Pulled from the sea more than two decades ago, archaeologists are still pulling treasure from the submerged confines of an ancient Chinese merchant ship. According to media reports, more than 200 porcelain artifacts were recently discovered from Nanhai One, a Song Dynasty vessel (960-1279) that sunk more than 800 years ago.
In a 40-day trial excavation, which ended in September, archaeologists uncovered the artifacts, helping to confirm that the ship was indeed a merchant vessel. During the excavation, archaeologists also found that parts of the ships cabin and deck had been well-preserved.
The vessel was originally found in 1987 off the southern coast of China, near the Guangdong province. (Nanhai means southern sea in Chinese.). In terms of size, the ship is 30.4 meters long, and 9.8 meters wide, with a weight of 5,000 tons.
It’s one of the oldest and biggest vessels found sunk in Chinese waters, and the ship is also loaded with ancient relics from the past. Archaeologists have estimated a total booty reaching up to around 60,000 to 80,000 relics.
Among the items found in the recent excavation, the porcelain is from the Fujian, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces. It includes bowl, plates and pots. Already 4,000 pieces of gold, silver and porcelain and 6,000 copper coins were recovered from the ship.
Aside from the relics it carries inside, Nanhai One also provides evidence of how ancient China interacted with the rest of the world through maritime trade. In what has been called the marine silk road, trade routes were said to have been established between China and such continents as Europe and Africa during this period according to Chinese history books.
More artifacts will no doubt be found within the ship as more excavations are planned in the future. Nanhai One is currently housed in the Marine Silk Museum () in Yangjiang City, Guangzhou province. The vessel has been kept underwater in the museums Crystal Palace, a glass pool that simulates the conditions the vessel was originally found in.