China to excavate Nanhai 1

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Photo: The Nanhai wreck is housed in an aquarium at the Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum Photo: UNESCO/U. Guérin

Media reports say that China intends to start excavating and removing ancient artefacts from what has been called its greatest ever marine archaeological discovery, the Nanhai 1.

Nanhai 1 sank near Yangjiang in Guangdong during the Southern Song Dynasty of 1127 – 1279. It was discovered accidentally in 1987 by a British-Chinese expedition looking for another vessel, the Dutch East India Company owned Rhynsberg.

The vessel was recovered in 2007 and has been kept in a sealed metal box in an aquarium at The Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum ever since in a controlled underwater environment.

Archaeologists now intend to excavate the vessel inside the aquarium, thereby enabling visitors to observe underwater archaeological work as it progresses.

The remains of the ancient vessel are expected to yield critical information on ancient Chinese ship building and navigation technologies.

Around 6,000 artefacts have been recovered from the wreck so far including the vessel’s cargo of porcelain, lacquerware and gold.

Chinese authorities expect to retrieve an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 objects in total from the wreck over the next few years.

Nanhai 1 was the first ancient vessel discovered on the “Marine Silk Road", the ancient trade route used by China to trade with foreign countries.