Shipwreck Explorers Announce Largest Ming Porcelain Discovery -- Hundreds of Thousands of Precious Artifacts, a Multi-Million Dollar Trove

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Experts have confirmed the discovery of the largest cargo of Ming porcelain found to date, cargo of what is believed to be a doomed Chinese merchant ship from the reign of the Wanli emperor-- an estimated $70 million find.

AWW Operations Manager/Indonesia Yuri Romaro, with a recovered ceramic bowl. Only a thin film of calcareous concretion suggests the centuries this Ming Dynasty porcelain artifact spent submerged in the Java Sea.

Experts from the professional shipwreck exploration company Arqueonautas Worldwide – Arqueologia Subaquática S.A. (AWW) - have confirmed the discovery of the largest cargo of Ming porcelain found to date, with hundreds of thousands of artifacts, the cargo of what is believed to be a doomed Chinese merchant ship that traded in Southeast Asia during the reign of the Wanli Emperor (1572-1620) -- an estimated $70 million find.

In cooperation with the Indonesian government and in partnership with the company RM Discovery, Inc., a team of divers led by Arqueonautas founder and CEO Count Nikolaus Sandizell and COO/marine archaeologist Alejandro Mirabal, recently completed a series of reconnaissance dives on the site, which is located about 90 miles off the coast of Indonesia in approximately 180 feet of water.

Sandizell describes descending to the site in a strong current and encountering “a silty mosaic of crushed and shattered ceramic fragments, “evidence of a violent and chaotic end,” and against this background, “row upon row of delicate intact bowls, nestled together in orderly rows as they were stowed more than four centuries ago.“

The wreck site, which was initially found and reported by fishermen in 2009, is estimated to contain approximately 700,000 Ming porcelain artifacts. Based on the amount of cargo and the size of the debris field – the tumulus is 150 x 70 feet and up to 25 feet high - Sandizell says the vessel appears to be “unusually large for its time.”

The Ming Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644. “Decades before Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama made their historic 15th century voyages, during a brief quarter-century of outward expansion, China owned the world’s most sophisticated and powerful sea-going fleet,” explained Mirabal. "Though this period was short-lived, in its wake the world was left with a voracious appetite for the Chinese luxuries of porcelains, lacquerware and silk.”

During reconnaissance operations the site area was measured, a stratigraphic study conducted, underwater images collected, and placement of a sampling frame for artifact collection accomplished. On board the survey vessel, evaluation, documentation, and analysis of some of the data and imaging were processed, after which the artifact samples were returned to the site. Identified ceramic artifacts point to the Wanli period of the late Ming dynasty, and originate from kiln sites in the provinces of Jiangxi, Guangdong and Fujian.

Because the historically and culturally important cargo is considered to be in imminent danger of theft from pirates and damage from fishing trawlers, Arqueonautas seeks to expedite the launch of marine archaeological recovery, documentation, stabilization and conservation.

The company reports that to date, under appropriate government licenses, it has discovered more than 300 shipwrecks in Africa, Asia and South America. More than 100,000 coins and 10,000 culturally significant artifacts have been rescued, recorded and published from a total number of 15 excavated shipwrecks, most of them represented in the national museums of the nations in which territorial waters these shipwrecks were discovered.

For more information about the Arqueonautas Worldwide, RM Discovery, Inc., and the Wanli cargo discovery, visit http://www.wanlicargo.com.

Additional images available by request:
1. Gentle hand fanning by archaeologist/COO Alejandro Mirabal reveals delicate bowls lying in orderly stacks, as they were stowed more than four centuries ago.
2. Close-up shot of stamps and motifs with caption: According to archaeologist and COO Alejandro Mirabal, identified ceramic artifacts point to the Wanli period of the late Ming dynasty, and originate from kiln sites in the provinces of Jiangxi, Guangdong and Fujian.

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Carol Tedesco

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