Underwater archaeologists believe they have found the lost Island of Gold. Credit: Amazon

Long-Lost Island of Gold Reappears in Indonesia—Here’s What We Know So Far

Divers excavated hundreds of ancient artifacts from the bottom of the Musi River. From figurines, mirrors, and ceramics to exquisite golden jewelry, all these items point towards the discovery of the legendary ancient Island of Gold.

А team of underwater archaeologists conducting a survey on the island of Sumatra discovered a large number of gold objects at the bottom of the Musi River, which are more than 1000 years old. Experts believe that they managed to find the legendary “Island of Gold”, as the long-lost city of Srivijaya was called in ancient times.


Have archaeologists found the legendary Indonesian Island of Gold?

Mentioned throughout history

The “Island of Gold” is often mentioned in legends and ancient written sources. These texts describe the man-eating snakes that inhabited the island, fire-breathing volcanoes, and even Hindi-speaking parrots. But the main thing in the descriptions is countless treasures.

Archaeological work

For decades, many archaeologists have been trying to find the “Island of Gold”, focusing on indirect pointers from legends. In recent years, the search has shifted to the ancient city of Palembang in Sumatra. It was there, in the Musi River, that a discovery was made recently that could make a splash.

Ancient treasures

Divers exploring the muddy bottom of this river have discovered a place very rich in ancient valuable artifacts. They have already raised hundreds of figurines, temple bells, various instruments, mirrors, coins, and ceramics from the bottom. Also found were gold sword hilts and gold rings inlaid with rubies, gold necklaces and coins, many vessels and wind musical instruments made in a bizarre shape, for example, in the shape of peacocks.

Underwater archaeologists discovered ancient treasures at the bottom of River Musi and believe they have found the legendary Island of Gold. Credit: Wreckwatch Magazine
Underwater archaeologists discovered ancient treasures at the bottom of River Musi and believe they have found the legendary Island of Gold. Credit: Wreckwatch Magazine

How old are the artifacts?

Most of the artifacts date back to the 7th-10th centuries AD. In fact, huge treasures have been raised from the bottom of the Musi River, and one can only guess how many of them still remain in the silt. According to the researchers, this very fact indicates that the lost city of Srivijaya was discovered in the Musi River.

Ancient history

In ancient times, it was a major port that stood on an important trade route between East and West. This city-state was ruled by powerful kings who controlled the Strait of Malacca from the mid 600s AD until 1025. The last date is well known to historians. Written sources indicate that in 1025 the troops of the Indian Chola dynasty captured the city of Srivijaya.

The decline of the Island of Gold

After that, the value of the port began to decline sharply. But historians believe that trade continued there for about two centuries. The collapse came in the 1390s when the last prince of Srivijaya, Parameswara, tried to regain control of trade in the region. However, his army was defeated by the army of the neighboring kingdom of Java, and after some time Srivijaya and its surroundings became a refuge for Chinese pirates.

No other traces

Today, there are practically no physical traces of the existence of this city, with the exception of artifacts that divers raised from the river. So far, no one has carried out official archaeological excavations on the Musi River. Therefore, one can only guess how many artifacts were found and taken by fishermen in previous years. It is possible that all these unaccounted treasures ended up in private collections through the black market.

Map of Srivijaya showing the region as it was around the 8th century. Credit: Gunawan Kartapranata / Wikimedia Commons
Map of Srivijaya showing the region as it was around the 8th century. Credit: Gunawan Kartapranata / Wikimedia Commons

More about the region

Previous archaeological research around Palembang was carried out at a short distance from the new research site. They pointed out that a rich and large port was located nearby. The study of legends hints at the untold treasures owned by the local rulers. It was not only trade that brought them wealth. These places were rich in sandalwood and camphor, which a thousand years ago were valued above gold. The gold itself was massively mined in the Musi River.

How did this civilization disappear?

How could such a rich civilization disappear without a trace? Scientists suggest that Srivijaya consisted mainly of wooden structures erected on an island in the middle of the river and around it on stilts. It was a floating city, the likes of which are still found in Southeast Asia.

Abandoned by people, it could stand no more than a couple of centuries. The wooden piles would inevitably rot, which means that the whole city sank to the bottom and gradually turned into river silt. And only the gold artifacts found in it testify to the existence of a once-mighty center.


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Sources:

Alberge, D. (2021, October 22). Have Sumatran fishing crews found the fabled island of gold? The Guardian.
Boyle, S. (2021, October 27). Once a floating kingdom on Silk Route, now fishermen are finding priceless artifacts from Srivijaya. Daily Mail Online.
Pappas, S. (2021, November 1). Long-lost ‘island of gold’ resurfaces in Indonesian River. LiveScience.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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