Over 900 historical relics found in two ancient shipwrecks in South China Sea

2024-06-14 09:56:46Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Chinese archaeologists have finished three phases of a deep sea archaeological investigation of two ancient shipwrecks from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China's South China Sea, excavating over 900 cultural relics, the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) announced at a press conference on Thursday.

The two shipwrecks, located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, were discovered at a depth of about 1,500 meters in October 2022.

From 2023 to 2024, the archaeological teams conducted three phases of deep-sea archaeological excavations using the submersible Shenhai Yongshi, or Deep Sea Warrior, according to a document released by NCHA on Thursday.

An archaeological survey confirmed that the first shipwreck site consists of a core area, a ring area, and a strip area. The core area, about 37 meters long and 11 meters wide, is composed of the ship's body and a large number of neatly stacked cargo. The ship's upper structure no longer exists, with only parts of the bulkhead and bottom board exposed in some areas, revealing more than 10 compartments and two structures that could possibly be masts.

The artifacts from the first shipwreck site include ceramics, porcelain, bronze wares and more, with the number of fragments exceeding 100,000. A total of 890 sets of artifacts were retrieved.

The second shipwreck site is composed of a core area and a scattered area. The core area, measuring about 21 meters north-south and 8 meters wide at its widest point, is dominated by neatly arranged and stacked logs, with a small number of ceramics, lead and tin wares and more. A total of 38 artifacts were retrieved from the second shipwreck site, including waterlogged logs, porcelain wares, pottery, snail shells, and antlers.

Song Jianzhong, head of the archaeological project and a researcher at the National Centre for Archaeology, told the Global Times on Thursday that thefirst shipwreck was laden with export ceramics, while the second shipwreck carried imported timber, both reflecting the prosperity of maritime trade during the mid-Ming Dynasty.

Notably, the enamel wares from the first shipwreck and the ebony from the second shipwreck are first-time discoveries in shipwreck archaeology.

"The discovery is an important testament to the trade and cultural exchanges of the ancient maritime Silk Road, and are of great significance for interpreting the characteristics of China's maritime civilization and promoting comparative studies of civilizations," he said.

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