Thousands of ancient coins have been discovered by locals in the basin of the Komering River in Negeri Agung, East Ogan Komering Ulu (OKU) regency, South Sumatra.
The 25-kilogram hoard is believed to date back the 10th century and was probably brought to the village by local indigenous traders after doing business along the Musi River, Palembang.
“We have just met with experts and Chinese elders to examine the coins,” chairman of the East OKU Customary Community Network (Jamak), Leo Budi Rachmadi, said on Thursday.
Negeri Agung subdistrict is located some 10 kilometers from Martapura City and some 1.5 km from the main Martapura-Kayuagung road. The Komering River originates in Ranau Lake in South OKU regency and empties into the Musi River through Martapura.
Leo Budi said the coins were found by sand miners in the Komering River at about noon on Saturday, as they were dredging sand. The yellowish black coins came out of their dredging pipes.
The coins are of a variety of shapes, sizes and thickness. Some are circular and others have holes in the middle.
Palembang Archeological Center researcher Retno Purwanti said the discovery of the coins proved that in the past Komering River was a busy and major trade route. “At that time indigenous traders used Chinese coins because they could not yet produce their own,” Retno said.
Chinese traders preferred not to venture into the South Sumatra hinterland beyond the point of the location of the current Ampera Bridge on the Musi River.
“Indigenous traders in the past sold elephant tusks, herbal medicines and rattan to Chinese traders,” she said.
Retno said that coins with holes in the middle were minted by Chinese dynasties in the past. Each dynasty minted its own coins with different motifs and sizes.
The fact that the coins also bear kanji letters further confirms that they were brought to the region by either Chinese traders or rulers.
Chinese coins, according to Retno, were first produced during the Tang dynasty.
The coins found in the Komering River are thought to have been produced during the era of the Sung dynasty, which coincided with the golden age of the Sriwijaya kingdom. The Sriwijaya kingdom was at its height from the seventh to the 13th centuries.
Navigation of the Komering River by ships came to an end following the development of the Upper Komering irrigation project in the 1990s.