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Vietnam's maritime archaeology (sea)scape

Dr Mark Staniforth from Monash University writes about the difficulties of conducting maritime archaeology in Vietnam.

Vietnam's shoreline. The Conversation 20121108

Vietnam’s shoreline. The Conversation 20121108

First wrecked, now pillaged: Vietnam’s underwater treasure
The Conversation, 08 November 2012

Very little is known about how many shipwrecks, or other underwater cultural heritage sites, might exist in Vietnam. Almost no maritime archaeology survey work has been done, but I think it is likely that there will be thousands of sites.

Unfortunately, the little work that has been done in Vietnam in the past has often been done by, or in association with, treasure hunters. Large quantities of underwater cultural heritage have been sold. For example, thousands of ceramic artifacts from shipwrecks located at Vũng Tàu, Ca Mau, Binh Thuan and Hoi An have been sold at auction.

One of the problems with any government selling artifacts from shipwrecks is that it places a price on them. Instead of being considered part of the cultural heritage of the nation and belonging in museums or in public collections, they are considered primarily for their monetary value.

Recently, a 14th century shipwreck was found in the waters of Binh Chau Commune (Binh Son District) in Quang Ngai province. Researcher Pham Quoc Quan, former director of the National History Museum of Vietnam, stated that experts had confirmed the recent shipwreck found in Quang Ngai dated back to the 14th century, but experts had been unable to explore the ship due to a lack of proper human resources and equipment. Experts also said that the ship contained various ceramic wares made in China during the 14th and 15th centuries. Coins from the 12th and 13th centuries had also been found.

Full story here.

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