Govt Negotiates Return of Ancient Stone from Scotland

JAKARTA ~ The government is negotiating the return of an ancient Javanese stone that was first taken by a British colonialist in the 1800s and is now held by a family trust in Scotland.

The Sangguran stone, a column dated 928 AD and inscribed with ancient Javanese characters, was taken from its site near the modern-day town of Malang in East Java in 1812, said Hadi Untoro Drajat of the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The stone, which weighs almost four tons and was installed to mark the ancient Sangguran village as a reserve area, is now being held by the Minto Trust, a family trust in Scotland, Drajat said.

“We are in negotiations to return the Sangguran stone back to Indonesia,” Drajat said at a press conference.

The artefact was removed from East Java by British colonialist Stamford Raffles during his 1811 to 1816 rule over Java and parts of Sumatra island, Drajat said.

Raffles gave the stone to his superior Lord Minto, the governor general of India, who then brought it back to his home in Scotland where it still stands.

An Indonesian businessman who claims he unwittingly bought stolen antiquities last year is helping the government negotiate the stone’s return.

“The Indonesian government has a policy of not paying for the return of ancient artefacts, but we are ready to cover the transfer costs and compensation to the Minto Trust,” Djojohadikusmo said at the press conference.

Last November, police found four ancient statues stolen from a Central Java museum at Djojohadikusomo’s Jakarta home. Four people, including the museum’s curator, were arrested in the case, but Djojohadikusumo has not been named a suspect.

Theft of ancient artefacts is rife in Indonesia, home to ruins of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms that flourished from the seventh century onward.

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