MARITIME EXPLORATIONS
THE BAKAU SHIPWRECK (15th C.)

Background

The Bakau Wreck is yet another fishermen find. It lies near the island of Bakau in Karimata Strait, Indonesia. Flecker visited this site in 1999, when very little of the original cargo remained. The wreck lay at the base of a reef, with a large coherent section of hull surviving. The hull was originally divided by bulkheads, and planks were edge-joined with diagonal iron spikes, a clear sign of Chinese construction. The ceramics cargo and carbon dating indicated a wreck of the early 15th century, which makes it one of the earliest examples of Chinese shipping in Southeast Asian waters.

 

Spread

As the wreck lay at the base of a fringing reef, close to shore, a modified fishing boat was used for operations. Hooka with in-water decompression was chosen as the diving system. Excavation was carried out with water dredges. Lift bags were also used extensively.

 

Recovered Cargo

The main cargo on this ship consisted of very large storage jars of Thai origin. Indications are that they contained organic contents. There was also a selection of Chinese Longquan ware, Sukhothai and Sawankhalok ceramics, and some very delicate fine-paste-ware in the form of kendis.

Bakau Wreck Details and Photos

 

Cargo Disposition

The Bakau artefacts are thought to be stored in a warehouse in New Zealand.

Publications

1. The Bakau Wreck: an Early Example of Chinese Shipping in Southeast Asia, Flecker, M., International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Volume 30(2), 2001.

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