Archaeologists: Sea relics in Xisha too fragile

By Zuo Likun (
Updated: 2010-04-02 15:37
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The archaeological dragnet sweeping across South China's Xisha archipelago has turned up over 50 underwater heritage sites, including several ancient trade boats, which have for decades been a tempting treasure coveted by antiques smugglers.

Porcelain, iron and bronze wares dating to the South Song Dynasty (1127--1279) were recovered in the emergency expedition, which kicked off last May.

However, salvage rescue is a mixed blessing for the underwater antiques, whose fragility in seawaters renders preservation on the spot a far better choice.

"The scope of underwater antiques around Xisha archipelago is enormously huge and far away from the land. It is wildly out of our reach," the archaeological expedition's consultant Li Jian'an said to the World News Journal, a newspaper run by China Radio International.

Despite the fact that the expedition team is equipped with high-tech magnetometer and GPS devices, captain Wang Yiping admitted that an all-around underwater rescue remains a herculean task. They are too fragile to be salvaged and too precious to be left unguarded.