Symposium: The Belitung Shipwreck and the Maritime Silk Route

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Readers in Toronto may be interested in a symposium on the Belitung Shipwreck held in conjunction with the exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum.

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The Belitung Shipwreck and the Maritime Silk Route – Symposium
28 February 2015
10am – 5pm
Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada

The discovery of the 9th-century Belitung shipwreck in the Java Sea in 1998 revealed an astonishing cargo of close to 60,000 Tang period ceramic vessels as well as a rare collection of intricately worked silver and gold boxes, bronze mirrors, and silver ingots. It also revealed some of the belongings of an international crew that was once on board of this Arab trade ship.

The Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, and the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, are co-hosting a one-day symposium about the shipwreck’s discovery, excavation, its exceptional Tang period cargo, and the important narratives it provides of an active cultural and commercial maritime silk route. International experts discuss the maritime silk route, including the Belitung shipwreck and other recently excavated shipwrecks in the Indian Ocean. The symposium includes a round-table discussion of the historical and ethical implications of shipwrecks and the role of museums as venues for exploring and showcasing archaeological materials.

Details here.

Belitung Shipwreck shows up in Canada as the Lost Dhow

The Lost Dhow exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum. Source: Living Toronto Journal 20150121

Remember the Belitung Shipwreck, whose finds were controversially recovered by commercial salvage operators and then sold to the Singapore Tourism Board? Whose planned exhibition at the Smithsonian was cancelled after an uproar over the circumstances the finds were recovered? The finds are now on display at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. As a museum showcasing the Islamic arts, the exhibition is packaged as the ‘Lost Dhow’, while previous exhibitions have been marketed as treasures from the Tang Dynasty.

The Lost Dhow exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum. Source: Living Toronto Journal 20150121

The Lost Dhow exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum. Source: Living Toronto Journal 20150121

The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route
Living Toronto, 21 January 2015

When you enter the latest Aga Khan Museum exhibition ― The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route ― you are literally aboard a 1200-year-old Arab trading ship, a dhow. On the floor, marked off in tape, is the outline of this ancient craft, 6.4m (21ft) wide, and 18m (59ft) stem to stern. You immediately feel the cramped quarters of this cargo vessel and you realize, especially after seeing a large model of this boat, how courageous these sailors and their captain were to sail nearly 2000 miles due south across the South China Sea, to the Strait of Malacca (modern day Singapore), thread their way through this pirate-infested bottleneck, or perhaps to sail around Sumatra on its way across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East.

But the dhow sank a few miles off some islands in the west end of the Java Sea, off the usual trade routes. All that separated the crew from the sea were wooden planks, curved by steam, stitched together with rope and wadding, then coated with a caulking compound made from lime. We can only hope the crew was able to swim to the islands.

Full story here.
You can follow all the previous stories on the Belitung Shipwreck found on this site here.

The pre-colonial Bisayan practice of skull moulding

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17 November 2006 (The News Today) – Henry F. Funtecha writes another article about the early Bisayans and talks about their skull moulding practices and how they appear in the archaeological record.

The pre-colonial Bisayan practice of skull moulding Before the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, the Bisayans practiced skull moulding as a way of enhancing one’s beauty. As mothers and midwives are well aware, the skulls of newborn infants are so soft if they are continuously laid on the same side, their head become flat on that side. Many societies have taken advantage of this reality in order to provide their children a skull shape which conforms to the local tenets of beauty. … How do present scholars know that the early Bisayans practiced skull moulding? Archaeological diggings in burial sites in Cebu, Samar, Bohol and other places in the Philippines had turned out dozens of skulls that clearly show the physical effects of moulding or binding. This writer himself had seen at the Aga Khan Museum at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City in 1992 two complete skeletons that were discovered in Butuan grave site showing reshaped skulls with black teeth filed to points.