14,000 artefacts recovered from Nanhai No. 1

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Chinese archaeologists report that over 14,00 artefacts have so far been recovered from the Nanhai No. 1, a Song Dynasty era ship that was recovered from the South China Sea.

Hoard of relics salvaged from ancient Chinese ship
Business Standard, 10 January 2016

Ancient Chinese ship yields hoards of relics
The Hindu, 10 January 2016

China: 14,000 gold, silver and copper relics recovered from 800-year-old shipwreck
International Business Times, 11 January 2016

14,000 relics recovered from ancient Chinese ship
CNTV.cn, 12 January 2016

More than 14,000 relics have been retrieved from an ancient cargo ship after it was salvaged from a depth of 30 metres below the surface of the South China Sea in late 2007, Chinese archaeologists said on Saturday.

Most of the relics are porcelain products, such as pots, bottles, bowls and plates produced by then famous kilns in places now known as Jiangxi, Fujian and Zhejiang, said Liu Chengji, deputy head of the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Xinhua reported.

As of January 5, archaeologists have also excavated hundreds of gold, silver and copper relics and about 17,000 copper coins.

Full story here.

China’s archaeology ship seeks buried sovereignty

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China’s archaeology research vessel, the Kaogu-01, comes with all the bells and whistles, but its deployment in the South China Sea is a source of concern to the maritime nations of Southeast Asia as it is being used to enforce China’s territorial claims far beyond its shores.

Update: A reader pointed out that the link was missing. They are up now!

Archaeology and the South China Sea
The Diplomat, 20 July 2015

In 2013, China enforced those claims on an unsuspecting French archaeologist and his team investigating the wreck of a Chinese junk off the Philippine coast. According to one report, a Chinese twin-prop plane flew overhead. Then a Chinese marine-surveillance vessel approached the Philippines-registered ship, issuing instructions in English to turn around and head back. While it is difficult to say where exactly this incident actually happened, it does go to show that China is both willing and able to use force to enforce its sovereignty claims over shipwrecks and other relics in disputed waters.

China has also turned to the use of passive technology to protect its cultural relics. According to Yu Xingguang, Director of the State Oceanic Administrations Number 3 Research Facility, China has finished developing the technology for monitoring buoys, which employ acoustics technology to survey underwater wrecks and monitor their condition, while also simultaneously using China’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify and monitor ships entering and exiting the area of wrecks in real time.

Enforcing its sovereignty claims off the Philippines is one obvious way that China is using maritime archaeology to assert and protect its sovereignty. Another method apparently used is much more subtle. It involves the use of China’s new ship, Kaogu-01, in disputed areas to assert its control over them, as well as the gradual buildup of work stations and bases in the area, such as the one planned for Yongxing Island.

Full story here.

Vietnam plans to establish an underwater archaeology centre

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In its next step to build capability in underwater archaeology operations, the Institute of Archaeology plans to submit a proposal to set up a centre for underwater archaeological research to be based in Hoi An.

VN to set up centre for underwater archaeology
Viet Nam Net, 06 July 2015

Viet Nam plans to build the country’s first Centre for Underwater Archaeological Research in Hoi An this year, Nguyen Giang Hai, the head of Viet Nam’s Archaeology Institute, told Viet Nam News yesterday, July 5.

Hai said the centre, which has initial investment of VND200 billion (US$9.5 million), would boost research in underwater archaeology.

“It’s a very new science, but Viet Nam has a 3,200km coastline. Many shipwrecks are yet to be discovered. The centre will help the country explore the precious value of underwater heritage and the history of our sea and islands,” Hai said.

“The institute has asked for advice from international archaeologists and scientists to build the centre,” he said.
The institute will submit a proposal for the centre to the Prime Minister for approval and funding later this year.
Seafaring has been a way of life in Viet Nam for more than 2,000 years.

According to Hai, local people had stolen precious antiques from sunken ships, and 130,000 objects had been stolen in Ca Mau Province alone.

Full story here.

A regional fast response team for maritime salvage?

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An archaeologist in the Singapore-based Nalanda Sriwijaya Centre has an interesting proposal in the news last week, the creation of a fast-response Maritime Arcaeology centre, based in Singapore.

Singapore can take lead in salvaging of maritime artefacts
Today, 22 May 2015

One solution is to establish a centralised South-east Asian Institute of Maritime Archaeology. Such an institute could work closely with existing regional institutions that lack funding, equipment or expertise. It could provide a well-trained fast-response team to commence archaeological excavation of shipwrecks that are discovered as a result of arresting looters or as a consequence of trawl-net hang-ups.

When not excavating, the team could conduct remote-sensing surveys in wreck-prone areas to find and excavate sites before the destruction begins. The institution could be staffed by all participating countries, but should ideally recruit locally for each project.

Artefacts should remain the property of the country in which there are found. Having been conserved, catalogued and researched, a representative collection could be made available as a travelling exhibit or go on semi-permanent loan.

Something must be done, and quickly, as the non-renewable resource of underwater cultural heritage is fast disappearing from the exploited South-east Asian seabed. Singapore is well placed geographically, economically, academically and historically to lead the way. Existing institutions or universities could facilitate the establishment of an institute.

The powerful marine sector could provide some funding. Through a recent heritage exhibition, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore demonstrated a keen interest in the history of its business. A world-class maritime archaeology institute would be a magnificent manifestation of Singapore’s seafaring roots indeed.

Full story here.

Archaeology and China’s claims to the seas

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Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Underwater archaeologist Michael Flecker talks about the archaeology of the Spratley islands and how archaeology may help defuse arguments by China over the South China Sea.

Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Archaeology could wreck China’s sea claims
Today, 06 May 2015

No country has demonstrated that they have historical rights to the Spratlys, simply because it is, and always has been, Dangerous Ground, a place to avoid at all costs. China’s claim to a large chunk of the South China Sea on historical grounds does not seem to be indisputable.

But perhaps this is just as evident to China as it is to me. Perhaps, it is only a game that will have served its purpose once the islands have been created and the military facilities have been built and manned. Perhaps then China will happily participate in bilateral or even multilateral discussions, with the history card taken off the table.

Full story here.

Indonesian archaeologists survey Riau Islands waters

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Underwater excavation at Pulai Buton, Natuna, Riau Province. Source: Kompas 20150503

Indonesian archaeologists survey the waters of the Riau Islands province, finding a number of shipwrecks beneath the waters.

Underwater excavation at Pulai Buton, Natuna, Riau Province. Source: Kompas 20150503

Underwater excavation at Pulai Buton, Natuna, Riau Province. Source: Kompas 20150503

Arkeolog Teliti Temuan Artefak Kapal Kuno di Natuna
Kompas, 03 May 2015
Article is in Bahasa Indonesia

Lima artefak kapal dari abad ke-10 hingga ke-19 Masehi ditemukan di wilayah perairan Kepulauan Natuna, Kepulauan Riau. Temuan tersebut menguatkan bahwa Natuna merupakan titik penting dalam jalur pelayaran perdagangan internasional yang menghubungkan Tiongkok dengan kawasan Asia Tenggara.

Selama dua pekan, 14-25 April 2015, lima penyelam dari Pusat Arkeologi Nasional menyelami tiga lokasi di wilayah Laut Tiongkok Selatan. Ada tiga lokasi yang menjadi target utama penyelaman, yaitu Pulau Buton, Pulau Laut, dan Karang Antik. Namun, para peneliti hanya berhasil memetakan temuan di Buton dan Karang Antik.

“Kondisi arus sedang deras saat kami berada di Pulau Laut,” ujar Priyatno Hadi, peneliti madya di Pusat Arkeologi Nasional, Kamis (22/4/2015). Pulau Laut ini merupakan wilayah terluar batas geografis Indonesia dengan Laut Tiongkok Selatan. Para peneliti belum mengetahui apakah artefak kapal karam itu berteknologi kapal Asia Tenggara atau Tiongkok.

Full story here.

Nanhai No. 1 yields over 900 porcelain pieces

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Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: ECNS 20150215

More images of the finds from the Nanhai No. 1 wreck have been recovered in the ongoing investigation of the wreck.

Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: ECNS 20150215

Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: ECNS 20150215

900 porcelain pieces found from shipwreck Nanhai No. 1
ECNS, 15 February 2015

Photo taken on Feb 3, 2015 shows a kettle uncovered from the wrecked ship Nanhai No. 1 at the Maritime Silk Road Museum in Hailing island of Yangjiang, South China’s Guangdong province. The 30-meter-long merchant vessel, built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), sank off the coast of Guangdong province about 800 years ago. More than 900 pieces of porcelain, about 120 gold items and thousands of silver coins have been uncovered since the excavation began, according to Sun Jian, technical director of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Center of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The discovered objects primarily are porcelain from Jingdezhen kiln in Jiangxi province, Dehua kiln in Fujian province and Longquan kiln in Zhejiang province.

More images here.

Indonesian shipwreck trove to be auctioned

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Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216

The contents of a shipwreck found in the waters of the Riau Islands will be split between museums in Indonesia and sold to the domestic market. This might be an interesting case to follow as an alternative way to balance the illicit salvage of underwater cultural properties against state intervention and public partnership. The finds from the ship date to the Ming Dynasty, but I am unable to determine much from the archaeology of the ship as the article is in Bahasa Indonesia. (Thanks to Shu from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre for the heads up).

Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216

Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216

Harta Karun Kapal Dinasti Ming di Batam akan Dilelang
Detik.com, 16 February 2015

Pemerintah akan mengangkat kapal karam dari Dinasti Ming bermuatan aneka harta di Perairan Bintan, Batam, Kepulauan Riau. Bagaimana nasib harta karunnya nanti?

Kasubid Pendayagunaan Sumber Daya Kelautan KP3K Kementerian Kelautan dan Perikanan (KKP), Rusman Hariyanto mengatakan, usai kapal diangkat proses selanjutnya adalah pengumpulan Benda Muat Kapal Tenggelam (BMKT) dan ditempatkan sementara di salah satu gudang penyimpanan di Bintan.

Beberapa BMKT akan dipilih dan dibagikan ke beberapa museum sebagai sumber pengetahuan sejarah. Setelah itu, BMKT yang tersisa akan dilelang di pasar dalam negeri.

Full story here.