MARITIME EXPLORATIONS
THE JAVA SEA SHIPWRECK (13th C.)

Background

The Java Sea Wreck was found and looted by fishermen before the location became known to a licensed salvage company in Indonesia. That company began excavation, but their barge nearly sunk on the wreck and there was insufficient funding to continue. Pacific Sea Resources then obtained the co-ordinates. Flecker directed the final thorough excavation for Pacific Sea Resources in 1996. The wreck is thought to be an Indonesian lashed-lug craft of the 13th century. She was voyaging from China to Java with a cargo of iron and ceramics. As much as 200 tonnes of iron was shipped in the form of cast iron pots and wrought iron bars. The original ceramics cargo may have amounted to 100,000 pieces.

 

Spread

The excavation was conducted from a 55 m long accommodation/dive support barge, with an attendant tug. The diving system utilised KMB masks with surface decompression on oxygen. Airlifts were used to remove the substantial overburden.

 

Recovered Cargo

Approximately 12,000 intact or mostly intact Song dynasty ceramics were recovered, consisting primarily of celedon-type bowls and dishes from the kilns of southern China. There were also many covered boxes and jars, and an unusual painted ware with a lead-green glaze. Thai fine-paste-ware kendis and bottles were also found.

Java Sea Wreck Details and Photos

 

Cargo Disposition

The ceramics were desalinated and studied in Singapore before half of the cargo was returned to the Indonesian government, as per the license terms, and the other half was donated to the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA.

Publications

1. The Archaeological Excavation of the Java Sea Wreck, Mathers, W., Flecker, M., Pacific Sea Resources, 1997.

2. The 13th Century Java Sea Wreck: Bulk Iron and Ceramics from China, Flecker, M., Proceedings of the Fujian Ceramics Conference, Singapore / Chicago, 1999.

3. The Thirteenth-Century Java Sea Wreck: A Chinese Cargo in an Indonesian Ship, Flecker, M., The Mariner's Mirror, Vol.89 No.4, November 2003.

4. Rescue Excavation: The Java Sea Wreck, Flecker, M., Heritage Asia Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 2, December 2005 - February 2006.

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