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Porcelain trail leads police to sunken ship
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-06-14 11:36

China has found an ancient sunken ship in the South China Sea off the Guangdong coast, according to the Guangdong Archaeology Institute (GAI) here Wednesday.

According to GAI, the ship -- which was carrying a considerable amount of Ming Dynasty porcelain -- was probably built during the Ming Dynasty.

Guangdong archaeologists used GPS to locate the sunken ship early June. The vessel, dubbed South China Sea-II, is about 17 to 18 meters long and lying at a depth of 20 meters.

GAI archaeologist Dr Wei Jun said "a preliminary study of the sunken ship shows it may have sunk 400 years ago after striking a reef."

"The vessel was preserved well," Cui Yong, an archaeologist engaged in the salvage work, said, revealing the deck of the ship is about 10 centimeters in thickness.

"Undersea exploration found a large part of the vessel was buried in sands and porcelains piled in the vessel could be seen through part of the cabin exposed in the seawater," Cui added.

The ship's existence came to light when local police got wind of illegal salvage operations being carried out in the sea off Nanao County in South China's Guangdong Province, Nangfang Daily reported.

On May 25, Nanao County police learned that some fishermen had been recovering ancient porcelain objects from the sea.

The police confiscated 21 pieces of ancient porcelains from a fishing boat whose owner claimed that divers he had hired for deep sea fishing had recovered the porcelain by accident.

On May 26, another 117 pieces of porcelain were confiscated from two fishing boats who were carrying out illegal salvage work.

Police stepped up monitoring of the area and warned local people not to loot the cultural relics. On June 1, two local residents handed over 124 porcelain items to police.

The sunken ship was found just a few days after China started salvage operations on the South China Sea-I, which dates back to the Song Dynasty, the paper reported.

South China Sea I, discovered in 1987, was the first ancient vessel discovered on the "Marine Silk Road" in the South China Sea. "The discovery of South China Sea II will provide more evidence about the 'Marine Silk Road', and help with the study of Chinese sea-faring, ship-building and ceramics making," Wei said.

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