Pieces of history: Some of the coins discovered by the locals at the riverbed of Sungai Kelantan in Kampung Kubang Pak Amin, Pasir Mas.
PASIR MAS: For the past month, there had been feverish excitement as word spread of a dramatic discovery of ancient coins and artefacts along the bank of Sungai Kelantan in Kampung Kubang Pak Amin near here.
Prospectors, coming from near and far, have reportedly dug up keris, spears, earthen jars and porcelain plates as well as scores of coins with ancient Arabic inscriptions from these treasure fields.
Collectors were said to have offered generous sums to those who could find and bring to them items from among these treasures, most of which are believed to be from shipwrecks dating back to the 18th century.
It is understood that the dry spell, which started last month, had caused the long-sunken treasure to be easily noticed.
The dry weather resulted in the shallow areas of the river receding and locals had used metal detectors, spades and hoes to dig up the riverbed.
The news spread like wildfire and reached the ears of Malaysia’s heritage custodians, who have stepped in to put a stop to the prospecting, much to the annoyance and disappointment of the prospectors.
National Heritage Department official Rokiah Abdul Samat also sought the help of the Pasir Mas police to prevent anyone from entering the area while her officers excavate for artefacts to determine their origins.
The department declared a kilometre radius from the site of the treaure horde as “out of bounds” to the public while its officers carry out the excavation and site preservation works.
Police have cordoned off the area since Saturday for the work, which is expected to end on March 13.
“I made RM600 from each coin that I found at the riverbed recently but now we are not allowed to go into the area to find more treasures,” lamented one local prospector, who declined to be named.
Young prospector Ahmad Termizi Ahmad, 14, said he had found several ancient coins and sold them to collectors. He was disappointed that the area was now closed to the public.
“I found the coins at the riverbed and thought nothing of them until I found out my brother’s friend had sold some of them to a coin collector.
“But when I returned to the area, police tents had been set up in the area to stop people from entering,” he said, regretting that he did not grab the chance to make a fortune.
Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar was recently reported to have urged the locals to keep away from the area as the artefacts found were a state heritage and could be related to an ancient kingdom in the area.
He also urged the people not to disturb the area as it would hamper progress by National Heritage Department workers in finding clues to the origins of the artefacts.