Dieter Noli

Chinese experts to explore sunken ships from Cheng Ho's fleet in Africa

From People's Daily Online

The National Museum of China, Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museology, as well as the Kenya National Museum jointly signed an agreement February 23, under which, Chinese and Kenyan experts will investigate and excavate underwater and onshore cultural relics in Kenya's Lamu Archipelago, in a bid to further solve relevant historical mysteries relating to China-Africa cultural and economic exchange in ancient times.

In addition, some Chinese experts will visit Kenya to explore the sunken ships from Cheng Ho's fleet.

Zhao Hui, director of Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museology, said that this project has witnessed 5 years of investigations, argumentations and preparations and it involves investigating, exploring and excavating the underwater cultural relics in and around the Lamu Archipelago, unearthing ancient ruins in and around Malindi City, and researching Chinese cultural relics unearthed in Kenya's coastal areas.

Reporters learned that the Ministry of Commerce has allocated 20 million yuan to fund the important foreign-aid project scheduled to last 3 years. Every year, the Chinese side will dispatch experts to Kenya to work there for 2 to 3 months.

Due to special climate conditions in Kenya, cultural relic excavation can only be launched during 2 dry seasons, namely, from June to September and from December to February of the following year.

The curator of the Kenya National Museum disclosed that a Chinese expert group will arrive in Kenya in July 2010 and more Chinese experts are expected to arrive later.

According to Zhao Jiabin, director of the Underwater Archaeology Center at the National Museum of China, ship debris and ancient chinaware from China's Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties have been discovered during the archaeological excavation and investigation in Kenya's 5 coastal regions such as Malindi.