Salvage company makes discovery one hour before contract expires

Hole in one: The copper coins said to be found during excavation work at Pulau Nangka, Malacca.

MALACCA - The Pulau Nangka treasure hunt may have hit paydirt.

Workers of the salvaging company were said to have discovered two copper medallions, believed to be part of the billion ringgit wealth buried in the tiny island from the time of the Malacca Sultanate.

The discovery was made at 11pm on Wednesday, just an hour before the contract awarded to Smart Partnership International (M) Sdn Bhd, the company commissioned since January to detect and salvage the treasure, expired.

The relics were discovered as the workers drilled through the wall of the cavern to search for the remaining bounty, which was believed to be stored in 20 chambers inside the cave.

Malacca Museum Corporations (Perzim) general manager Datuk Khamis Abas said the inscriptions on the relics revealed that they had different characters and symbols.

One had inscriptions in Arabic or Jawi while the other had Sanskrit or ancient Pallava Tamil, indicating that they could date back to the Majapahit Kingdom era.

"After initial sighting of the relics, we believe the items are medallions based on their size but further research is needed before we can actually confirm which era the medallions are from," he said yesterday.

On Wednesday, State Works, Public Utilities, Transport and Project Rehabilitation Committee chairman Datuk Abdul Ghafaar Atan had announced that Smart Partnership International, which was given a four-month contract beginning last January, had until Wednesday midnight to locate the treasure.

The Malacca Government was planning to commission another Kuala Lumpur-based firm, Legend Treasures Sdn Bhd, to continue the search and excavation.

Yesterday, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron confirmed the finding but wanted the relevant authorities to determine the authenticity of the relics and if it was deliberately planted there.

"Carbon dating will be conducted to determine the finer details of the relics.

"One of the coin (medallions) will undergo laboratory test by certified archaeologists," he said.

Idris said that if the coins were found to be authentic, Smart Part­nership would have its contract extended.

The Star, on its front-page exclusive on the treasure island on Apri14, reported that the state government had given permits to two local companies to carry out excavation work under strict conditions set by Perzim.

There has been talk about treasure on the island for a long time and there have been many attempts by treasure hunters to find it, with some even using dynamite to blow up boulders to get to the cavern.

According to villagers, the buried cave is protected by a curse or by spirits.

A small group of people managed to get into the cave about 30 years ago but none could take out any of the treasure. They reportedly came out dazed and in a trance-like state after seeing, among other things, more than 80 chests of gold inside.

It was learnt that representatives of the company appointed by the state government had sought spiritual help before undertaking their venture.