China starts salvaging ancient merchant vessel off southern coast

11:26, April 10, 2010      

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Chinese archaeologists Friday began salvaging a ship off the coast of southern Guangdong Province believed to be a Ming Dynasty merchant vessel loaded with masses of antique porcelain.

The excavation team has been working to anchor the salvage ship, "Nantianshun", above the wreckage of a vessel at least 400 years old, dubbed "Nan'ao-1", in the Sandianjin waters off Nan'ao County, Shantou City.

More than 20 experts will recover the antiques on the "Nan'ao-1" by June and raise the ship wreckage by the end of the year, said Pu Gong, deputy director with the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Relics.

The salvage operations will go ahead as long as weather conditions permit, Pu said. The excavation was scheduled to begin on Sept. 26, 2009, but was postponed due to severe weather conditions, including typhoons and cold snaps.

Local fishermen found the wreck, estimated to be about 25 meters long and seven meters wide, in May 2007 buried in silt 27 meters underwater and about 5.6 nautical miles from Shantou City.

It is probably a Guangdong merchant vessel, since most of the porcelain found so far was produced by local workshops, said Cui Yong, an archaeologist with the institute.

Archaeologists said the ship may have been carrying 10,000 pieces of blue-and-white porcelain, mostly made during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620).
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