Project named 'Batu Hitam' - The Tang Cargo



Batu Hitam shipwreck: the Tang dynasty reconsidered...

From Cronaca (and P.Kainic)

I landed on what looked like an ordinary section of coral reef," Mr Walterfang told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine. "But it was actually an underwater mound the size of a small hill that was built almost entirely of tens of thousands of pieces of well-preserved ceramic pottery."

That was in 1998. His discovery was the second of three wrecks - the third being the Tang - which has turned out to be an undersea treasure trove of such massive historical significance that Shanghai, Singapore and Doha in Qatar are vying with each other to buy the cargo.

The 60,000 pieces Walterfang collected from the seabed, include porcelain ceramic wine jugs, and tea bowls, embossed golden and silver chalices and plates found to be 1,200 years old.

The treasure was part of a huge cargo of eighth-century porcelain that traders from the Chinese Tang dynasty had put aboard an Arab dhow for export to Malaysia, India and what is now Saudi Arabia. The dhow's remains, found among the treasure, suggest the ship was wrecked on the treacherous underwater reefs of Indonesia's Karimata straits on its outward voyage through the Java sea.

Until Walterfang's find, archeologists had assumed that 1,200 years ago, China was a relatively backward country which relied primarily on agriculture to survive. They had little notion that the Tang dynasty of the period, had already started to set up maritime trading routes that were to establish China as the first great sea power, 200 years before the Spanish, Portuguese and British had theirs. . .

John Guy, curator of the Indian and South-east Asian section of the Victoria & Albert Museum said: 'Sometimes things happen which dramatically broaden the limits of our knowledge. The discovery of the Tang period wreck is such an event.'

Archeologists say the Batu Hitam wreck provides incontrovertible evidence that, 1,200 years ago, China had started sea trade as an alternative to the then well-established Silk Road that extended from China through Asia to the Arab world.

But Walterfang didn't follow any of the rules of underwater archaeology. And the contract signed with the Indonesian Governement, which stipulate that half of the proceeds from the auction sale of the artifacts must return to the Indonesian authorities, was flouted.

The leisure park of Santosa in Singapore bought the whole lot for a said sum of US$ 32 millions !!!


Belitung Shipwreck revisited
(click on the camel)




  • Herman Spiro
    Have a look at

Add a comment