Partners sought to salvage Cambodian shipwreck

A 15th-century Cambodian shipwreck sunk off the coast of Koh Kong province in Cambodia is in danger of looting. The Cambodian government wants to preserve the remains and salvage the artefacts but currently lacks the technical expertise to do so.

1970 shipwreck aquarium fixture
photo credit: SolYoung

Govt seeks help for shipwreck
Phnom Penh Post, 10 February 2009

The shipwreck, which is believed to be a 14th- or 15thcentury Chinese trading junk laden with ancient oriental pottery and artifacts, was found in February 2006 about 20 kilometres off the coast of Koh Sdech, after a local fishing fleet reported that looters were plundering the site with makeshift diving equipment.

Hab Touch, director of the National Museum, said that they have sent two museum officials to train in underwater archeology in Australia. “It is not easy to take something from under water like it is to excavate something from the ground,” Hab Touch said. “It is very important for us and a new start for Cambodia.”


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

3 thoughts on “Partners sought to salvage Cambodian shipwreck”

  1. It’s sad to hear this news. Cambodia signed the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage last year. One would expect that the agreement would mean that their signing partners would support a poor country in the implementation of the law, and here they are, looking for help! This discovery, if well studied, could help us understand the trade links that united SEA in the past, and the type of goods that were traded. And if the hull is preserved, then we will have more information in how junks were built. But looters destroy the hulls to reach the cargo, they disturb the site and makes it impossible to interpret what they leave behind. Very sad indeed!

  2. Typical of Cambodia….. another historic treasure sold or destroyed. Only thing that matters is money…. greed is a bottonless pit….. everything else can go to hell. The police and military sent to guard the site are the first ones plundering it. More donor money for what?

  3. We have been contacted by the Ministry of Culture of Cambodia three years ago for a similar or possibly the same case. Due to the UNESCO UCH Convention we feel we should not interfere. Why is UNESCO not helping?

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