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is always a mystery how we stumble upon objects that have been either floating in the sea for centuries or just blending in with nature. It may be our curiosity to find something that stands out, or just wanting to know more in general. This particular story is about an 800-year-old Chinese Shipwreck that arose many questions since 1990 when a ceramic bowl from the shipwreck was pulled out of the sea by a fisherman.

Eighteen years of searching

When the ceramic bowl was found by the fisherman, researchers estimated that it was of very old age, but they were not able to estimate exactly how old. Due to its aesthetic, it pointed to have been sitting at the bottom of the ocean for hundreds of years, meaning that this was potentially a small part of a big treasure just waiting to be found by someone.

Archeologists tried to find a trace of this potential shipwreck by analyzing trade routes from the medieval era used by the Chinese traders at the time to narrow down their search. However, this ship could be anywhere, and it might not even be a Chinese ship, but the inscriptions on the ceramic bowl made the researchers and archeologists think so. Further analyses showed that the inscriptions were actually a production tag representing that it was produced in Jianning Fu in China.

Anthropologist Lisa Niziolek made the connection as the name of the city Jianning “Fu” only existed in the 12th and 13th centuries as the name was changed in 1278 to Jianning Lu as the Mongols invaded that region. This meant that the shipwreck would have most probably used routes from that time period, and also confirmed that the ceramic bowl was actually around 700 to 800 years old.

ceramic bowls found next to the shipwreck (Source: Field Museum)

In 2018 the shipwreck site was found and around it were lots of ceramic bowls with the same tag on the box base of the bowl. It is amazing to see how nature has sort of become one with ceramic bowls over the past 800 years. Even the carbon dating shows that the ship as well as the ceramic bowls are 800 years old. Other objects found on the board of the shipwreck such as elephant teeth have also confirmed the age of the shipwreck as well as connected all the puzzle pieces to this mystery.

Chinese ceramic bowls from the Field Museum’s Java Sea shipwreck collection (Source: Field Museum)

From the size of the ship, researchers estimate that there were probably around 100,000 bowls on board, with only 12% of that having been found on the shipwreck. This means that around 88,000 bowls are still floating around the world, awaiting to be fished by another fisherman. It could even be you that stumbles upon one of these ceramic bowls the next time you go for a swim in the sea.

Professor Joseph B. Lambert states that there may be still many shipwrecks such as this one, but he is afraid that many of them might have been destroyed by blast fishing, an illegal practice (which does not seem to stop people from doing it). Professor Lambert also says that the ocean floor is littered with shipwrecks, but most of them have blended very well with the surface of the ocean, making the search for them even more difficult.

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