Underwater archaeologists discovered two sunken ancient ships in Singapore’s territorial waters, which still hold a rich collection of very valuable artifacts, including luxury Chinese porcelain from the 14th century.
According to Channel News Asia, the discovery was made off the coast of the island of Pedra Branca, located at the easternmost point of Singapore. Back in 2015, divers accidentally discovered several ceramic shards in the area.
The site was later re-examined, and as a result, a shipwreck was found about 100 meters northwest of Pedra Branca. Only a year later, ISEAS archaeologists carried out the first underwater survey to recover wreckage and objects from the bottom of the wreck.
The work continued until 2019 and led to the discovery of a second shipwreck, another shipwreck about 300 meters east of Pedra Branca. Work to retrieve the artifacts had been underway since 2019 and has only now been completed. They were classified so as not to attract the attention of looters.
According to ISEAS, the two shipwrecks occurred in different time periods. The first of the wrecks found was carrying a rich cargo of Chinese pottery dating back to the 14th century. Experts suggest that the disaster occurred in the same century. Incidentally, Singapore was called Temasek at the time.
“There was more blue and white porcelain on this ship than on any other documented shipwreck in the world,” says Dr. Michael Flecker, head of the Marine Archaeology Project at ISEAS. – Many of the pieces of art found are rare, and one find is recognized as unique.”
He added that the blue-and-white porcelain bowls, many decorated with traditional lotus and peony motifs, date back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD) Not only the historical value, but also the material value of the porcelain collection on this ship is still difficult for even experts to assess.
The victim of the second shipwreck is probably the merchant ship Shah Munchah. Historical sources tell us that it sank in 1796 during a voyage from China to India. Here underwater archaeologists have also found a huge collection of Chinese pottery, as well as other artifacts, including various objects of copper alloy and glass sand agate.
Four anchors and nine cannons of the ship were also recovered from the bottom here. Archaeologists note that cannons were commonly installed on merchant ships used by the East India Company in the 18th and early 19th centuries. They were used both for defense and to signal military vessels in case of danger.
A wide variety of figurines were found at the site of the second shipwreck, including figures of a duck, the goddess Guanyin, a lucky Buddha and a lucky boy, a dog, and a mythical sea creature called Makara. A figurine of a Chinese couple with fans in their hands and a figurine of a Qingbai horse rider were also found.
“If this ship had survived another 23 years, it almost certainly would have called at the then-restored port of Singapore,” says Dr. Flecker. – Its incredibly diverse and valuable cargo gives a great idea of the types of goods that would have been exchanged and bought by the new inhabitants of this young city.”
After the sea salt has been removed, the artifacts will be carefully cleaned, preserved, and cataloged. The most notable ones will then become exhibits in museum exhibitions scheduled to open in late 2021.