Officials: Russians Aren’t Analyzing Ship Artifacts

Members of a government sub-com­mittee charged with salvaging a shipwreck off the coast of Koh Kong province denied on Monday media reports that a Russian company had stepped in and begun re­covering and analyzing artifacts from the wreck, which is thought to date from the 16th century.

Committee member and Na­tion­al Museum Deputy Director Hab Touch said Russians had photo­graphed the sunken ship but would not be allowed to actually re­move anything from the sea floor without the approval of both the committee and the Russian Em­bassy.

“We plan to sign a contract with the Russian team of experts for the scope of work we cannot do ourselves,” Hab Touch said.

But, he said, “We need to see their ability first.”

Committee member and Min­is­try of Culture Secretary of State Khim Sarith said that recovery ef­forts had stopped around the Khmer New Year to prevent the possibility of breaking fragile artifacts, which are reported to include pottery and elephant tusks.

He declined to name the Rus­sians who took the photographs but said they had offered their assistance free of charge.

Sihanoukville Snake House restaurant owner Nikolai Doro­shenko, who was named in media reports as a biologist and diver who led a Russian team on dives to collect pieces of pottery, elephant tusks and wood for laboratory anal­y­sis abroad, could not be contacted Monday.

Hab Touch said that so far ap­proximately 900 items, including pottery, baskets, tusks and china, had been safely recovered and were being stored in Koh Kong province.

He also hypothesized that ru­mors of looting around the un­der­water site might arise from thefts by locals before authorities investigated the wreck, or possibly from misconceptions about the officials who have been recovering and preserving the artifacts.

Khim Sarith said that approximately 30 men were assigned to guard the site, and that some fishermen who looted items from the ship before authorities learned about it had since returned approximately 20 pieces of pottery because “evil spirits come with the pottery and brought them bad luck.”

 

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