GUANGZHOU: Archaeologists recovered more than 200 precious porcelain artifacts from the cabin of the Nanhai No 1 before the 40-day trial exploration of the shipwreck was wrapped up Sunday.
The Crystal Palace housing Nanhai No 1 at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang, Guangdong province. [Li Xiangyang]
Chinese experts also found well-preserved wooden parts of the cabin and deck on the merchant vessel, which sunk off the coast of Guangdong province 800 years ago, said project leader Wei Jun.
"The porcelain relics discovered are totally different from those we use today in terms of size and appearance," he said.
Relics recovered this time are believed to have been made in private kilns in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, and Dehua, Fujian province, he said.
Nanhai No 1 was built during the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) and the recovered porcelain pieces, which were under piles of grass, are expected to prove important sources to archeologists studying shipping during the period.
"The well-preserved vessel has offered more evidence of the existence of an ancient maritime trade route linking China and the West," said Wei.
The deck discovered this time is the only well-preserved example from the era, he added.
Discovered in 1987, the 5,000-ton ship is thought to be one of the oldest and largest merchant vessels sunk in Chinese waters. It was salvaged from the South China Sea near the coastal city of Yangjiang in 2007.
Another large exploration of the wreck is scheduled to start next year, said Wei, but the whole project is expected to take at least 10 more years, with the ship estimated to be loaded with about 60,000 relics, said Wu.
Archaeologists found more than 4,000 gold, silver and porcelain artifacts, and about 6,000 copper coins when the ship was still on the seabed.
Nanhai No 1 is 30 m long by 10 m wide and housed in the purpose-built Crystal Palace at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Zhapo township, Yangjiang.
The pool allows scientists to control the water temperature, pressure and other conditions to replicate the sea in which the ship rested for centuries.
The museum, which is expected to become a research base for maritime archaeology, will open to the public this year, sources with the Yangjiang cultural authority said.