Ming shipwreck to be salvaged later this year

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A 400-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Guangdong province in China, though to date to the Ming Dynasty, will be salvaged by Chinese archaeologists later this year. The find will shed light on Chinese trading activity during the reign of the Wanli emperor (1573-1620), particularly since a ban on sea trade was imposed.

China to salvage 400-year-old merchant vessel off southern coast
Xinhua, 11 March 2009
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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
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Philippine National Museum reiterates that underwater archaeology project is environmentally-harmless

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The Philippine National Museum, in conjunction with an underwater archaeology foundation surveying for shipwrecks in Philippine waters, reiterated that the surveying activities in the waters of the eastern Catanduanes province do not have a detrimental environmental impact. The survey is searching in particular for two Spanish galleons said to have sunk off the coast in the vicinity.

Nat’l Museum says HNAF galleon search “safe”
Catanduanes Tribune, 15 October 2008
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Pirates plunder ancient underwater artefacts

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With all the buzz happening over the new UNESCO sites inscribed last week, this rather alarming story slipped by quietly. Syndicates have reportedly been recovering artefacts from shipwrecks off the shores of the southern Malaysian state of Johor for sale in the antiquities market.

Syndicate Stealing Artefacts In Johor Waters
Bernama, 09 July 2008
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13th century Shipwreck recovered from the South China Sea

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A 13th century shipwreck laden with Song Dynasty porcelain was recovered from the depths of the South China Sea last week – ships like these were common in the international trade that plied the maritime silk route between China and West Asia, and they all moved through Southeast Asia.

Sunken Merchant Boat Raised from the Sea
Xinhua, 22 Dec 2007

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19th-century shipwreck yields Chinese ceramics

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24 September 2007 (VietNam Net Bridge) – Finds from a 19th century shipwreck were recovered off the coast of Ha Tinh province. The finds were mainly Chinese ceramics and were donated to the provincial museum. The story doesn’t say much else.

Sunk ship with antiques discovered in Ha Tinh

Ha Tinh Province Museum has recently received 300 ancient objects including numerous ceramic works discovered by fishermen in Cam Xuyen district in a sunken wooden ship.

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Interview with an underwater archaeologist

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30 July 2007 (New Straits Times) – It looks like it’s another artifact sale in Malaysia, from remnants of shipwrecks in Malaysian waters. These artefacts are left over from archaeological salvage and come from a variety of shipwrecks. I’ll be headed up to KL this weekend, and so I hope to write about the sale there.

New Straits Times, 30 Jul 2007

Klang Valley Streets: Treasures from the deep

TREASURES from the deep go on display and sale in Kuala Lumpur this week at an art fair that showcases an array of Asia’s treasures from the 11th to 19th centuries.

And the man who spent 17 years plumbing the depths of Southeast Asian waters, discovering 10 major shipwrecks, is marine archaeologist Sten Sjostrand.

Sjostrand is proud of his underwater feats and retrieval of precious artifacts: he will have these remarkable pieces showcased at the Asia Art Fair 2007, also an exhibition comprising Asian collectibles and treasures, which opens at the Bangsar Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur, tomorrow.

The pieces retrieved from the shipwrecks may not be the most aesthetically pleasing in a conventional way or most colourful, but they are definitely timeless treasures that are intriguing and mysterious. Historical artwork has been carved and fired on to these items ranging from ceramics, pottery, ornaments, accoutrements to utensils.
They were found on the shipwrecks from the Tanjung Simpang (the years of 960-1127), Turiang (1370), Nanyang (1380), Longquan (1400), Royal Nanhai (1460), Xuande (1540), Singtai (1550), Wanli (1625), Anantes (1795)and Desaru (1830).

Most of these pieces were the objects of trade between China, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. However, it’s the Wanli shipwreck that will be the main feature because of the familiar designs of 17th century Chinese porcelain artwork. It signified the time when European merchants were involved with Asia’s maritime trade and were supplying their domestic markets with Asian products.

Read more about the Malaysian shipwrecks artefact sale.

For books relating to Southeast Asian Shipwrecks and trade ceramics, look up:
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells
The Ceramics of Southeast Asia : Their Dating and Identification by R. M. Brown

Missing the boat on shipwreck treasures

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12 July 2007 (New Straits Times) – Lucien de Guise, curator of the Malaysian Museum of Islamic Arts, writes a column about the sale of shipwreck treasures in Malaysia.

Missing the boat on shipwreck treasures

JUST in case anyone thought that the last discussion about fakes was the end of the series, it was actually the beginning.
My email inbox is once again filling up with opportunities to detect the bad boys in a ceramics collection.

A short time after Peter Lam came from Hong Kong at the request of the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society to talk about “Detecting the Fakes”, we now have Roxanna Brown of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum of Bangkok giving her expertise on ceramic dates. In addition, there is Sten Sjostrand on the subject of “How to Identify Real Antiques from Fakes”.

It’s no wonder Malaysia is so interested in fakes. The nation is Public Enemy Number One in the all-round piracy league table, after China of course. On a per-capita basis, Malaysia is a clear winner.

It seems that the word “fake” has an irresistible attraction. If the talks were called “Kiln Technology of the 16th Century”, the turnout would be comparatively small. Issue a proper challenge, such as identifying fakes, and the people will beat a path to your lecture hall.
A bigger challenge is getting collectors to take an interest in the things that are being faked, including shipwreck ceramics. Nobody has tried harder than Sten Sjostrand. Facing the angry seas, he has recovered countless sunken cargoes and the barnacles that come with them. He has lectured endlessly on the subject, staged exhibitions and recently co-written a book.

Taking things to another level, Sten has introduced a subliminal message. Sharp-eyed visitors to Aquaria at KLCC will notice that there is more to look at than the fish. There are fragments of old Chinese ceramics littering the floors of the Aquaria tanks.

There can’t be many fish tanks in the world that use genuine shipwreck parts from half a millennium ago. Malaysia is the last place you would expect to find anything so authentic. Some of the fish may look like they are dead or clockwork, but the bits of broken pottery are the real thing. They are also for sale, or at least some closely related items are. You don’t need to be so sharp-eyed to spot the stall selling these wares on your way out.

Read the full editorial, Missing the boat on shipwreck treasures.

Books about shipwrecks and ancient maritime trade in Southeast Asia:
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells
Oriental trade ceramics in Southeast Asia, 10th to 16th century: Selected from Australian collections, including the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Bodor Collection by J. Guy

Ancient Shipwrecks Found in Straits of Malacca

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30 July 2006 (The Star) – Three shipwrecks, including what could possibly be the oldest European shipwreck in the region have been discovered along the Straits of Malacca by an Australian marine archaeologist.

The Star, 30 July 2006

Ancient Shipwrecks Found

Well-known Australian maritime archaeologist Dr Michael Flecker, who has carried out more than 100 explorations in numerous countries around the region, made the latest discovery during a blanket survey along the Straits last year…

He also revealed pictures he had taken of cannons, cannon balls, bones of animals that were consumed on the ships and broken Ming dynasty porcelain.

Dr Flecker is the managing director of Maritime Explorations and has been involved in underwater explorations for the past 20 years. He said the warship was located in an area between Pulau Upeh and Pulau Panjang off the coast of Malacca.

“So far, based on our research which has been done some four nautical miles from the coast of Malacca (within Federal waters), the ship could have been a Portuguese vessel under the command of Admiral Coutinho. It sank in 1583 during a battle.

Related Books:
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells