On May 8, a Chinese archeology team finished its 55-day
excavation work on an ancient shipwreck, namely Huaguangjiao No.1,
off the Xisha islands in the South China Sea, with the recovery of
more than 10,000 pieces of antique Chinese pottery and porcelain and
the discovery of another 10 undersea relics sites. This is the first
time that China has conducted undersea excavation work in the open
Huaguangjiao No.1: The first ancient
shipwreck recovered in China's open sea
"Huaguangjiao No. 1", meaning Huaguang Reef No.1, is located
inside the swirling Huaguang Reef off the Xisha islands in the South
China Sea. The sunken ship, which is believed to have been a
merchant ship built in the Southern Song Dynasty, was discovered in
1996 and has suffered from being illegally excavated several times
since 1997. In 1998, the China National Museum and cultural relics
administrations in Hainan Province launched pilot excavations of
Huaguangjiao No.1, recovering around 1,800 relic items.
Measuring 20 meters in length, 6 meters in width, 3-4 meters in
the depth of its side, covering 180 square meters and with an
estimated displacement of 60 tons and 11 cabins still intact along
the bottom of the boat's wooden hull, Huaguangjiao No.1 lies 3
meters below the surface of the sea and is covered with corals,
looking like a huge coral reef. With the exception of its upper
sections, the vessel is relatively well-preserved. Considering that
the shipwreck has been in the sea for about 800 years and it's
difficult to consolidate its structure undersea, archeologists only
collected samples of the vessel for further studies. It is reported
that China has planned to salvage Huaguangjiao No.1 as early as this
fall. Once hoisted out of water, this vessel could be an extremely
valuable ancient sunken ship for antique research and display.
Huaguangjiao No.1 excavation: a
milestone in China's undersea archaeology
The excavation of Huaguangjiao No.1 was well-prepared and
conducted with precision, marking it a significant milestone in
China's undersea archaeology history.
With the main body of the shipwreck being the center,
archaeologists circumscribed an excavation area of 370 square
meters, which was divided into 50 sub-areas of 4 square meters
each. All the relic items were numbered according to the sub-area
they came from, recorded, and photographed. The excavation operation
was mainly carried out by manpower and the facilities were used for
clearing away tons of silt. After the 55-day excavation, the
majority of relic items on the shipwreck were salvaged and the
excavation site is now under preservation.
The total excavation time is about 300,000 minutes. Relic items
found at the site include green glazed porcelain plates, shadowy
blue porcelains and other rare exquisite antiques, which were
manufactured in Fujian Province and Jingdezheng in Jiangxi Province.
Why submerged in Huaguang
Since relics items yielding from Huaguangjiao No.1 were
mostly made in Fujian Province, it is estimated that the sunken
ship was an ancient merchant ship heading for Southeast Asia
for Chinese porcelain trading, but unfortunately sank on the way.
Sailing on the waters near the Xisha islands has been dangerous
and hazardous since the ancient times, as noted in a book written in
the Song Dynasty.
Archeologists have found that the relic items are concentrated
within an area of 38 square meters within the Huaguang Reef and only
the lower part of the ship body is left undersea. If the ship was
shattered by tides within the reef, it is impossible that the relic
items didn't scatter all over the bottom of the reef, whose area is
of hundreds of square meters. So, archeologists estimate that the
vessel went down on the open sea and then the shipwreck was taken to
Huaguang Reef by tides.
A pearl on the "Marine Silk
Huaguangjiao No. 1 has important significance in the process of
researching ancient China's Maritime Silk Road.
"Huaguangjiao No.1 and Nanhai No.1 which is
currently being excavated off the coast of south China's Guangdong
province, are two pearls along the ancient Maritime Silk Road," said
Zhang Wei, director of The Undersea Archeology Center of China
National Museum. "The two have equal significance,, but Huaguangjiao
No.1 is located in the open seas, and is more difficult to