Our Shores: The Story of an Amazing Shipwreck

Art Trade

People have been trading goods along our island shores for over thousands of years, way before the Europeans ever got here.  The technologically advanced and sea worthy vessels of the Arabs carried goods manufactured (and specified to order) in China as early as the Tang dynasty (618 - 907) when there was an amazing explosion of "globalisation". We have always known about the robust overland trade along the Silk Road into Inner Asia, but never have we had the definitive proof that the maritime trade was as lively as the land trade during that period until the discovery of the Belitung Shipwreck in the Sumatran islands of Indonesia.

Amazingly well preserved goods made over 1,100 years ago were found by fishermen who were diving for sea cucumbers as recently as 1998.  Singapore's very own Asian Civilisations Museum purchased almost all of the more than 60,000 ceramics and objects of gold and silver that had been bound for Iran and Iraq.  What happened to the rest?  Shipwrecks are like found hidden treasure, no one really owns them and so before the area was officially designated by the government and a private contractor hired to recover the goods, several objects had already been sold off piecemeal.


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