The Xuande Shipwreck (+/- 1540)
The most unusual thing about this site is that it did not have any remains of a ship's structure. The 'wrecksite' is located 30 nautical miles north of the island of Pulau Tioman, Malaysia and in 53 meters of water. The variety of interesting ceramics recovered and the site description are published in Oriental Art magazine (Vol. XLIII/2, summer 1997)
While the outline of the finds produced an acoustic image of a sea going vessel, approximately 28 x 8 meters in size, on site investigation did not produced any evidence of timber. Scattered ceramics on the surface of the seabed outlined the shape of a wreck but the finds extended only a few inches into the muddy sea floor. Despite extensive scanning with a sub-bottom profiler and a magnetometer, plus probing three meters into the sea bed with water jets, no wood fragments at all could be found
The ceramics recovered include Chinese blue and white porcelain and monochrome white-glazed wares, Sisatchanalai celadon and underglaze black decorated wares, as well as Sukhothai underglaze black decorated bowls. Seven of the Chinese pieces display the reign mark of the emperor Xuande (AD 1426-1435). These pieces were probably made after the end of that reign, however, sometime in the late 15th century or mid 16th century. The Sukhothai samples, with their 'solar whorl' motifs, tend to confirm this later date. The whorl design is believed to belong to the later years of the Sukhothai kilns.
Excavation of the Xuande site was discontinued since no further evidence has warranted additional search and/or recovery attempts. Since the ceramics recovered from this site include examples of at least 20 different designs of Chinese ware, along with some Thai pieces, and the age of the pieces is still controversial, the assemblage should remain intact. One single museum is sought to accommodate the entire collection of some 250 artefacts.
.....It was therefore concluded that the ship sunk in the middle of the 16th century but carried a few ceramics that were already old. The concept of an early trade in antique ceramics, is beginning to be considered by some scholars.
Despite earlier date on the ceramics, it was the Sukhothai underglaze wares and these, Portuguese cannons that eventually confirmed an mid 16th century date for the shipwreck site.
Ewer without any
Ewer with emperor Xuande's (1425-1436) reign mark
in the base
"Kylin' bowl with same
'Lion dog' motif in a large dish
Sisatchanalai under glaze decorated wares suggested an later date than indicated by the reign marks in the Chinese blue and white porcelain
Limited numbers of underglaze covered boxes from the Xuande
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Nanhai Marine Archaeology Sdn. Bhd. was incorporated on the recommendation of the Malaysian authorities. This was done in order to formalize and to expand on the company’s researcher’s extensive knowledge of Asia’s ceramic developments and maritime trade. The company’s researchers have been engaged in the search for historical shipwrecks for more than two decades and another decade researching maritime trade. Most of this work is concentrated to the South China Sea, a virtual highway for ancient shipping linking China to India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia in an extensive maritime trade system. This ancient trade started sometime around the 4th century and lasted well into the 19th century.
Following a successful shipwreck discovery, the company obtain a government permit to excavate the wreckage, and then carry out detailed marine archaeological procedures in recovering the artifacts, mapping the ship's remains and securing other data for future research. After each concluded project and following conservation of recovered artifacts, we search for and pinpoint ruined kiln sites and compare its wasters with the recovered ceramics until we are satisfied we located the place in which the shipwreck pottery was made centuries earlier.
Our arrangement with the Malaysian authorities is such that we finance all operations and train young Malaysian nationals (on our initiative) in maritime archaeology and related research. After giving all unique and single artifacts and thirty percent of all recovered items to the National Museum (and assisting with exhibitions of artifacts from each project) we are allowed to sell our portion of the recovery to finance future projects. The findings from ongoing research and the compilation of reports, books and catalogues are available on these pages as well as on a separate Internet site: http://www.maritimeasia.ws Due to the unquestionable authenticity and precisely dated shipwreck pottery, many International Museums now display our shipwreck pieces as reference material.
The artifacts sold on this website are therefore legally and properly excavated and can be supplied with an export permit from the Department of Museum in Malaysia should this be required. This unique working arrangement makes us one of the few Internet sellers that sell from own excavation and deliver a meaningful Certificate of Authenticity with every artifact issued with a serial number. So, if you are interested to purchase some of our Antique porcelain, old time pottery or other shipwreck artifacts from the Song dynasty, Ming porcelain or Chinese blue and white porcelain or the famous Yixing teapots, you can rest assured that every piece is excavated through proper archaeology by our own staff. We do not sell anything that is not excavated by ourselves or properly recorded and researched before offered for sale so every piece comes with the “Best possible provenance” WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO EMAIL OUR PRINCIPAL RESEARCHER; Sten Sjostrand SHOULD YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR POSSIBLE PURCHASE
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Historical and production background