13th century Shipwreck recovered from the South China Sea

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.

Xinhua, 22 Dec 2007

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

Recovery of the boat would be significant in the study of porcelain in ancient China, according to Wei Jun, vice director of the submarine archaeology research center of Guangdong Research Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

He noted that the Song Dynasty was the first peak of porcelain industry in Chinese history, when the products were exported to east, south and west Asia, as well as the east coast of Africa, and the use of porcelain was seen as a symbol of social status.

The shipwreck will be the centrepiece of a new Maritime Silk Road Museum in Guangdong, due to be opened at the end of next year, and visitors will be able to see underwater archaeologists study the shipwreck in real time.

Read about the Salvage operation here. You might also want to read about the Belitung Shipwreck, a Tang dynasty (9th century) wreck recovered in Indonesian waters.

Related books:
The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia by Himanshu Prabha Ray
Lost at Sea: The Strange Route of the Lena Shoal Junk
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells
Turiang: A fourteenth – century shipwreck in Southeast Asian waters (Aquatic Archeology)
The Pearl Road: Tales of Treasure Ships in the Philippines by C. Loviny
Maritime Southeast Asia to 1500 (Sources and Studies in World History)

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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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