Exploration of the Nanhai No.1

Updated: 2007-12-22 11:35

After a nine day auction, Hatcher pocketed more than US$30 million.

Strive for time with more and more Hatchers

Treasure hunter Luc Heymans found a sunken boat laden with rare ceramics that had sank more than 1,000 years ago. The vessel lay hidden at the bottom of the Java Sea until 2004. The 70-meter-long and 15-meter-wide boat was then identified as belonging to a fleet operating during ancient China's Five Dynasties period (907 - 960).

This boat was not as large as the "Treasure Boat" commanded by Zheng He but it was 400 years older, making it a valuable relic dating to the beginning of the "marine silk road." To date, little information about the Five Dynasties era exists and very few things sit in the museums. This wreck fills a gaping hole.

Luc Heymans hid all the excavated treasures in a warehouse in Indonesia. He reported that he expected to auction the treasure and that the cargo was valued at several million dollars. But Indonesian police confiscated his loot until he agreed that Indonesia would receive 50 percent of proceeds from the sale of the treasures. Sadly, Chinese archaeologists could do nothing to regain these Chinese treasures.

Another case escaped the notice of the Chinese government until an auction dispute took place in 2003.

The collection, which includes pieces of Chinese porcelain and ancient pottery 2,000 years old, was to be auctioned off in August 2003 at Guernsey's in New York. The Guernsey auction house decided to suspend the event after receiving letters questioning whether the deep sea explorer Phil Greco had obtained the necessary permits from the Philippine National Museum in Manila.

"Although Greco claimed that all his collections were discovered from the coast of the Philippines, obviously, most of them were from the Chinese seaboard," Brian Hormann, an archaeologist from Australia revealed.

"From the marine matter attached in the antiques, I could confirm it was unearthed around Zhongsha and Xisha Islands of South China Sea," Hormann added.

Greco's lawyer revealed, "Greco and his company, Stallion Recoveries, have retrieved 23,000 artifacts from at least 16 shipwreck sites in the South China Sea since 1997. Some of the items, including seven massive statues, date back to the Ming Dynasty."

The American government suspended the Greco auction. But antiques stored in his house have disappeared one by one. Obviously he auctioned off his antiques online. His action has aroused the ire of international archeology experts.

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