tens of thousands of years.

By measuring the ages of a tooth and burial sediment using radioisotope dating, the scientists estimated the remains to be about 31,000 years old.

Palaeopathological analysis of the remains revealed bony growths on the lower left leg indicative of healing and suggesting the leg was surgically amputated several years before burial.

Dr Tim Maloney, a research fellow at Australia’s Griffith University who oversaw the excavation, said the discovery was an “absolute dream for an archaeologist”.

View of the archaeological excavation at Liang Tebo cave which unearthed the 31,000-year-old skeletal remains.

He said the research team, which included scientists from the Indonesian Institution for Archaeology and Conservation, was examining ancient cultural deposits when they crossed stone markers in the ground revealing a burial site.

After 11 days of excavation, they found the skeleton of a young hunter-gatherer with a healed stump where its lower left leg and foot had been severed. Maloney said the nature of the healing, including the clean stump, showed it was caused by amputation and not an accident or animal attack.

“[The hunter] survived not just as a child, but as an adult amputee in this rainforest environment,” Maloney said. “Importantly, not only does [the stump] lack infection, but it also lacks distinctive crushing.”

Archaeologists at work in Liang Tebo cave in the remote Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat region of East Kalimantan.

Prior to this discovery, Maloney said it had been widely accepted that amputation was a guaranteed death sentence until about 10,000 years ago, when surgical procedures advanced with the development of large settled agricultural societies.

The previous oldest evidence of a successful amputation was a 7,000-year-old skeleton of an elderly farmer from stone age France. His left arm was amputated above the elbow.

The skeletal remains showing the amputated lower left leg.

“This finding very much changes the known history of medical intervention and knowledge of humanity,” Maloney said.

“It implies that early people … had mastered complex surgical procedures allowing this person to survive after the removal of a foot and leg.”

Maloney said the stone age surgeon must have had detailed knowledge of anatomy, including veins, vessels and nerves, to avoid causing fatal blood loss and infection.

He said the successful operation suggested some form of intensive care, including regular disinfection post-operation.

Emeritus Prof Matthew Spriggs of the Australian National University School of Archaeology and Anthropology, who was not involved in the study, said the discovery was “an important rewrite of our species history” that “underlines yet again that our ancestors were as smart as we are, with or without the technologies we take for granted today”.

Spriggs said it should not be surprising that stone age people could have developed an understanding of the internal workings of mammals through hunting, and had treatments for infection and injury.

“We tend to forget that modern humans like us 30,000 years ago … would have had their intellectuals, their doctors, their inventors,” he said.

He said they would have had to experiment with plant medicines and other treatments to stay alive.

“Any inhabitants of tropical rainforests today, usually now mixing hunting and gathering with forms of agriculture, have a large pharmacopoeia that would have to have been developed over millennia.”

The study was published in the journal Nature.

Burials in Indonesia Offer Clues to Migration

Burials in Indonesia Offer Clues to Migration

Scientists have discovered three bodies on an Indonesian island which provide an insight into the movements of early humans, thousands of years ago.

Dr Samper Carro from ANU with bones found at Alor Island, Indonesia.

The bodies, found across three burial sites, form part of the excavation and analysis of 50,000 bones unearthed along the south coast of Indonesia’s Alor Island, which is north of Timor Leste.

The various remains found beneath rock shelters in an area named Tron Bon Lei near Lerabain are between 7,500 and 13,000 years old.

But it’s the way they were buried which provides unique insights into how early humans moved across Southeast Asia during the Pleistocene and Holocene periods.

Studies are beginning to understand the genetic diversity of peoples within the region, which lead researcher Dr Samper Carro says can be further informed by the discovery of these bodies.

“The three quite unusual and interesting burials show different mortuary practices,” Carro says.

“They might relate to recent discoveries of multiple migratory routes through the islands of Wallacea from thousands of years ago.

“It shows how burial practices can complement data on genetic diversity from one of the current research hotspots in Southeast Asia.”

Burial practices and the talking dead

The discovery of human remains in the region began in 2014, when teams from ANU and Indonesia’s Gadjah Mada University, found a 12,000-year-old human skull buried along with several fish hooks.

More bodies were found when the team returned to the site four years later. Carro then spent several COVID-interrupted years studying the remains, with the results now published in PLOS One.

It’s the positioning of the bodies beneath the surface which provides archaeologists with insights into the different cultures that migrate through the region.

One of the bodies had its extremities intentionally removed before being buried.

Another was placed in a ‘seated’ position, while the third was lying on its side.

“Burials are a unique cultural manifestation to investigate waves of migration,” Carro explains.

Burial practices can provide scientists with insights into migratory patterns carried out by ancient cultures.

Equally, these practices may have developed locally, which is why Carro says further research to characterise mortuary practices in the region will help provide greater accuracy to her findings.

“Further research in aspects such as biomolecular anthropology, diet practices, or the types of tools used in burial rites will allow us to gather more data,” she says.

“These future efforts will provide us deeper insights to interpret the lifeways of these communities.”

Scientists discover remains of Hobbit humans that stood only 3ft high and lived 700,000 years ago in Indonesia

Scientists discover remains of Hobbit humans that stood only 3ft high and lived 700,000 years ago in Indonesia

SCIENTISTS have discovered the fossils of a “hobbit” that lived 700,000 years ago on an Indonesian island.

Scientists discover remains of Hobbit humans that stood only 3ft high and lived 700,000 years ago in Indonesia
A scientist’s estimation of what the “hobbits” might have looked like

The homo floresienis were ancient humans that lived between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Adults stood just three-and-a-half feet tall and their brains were roughly one-third the size of our own, about the size of a chimpanzee’s.

Because of their miniature size, researchers nicknamed the unusual findings Hobbits.

The discovery consists of just six tiny teeth and a fragment of a small lower jawbone, but researchers say it is enough to suggest the fossils belonged to a direct ancestor of the Hobbits.

One theory states the Hobbits may have arrived on the island from Java after being washed out to sea by a tsunami.

The fossils included some tiny teeth.
As well as a piece of the lower jawbone

Over time, they could have shrunk on their new island home – a strange yet common phenomenon known as island dwarfism.

This relies on a variety of factors, from limited food sources to a lack of predators to defend themselves against.

Other researchers believe the fossils belonged to anatomically modern humans who suffered from some type of disorder that led to extreme disorder.

Microcephaly and Down syndrome have both been proposed.

However, the new discovery suggests otherwise – hobbits who wound up on the island seemed to defy traditional evolution and growth.

44,000-Year-Old Cave Painting Could Be the Earliest Known Depiction of Hunting

44,000-Year-Old Cave Painting Could Be the Earliest Known Depiction of Hunting

A 44,000-year-old cave painting of a hunting scene that involves humans and animals might be the oldest recorded story. It was discovered, by a group of archaeologists from Griffith University, Australia, in a cave on the Indonesian island Sulawesi.

Researchers think this mural might be the oldest rock art ever painted — the first sign of the ability of human being’s to paint, but also the earliest proof of our relationship with the spiritual or supernatural.

The painting in the cave depicts a scene where a group of part-human, part animal-like figures are hunting large animals that look a lot like pigs found in Sulawesi, along with a species of small-bodied buffalo called the ‘anoa’. Human beings with heads of animals seem to be carrying spears or ropes to help in their hunt.

The animals in the rock art that is being hunted by the half-human, half-animals beings.

Half-animal, half-human figures

The “human” figures in rock art, dubbed “therianthropes” are human figures with animal characteristics. These types of figures have shown up in cultures all around the world — from 17,000-year-old paintings of bird-headed human beings being charged by a bison in France’s Lascaux caves to a 40,000-year-old carved figure called “the Lion Man” in Germany.

“The hunters represented in the ancient rock art panel at Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 are simple figures with human-like bodies, but they have been depicted with heads or other body parts like those from birds, reptiles, and other faunal species endemic to Sulawesi,” Adhi Agus Oktaviana, a rock art expert and PhD student in Griffith University, said in a statement.

This depiction of therianthropes may be the oldest evidence of the human ability to “imagine the existence of supernatural beings, a cornerstone of religious experience,” which means that they might have begun to have a semblance of understanding of religion or spiritual ideas.

“The images of therianthropes at Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 may also represent the earliest evidence for our capacity to conceive of things that do not exist in the natural world, a basic concept that underpins modern religion,” Adam Brumm, an archaeologist who was part of the study said.

“Early Indonesians were creating art that may have expressed spiritual thinking about the special bond between humans and animals long before the first art was made in Europe, where it has often been assumed the roots of modern religious culture can be traced.” 

There is a handprint in red, at the left end of the mural that acts as a signature of the artist.

Cave art at a possible sacred site

The cave itself, researchers think, might have been a sacred site. It is not easily accessible, what with it being perched on a clifftop 20 meters above the valley floor — it would have required some climbing.

“Accessing it requires climbing, and this is not an occupation site. So people were going in there for another reason,” Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist part of this study told Ars Technica in an interview.

There was no evidence of the cave being used as a living place. There was no trace of the usual debris of human life—stone tools, discarded bones, and cooking fires—anywhere in the cave or in the much larger chamber beneath it.

The entrance of the cave is 20 meters above the valley.

The cave, which was given the name “Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4” when it was unearthed in 2017, is one of the hundreds of caves in the Maros-Pangkep limestone-rich region of South Sulawesi in Indonesia. In an interview with Nature, Brumm said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I mean, we’ve seen hundreds of rock art sites in this region, but we’ve never seen anything like a hunting scene.”

To confirm the art was the oldest, the group of archaeologists carried out dating tests by calcite build-up on the painting. The researchers were able to determine that calcite build-up on one pig began forming at least 43,900 years ago. The build-up on the two buffaloes is older than 40,900 years. The rock art previously considered to be the oldest was found in sites in Europe, and dated back to between 14,000 to 21,000 years ago.

A wide view of the entire painting, with annotations.

Archaeological findings like these are growing important in our understanding of humankind’s roots and evolution. There’s a fear this rock art might soon be lost altogether because of deterioration. The art is peeling and they do not know what is causing it.

“It would be a tragedy if these exceptionally old artworks should disappear in our own lifetime, but it is happening,” Oktaviana said.

“We need to understand why this globally significant rock art is deteriorating – now.”

7,200-year-old skeleton unearthed in Indonesia reveals an unknown human group

7,200-year-old skeleton unearthed in Indonesia reveals unknown human group

The ancient remains of a hunter-gatherer girl who died over 7,000 years ago in Indonesia, has revealed clues to a mysterious group of humans from the past. The discovery, made in 2015, in the Leang Panninge cave on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island is the first discovery of ancient human DNA in the region, known as Wallacea.

In a study published, Griffith University archaeology professor and study co-author Adam Brumm said the girl, nicknamed Bessé,’ belonged to a mysterious group of modern humans from the Holocene era who archaeologists have named the Toaleans.

It is the first time an intact skeleton of the Toalean people had been found.

“We’ve got ancient DNA from the bones of this woman, but we could only reconstruct about 2 per cent of her complete genome,” Brumm told the ABC. “So that’s how degraded it was and it took a lot of work to get even that.”

Sulawesi is the largest island in Wallacea. White shaded areas represent landmasses exposed during periods of lower sea level in the Late Pleistocene.
Burial of the hunter-gatherer Toalean woman.

Through DNA analysis, archaeologists have confirmed a theory that the Toaleans were related to the first humans who lived in Wallacea around 65,000 years ago and could also tie the girl to the Aboriginal Australians and Papuans.

Half of Bessé’s genome is shared with present-day Aboriginals, Papuans, and Western Pacific Islander peoples. She was also partly related to the older human ancestors the Denisovans, whose remains have been found in Tibet and Siberia.

Further analysis found that Bessé’ also had strong genetic ties to an ancient Asian group of people who did not mingle with the ancestors of Aboriginals and Papuans.

“A really unexpected discovery is that within the DNA of this ancient woman, we found ancestry from a very ancient Asian population,” Brumm said. “We don’t know quite who they were.”

Excavations at Leang Panninge cave.

Prof. Akin Duli from the University of Hasanuddin said this meant the population and genetic history of early humans in the region were more complex than previously thought.

“It is unlikely we will know much about the identity of these early ancestors of the Toaleans until more ancient human DNA samples are available from Wallacea,” Duli said.

However, finding more preserved remains, like Bessé’s, is extremely difficult given the tropical, humid weather of the region.

Just two other DNA samples have been found in the whole region and they come from Laos and Malaysia.

Bessé’ has no relation to the present-day people of Sulawesi, which is unsurprising given they are known to be largely descended from people who came from the Taiwanese region 3,500 years ago.

The Toaleans have been a century-old archaeological mystery since the discovery of unique, finely crafted arrowheads in several southern Sulawesi caves in 1902.

Undated Toalean stone arrowheads, backed microliths, and bone projectile points.

Intact DNA from a 7,200-year-old Woman reveals Unknown Human lineage

Intact DNA from a 7,200-year-old Woman reveals Unknown Human lineage

Archaeologists have discovered ancient DNA in the remains of a woman who died 7,200 years ago in Indonesia, a find that challenges what was previously known about the migration of early humans.

Intact DNA from a 7,200-year-old Woman reveals Unknown Human lineage
The skeletal remains of the ancient Toalean woman were found nestled among large rocks in a burial pit in Indonesia’s Leang Panninge cave.

The remains, belonging to a teenager nicknamed Bessé, were discovered in the Leang Panninge cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Initial excavations were undertaken in 2015.

The discovery, published in the journal Nature, is believed to be the first time ancient human DNA has been discovered in Wallacea, the vast chain of islands and atolls in the ocean between mainland Asia and Australia.

The DNA was extracted from the petrous part of Bessé’s temporal bone, which houses the inner ear.

Griffith University’s Prof Adam Brumm, who co-led the research, said the intact DNA was a rare find.

“The humid tropics are very unforgiving on DNA preservation in ancient human bones and teeth,” Brumm said.

“There’s only one or two pre-neolithic skeletons that have yielded ancient DNA in all of mainland south-east Asia.

“Elsewhere in the world – in the northern latitudes of Europe, in America – ancient DNA analysis is completely revolutionising our understanding of the early human story: the genetic diversity of ancient humans, population movements, demographic history.”

Initial excavations started in 2015 at the Leang Panninge cave on the island of Sulawesi.

The researchers describe Bessé as a “genetic fossil”. Genetic sequencing showed she had a unique ancestral history not shared by anyone living today, nor any known humans from the ancient past, Brumm said.

Around half of Bessé’s genetic makeup is similar to present-day Indigenous Australians and people from New Guinea and the Western Pacific islands.

“Her ancestors would have been a part of the initial wave of movement of early humans from mainland Asia through these Wallacean islands towards what we today call Sahul, which was the combined ice age landmass of Australia and New Guinea,” Brumm said.

Toalean stone arrowheads. Bessé remains were found alongside prehistoric tools and red ochre.

Surprisingly, Bessé’s DNA also showed an ancient link to east Asia, which challenges what was previously known about the timeline of migration to Wallacea.

“It is thought that the first time people with predominantly Asian ancestry entered the Wallacean region was around about three or four thousand years ago when the first prehistoric neolithic farmers entered the region from Taiwan,” Brumm said.

READ ALSO: THEY REBUILD THE FACES OF EGYPTIAN MUMMIES FROM THEIR 2,000-YEAR-OLD DNA

“If we’re finding this Asian ancestry in a hunter-gatherer person who lived thousands of years before the arrival of these neolithic people from Taiwan, then it suggests … earlier movement of some population from Asia into this region.”

Bessé is also the first known skeleton belonging to the Toalean culture, a group of hunter-gatherers who lived in South Sulawesi between 1,500 and 8,000 years ago.

She was around 17 to 18 years old at the time of burial. Prehistoric stone tools and red ochre were found alongside her remains. Her grave also contained bones of hunted wild animals.

Long-Hidden “Pyramid” Found in Indonesia Was Likely an Ancient Temple

Long-Hidden “Pyramid” Found in Indonesia Was Likely an Ancient Temple

When Dutch colonists became the first Europeans to discover Gunung (Mount) Padang in the early 20th century, they must have been awestruck by the sheer scale of their ancient stone surroundings.

Here, scattered across a vast hilltop in the West Java province of Indonesia, lay the remnants of a massive complex of rocky structures and monuments – an archaeological wonder since described as the largest megalithic site in all of Southeastern Asia.

But those early settlers couldn’t have guessed the greatest wonder of all might lay hidden, buried deep in the ground below their feet.

In controversial new research presented at the AGU 2018 Fall Meeting in Washington, DC, last week, a team of Indonesian scientists presented data to make their case that Gunung Padang is in fact the site of the world’s oldest known pyramid-like structure.

Their research, which has been conducted over the course of several years, suggests that Gunung Padang is not the hill we think it is – but is actually a layered series of ancient structures with foundations dating back some 10,000 years (or even older).

“Our studies prove that the structure does not cover just the top but also wrap around the slopes covering about 15 hectares area at least,” the authors write in the abstract for their new poster.

“The structures are not only superficial but rooted into greater depth.”

Using a combination of surveying methods – including ground penetration radar (GPR), seismic tomography, and archaeological excavations – the team says Gunung Padang is not just an artificial structure, but a series of several layers built over consecutive prehistoric periods.

The topmost, megalithic layer made up of rock columns, walls, paths, and spaces sit above a second layer some 1-3 metres below the surface.

The researchers suggest this second layer has previously been misinterpreted as natural rock formation but is actually another arrangement of columnar rocks organised in a matrix structure.

Below this, the third layer of arranged rocks – containing large underground cavities or chambers – extends as far as 15 metres deep, and this sits upon the lowest (fourth) layer, made of ‘lava tongue’ basalt rock, somehow modified or carved by human hands.

According to the researchers, preliminary radiocarbon dating suggests the first layer could be up to approximately 3,500 old years old, the second layer somewhere around 8,000 years old, and the third layer in the vicinity of 9,500 to 28,000 years old.

As for the purpose of these ancient, vast structures, the researchers – led by geophysicist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences – suggest the ancient pyramid could have had a religious basis.

“It’s a unique temple,” Natawidjaja told Live Science.

For now, that’s speculation, but if the researchers’ other claims about the structures turn out to be right, it’s a major finding that could challenge notions of what prehistoric societies were capable of.

‘It’s huge,” Natawidjaja told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2013. ”People think the prehistoric age was primitive, but this monument proves that wrong.”

Still, not everybody is convinced. Natawidjaja’s research has been the subject of much controversy in Indonesia and elsewhere, with a large number of archaeologists and sceptics criticising the team’s methods and findings.

The latest research presentations – which, for now, remain non-peer-reviewed – will probably add fuel to the fire, but they also give the world a closer glimpse at what could be one of the world’s most ancient and mysterious structures.

As for what that structure really is, only time will tell.

Fishermen discover treasure trove, possibly from Lost Island of Gold

Fishermen discover treasure trove, possibly from Lost Island of Gold

The site of a fabled Indonesian kingdom renowned for its golden treasures may finally have been discovered on Sumatra, known as the Island of Gold. For the past five years, fishermen exploring the crocodile-infested Musi River, near Palembang, have hauled a staggering treasure trove from the depths – including gemstones, gold ceremonial rings, coins and bronze monks’ bells.

One of the most incredible finds so far is a jewel-encrusted life-size statue of Buddha from the 8th century, which is worth millions of pounds.  The artefacts date back to the Srivijaya civilisation – a powerful kingdom between the 7th and 13th centuries which mysteriously vanished a century later. 

Dr Sean Kingsley, a British maritime archaeologist, told MailOnline: ‘Great explorers have hunted high and low for Srivijaya as far afield as Thailand and India, all with no luck. Even at Palembang, the traditional location of the vanished kingdom, archaeologists failed to turn up enough pottery to boast even a small village. Srivijaya, the last mighty lost kingdom on earth, has jealously guarded its secrets.’

The site of a fabled Indonesian kingdom renowned for its golden treasures may finally have been discovered on Sumatra, known as the Island of Gold. For the past five years, fishermen exploring the Musi River, near Palembang, have hauled a staggering treasure trove from the depths – including this life-size 8th-century AD bronze Buddhist statue, studded with precious gems, and worth millions.
A small gold and gem ring with claws, possibly worn by a sacred bird; right: a 21.5cm buffalo and rider ornament.

He added: ‘In the last five years, extraordinary stuff has been coming up. Coins of all periods, gold and Buddhist statues, gems, all the kinds of things that you might read about in Sinbad the Sailor and think it was made up. It’s actually real.’    

Sumatra was referred to in ancient times as the Island of Gold due to it being rich in gold deposits and natural resources and was an early point of arrival for trade in Southeast Asia.  The sixth and seventh centuries saw a steady increase in Asian maritime trade, with a huge Chinese market opening up.  A growing demand for Buddhist rituals, in particular, led to an increase in the export of Indonesian commodities to China.

Dr Kingsley said: ‘Other than the stunning finds of gold and jewels, the riverbed turned up tons of Chinese coins and even greater loads of sunken ceramics. The pots and pans show what a rainbow people lived at Srivijaya. Goods were imported from India, Persia and masses of the finest tablewares of the age from the great kilns of China. This is the sweet spot when the first blue and white porcelain dishes were made, what would become the best brand in the world.’

He has revealed his research in the autumn issue of Wreckwatch magazine, which he also edits. The Srivijayan study forms part of the 180-page autumn publication which focuses on China and the Maritime Silk Road.

He wrote: ‘From the shallows have surfaced glittering gold and jewels befitting this richest of kingdoms – everything from tools of trade and weapons of war to relics of religion. From the lost temples and places of worship have appeared bronze and gold Buddhist figurines, bronze temple door-knockers bearing the demonic face of Kala, in Hindu legend the mythical head of Rahu who churned the oceans to make an elixir of immortality. 

‘Bronze monks’ bells and gold ceremonial rings are studded with rubies and adorned with four-pronged golden vajra sceptres, the Hindu symbol for the thunderbolt, the deity’s weapon of choice. Exquisite gold sword handles would have graced the sides of royal courtesans, while bronze mirrors and hundreds of gold rings, many stamped with enigmatic letters, figures and symbols, earrings and gold necklace beads resurrect the splendour of a merchant aristocracy going about its daily dealings, stamping shipping manifests, in the palace complex.’

Srivijaya has been described by Dr Kingsley as a ‘Waterworld, with people living on the river.  He believes that when civilisation came to an end, in the 14th century, their ‘wooden houses, palaces and temples all sank along with all their goods’. 

At its height, Srivijaya controlled the arteries of the Maritime Silk Road, a huge market in which local, Chinese and Arab goods were traded.

He said: ‘While the western Mediterranean world was entering the dark ages in the eighth century, one of the world’s greatest kingdoms erupted onto the map of south-east Asia. 

‘For over 300 years, the rulers of Srivijaya mastered the trade routes between the Middle East and imperial China. 

‘Srivijaya became the international crossroads for the finest produce of the age. Its rulers accumulated legendary wealth.’  The size of the population’s kingdom remains unclear.  Dr Kingsley told MailOnline: ‘I’ve not seen any robust stats for the population of Srivijaya. They didn’t do a census sadly. 

‘The travellers of the age say the kingdom was “very numerous”. Chroniclers wrote that Srivijaya had so many islands, nobody knew where its limits ended. The fact that the capital alone had 20,000 soldiers, 1,000 monks and 800 money lenders gives you an idea that the population was impressive. Look at the size of the great pilgrimage centre of Borobudur, which was paid for out of the king of Srivijaya’s golden vaults. 

‘In the 10th century, the population of eastern Java was 3-4 million people. And Java is smaller than Sumatra where Palembang, the capital of Srivijaya, has turned up.  It is also not clear why the kingdom collapsed. Kingsley wonders if it suffered the same fate as Pompeii – the result of a volcanic catastrophe – ‘or did the fast-silting, unruly river swallow the city whole?’, he speculates.

Aside from the night dives carried out by the local fishing crews, there have been no official excavations, which leaves many questions unanswered, the Guardian reported. The artefacts found so far are being sold to antique dealers before they can be properly examined by experts.

‘They are lost to the world. Vast swathes, including a stunning life-size Buddhist statue adorned with precious gems, have been lost to the international antiquities market. 

‘Newly discovered, the story of the rise and fall of Srivijaya is dying anew without being told.’ The research is covered in the autumn issue of Wreckwatch magazine.

Ancient and early modern Palembang on Sumatra was largely built in the water. Srivijaya has been described by Dr Kingsley as a ‘Waterworld, with people living on the river. He believes that when the civilisation came to an end, in the 14th century, their ‘wooden houses, palaces and temples all sank along with all their goods’