The underwater archaeology of Ayutthaya

Erbprem Vatcharangkul, Director of Underwater Archaeology at the Fine Arts Department. The Nation, 20120213

No, not a reference to the recent floodinf of Ayutthaya, but to the shipwrecks of vessels carrying cargo from Ayutthaya now mainly resting in the Gulf of Siam. The Nation interviews Erbprem Vatcharangkul, director of the underwater archaeology division of the Thai Fine Arts Department.

Erbprem Vatcharangkul, Director of Underwater Archaeology at the Fine Arts Department. The Nation, 20120213
Erbprem Vatcharangkul, Director of Underwater Archaeology at the Fine Arts Department. The Nation, 20120213

The story beneath the sea
The Nation, 13 February 2012

Though hundreds of kilometres from the coast, Siam’s old capital Ayutthaya was hardly a backwater. Beginning in the 16th century, Portuguese traders plying the Indian-Malay spice route decided the effort to reach it, sailing up the Chao Phraya River, was amply worthwhile.

But quite a few of their cargo-laden ships didn’t make it far on the voyage home, sinking instead in the Gulf of Siam.

What Erbprem Vatcharangkul has discovered on dives to those ill-fated vessels makes him confident that Ayutthaya was one of Asia’s more significant commercial hubs, with commodities from Japan and China being exchanged for others from India, the Middle East and Africa.

He’s salvaged enough to confirm Ayutthaya’s stature as one of the region’s richest cities.

Yet Erbprem – director of the underwater-archaeology division in the government’s Fine Arts Department – believes there is much more to learn about Ayutthaya’s exports among the detritus lying all-but-forgotten on the seabed.

Full story here.

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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.

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