MELAKA: The state Museum Corporation (Perzim) is proposing to form an archaeological exploration team following claims of underwater treasures spotted around waters surrounding Pulau Upeh in Melaka.
Perzim general manager Fadilah Md Saleh said the exploration team should be led by the National Heritage Department to search for the underwater relics.
“The claims by local fishermen of netting treasures are worth pursuing and Perzim will meet the group to gather more information.
“We will then suggest to the National Heritage Department to form a joint undersea exploration team to recover these precious items,” she said.
Fadilah said she did not discount the possibility that the relics were surfacing in the area due to the ongoing marine reclamation works.
“Melaka was a nautical trading post during the Melaka Sultanate era and I am sure treasures existed on the island,” she said.
Fadilah said this in response to claims by fisherman Saifulnizam Osman that undersea treasures, some dating back to the Portuguese colonial era, were lying underwater in Pulau Upeh.
The 39-year-old from Lereh here said the tiny island’s shore is dotted with shipwrecks that were still not explored by relic hunters.
“I believe many divers were unable to find the shipwrecks as the island itself is shrouded in mystery.
“There is talk of spiritual guidance before divers can be sent to look for the undersea treasure trove,” he said.
Saifulnizam netted a ceramic ware believed to be more than 200 years old and date back to the Qing Dynasty. He previously fished out various other objects of interest.
He said there could be valuable items underwater worth millions of ringgit.
“I have seen many treasure hunters trying to locate these shipwrecks far from the island but often they come back empty handed.
“In my 20 years of experience fishing in the Straits of Malacca, I think the treasures are mostly near Pulau Upeh and there is no need to venture far to look for them,” he said.
Saifulnizam claimed that many fishermen here managed to net priceless relics.
Some managed to salvage Portuguese and Dutch firearms as well as gold figurines belonging to the Mataram kingdom, he added.
“Some have sold these items to collectors for low prices. I have urged those still having the items to hand them over to the Melaka Museum authorities,” he said.
Saifulnizam said silver and copper alloy coins often get snared on fishing nets, indicating Pulau Upeh is rich with such relics.
Pulau Upeh is said to be the site where the Portuguese sourced stone to construct A’Famosa after conquering Melaka in 1511.
The Portuguese built a temporary wooden rampart to secure Melaka but soon after, they started building a stronger stone structure extending from the riverfront to the foot of St Paul’s Hill where the materials were sourced from the island.