Friday, 6 June 2014

1,000-year-old Arab ship found in Thailand

1,000-year old Arab ship found under shrimp farm

Buried under their shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon, villagers discover a 1,000 year-old Arab ship from the Dvaravati period (6th-11th centuries). The shipwreck Phanomsurin, named after the land owners, was unearthed in Samut Sakhon.

Shipwreck: 1,000-year-old Arab ship found under shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon  

Pichaya Svasti
The 1,000 year-old ship is now buried deep under the mud of a shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon. The vessel, 25m long,transported a variety of goods to coastal cities around Asia before it sank here during the Dvaravati period during the 6th to 11th centuries. Now it’s a valuable archaeological find and probably the oldest ship ever unearthed in Thailand.
“This ship is in the most complete condition I have ever seen. It had three sails intact and would have been almost ready to sail again,” famous underwater archaeologist Erbprem Vatcharangkul noted.
In Sept 16 of last year the Fine Arts Department in Ratchaburi was told of an old ship found underneath a shrimp farm located about 8km from the sea. The archaeological excavation of the ship began in December last year and is stillunder way and is now about 10% completed. 
Named Phanomsurin after the land owners, the ship was covered in muddy soil with one of its sides facing down. Thebow and stern were lying south to north. Only its west gunwale was above the ground. Its wooden gunwales were enforced and stitched with rope, but both the wooden structure and ropes were rotten. Found in the middle section of the ship was a 17.65m-long rectangular wooden piece believed to be a part of the keel. A 17.37m-long wooden polebelieved to be one of the ship’s masts was found on the west side.
A special feature of this ship is its wooden components stitched with rope. Each of these ropes has a brown smaller rope inside to ensure durability. The ship is similar in appearance to ancient Arab ships. 
Many artefacts were discovered inside the ship. Most of them are earthenware and stoneware, both unglazed from domestic kilns and glazed from China, along with some other kinds from unknown places. The rest consists of coconut fruits, toddy palms, hundreds of betel nuts, rice, halved coconut shells, wood resin, a horn, fish bones, animal bones and plant seeds. The black ropes found in the ship are still in amazingly good condition.
Some of the earthenware pieces have never been found anywhere in Thailand, being oval-shaped containers with a pointed bottom. Comparison studies found they are similar to amphoras usually found in Europe, the Middle East and India.
The amphoras are coated with black resin on the inside, with thick brown stains. The archaeologists think that theresin was used to prevent leakage or perhaps even the goods the ship was transporting. A fragment of one of theamphoras and that of a Chinese earthenware pot have ancient lettering inscribed on them, which are now being studied and translated.
In addition, several pieces of Chinese-style stoneware dating to the Tang Dynasty (8th-9th centuries) were found in the ship. One of them contained betel nuts. Several other kinds of earthenware were also found, such as Dvaravati-style pots with thick rims, which were probably used as kitchenware on the ship or destined for export.
The gunwales of this ship were stitched with ropes like those of ancient Arab ships. It is estimated that the ship dates to the 8th or 9th century and is crucial to the study of shipping in this region.
The team is waiting for the results of undergoing scientific tests in the United States to find out whether this ship is as old as the 8th-9th centuries. During that time, trade between Dvaravati cities in the present-day Central Region of Thailand flourished and was linked to other Dvaravati cities in this region. This ship is probably an important piece ofevidence to confirm these cities’ trade with Arab cities and China.
Experts believe the area where the ship was found might have been a canal or a shoreline amid a mangrove forest reachable from the sea. This waterway led to other Dvaravati cities and the nearest city was Nakhon Pathom, about 30km away. From Nakhon Pathom, boats could probably have travelled further to some other cities like Khu Bua.
This ship is the first Dhow ever found in Thailand. The Dhow is an Arab ship made of wood stitched with ropes. Although a similar ship was found at the Khuan Thani Ship Wreck Site in Kantang district, Trang province, it has yet to be excavated and studied. They drank wine because amphoras were found. And they used earthenware from China and Europe. This reflects a combination of Asian and European culture.

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