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Exhibit to show treasure trove found in 650 years ago shipwreck

All News 15:22 July 25, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- A vast trove of archaeological treasures retrieved from a sunken ship from the 14th century will be shown to the public this week, a local museum said Monday.

The National Museum of Korea is to open "Discoveries from the Sinan Shipwreck" Tuesday, which will run until Sept. 4, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the deep-sea recovery operation.

"Although we aren't sure what caused the ship to sink and if the crew members survived or not, it must have been a horrible disaster," Yi Young-hoon, director general of the museum, told reporters during a press briefing Monday.

"A sunken ship is always a sad and painful part of history, but ironically it offers us a priceless chance to learn about the lives and what happened in the dim and distant past," he said.

In August 1975, a fisherman accidentally retrieved six artifacts, including a celadon vase, from the waters off Sinan County, South Jeolla Province. Next year, his younger brother, a elementary school teacher, reported the incident to the county office.

The Cultural Heritage Administration launched a full-scale salvage work on Oct. 27, 1976, to locate the sunken ship on the ocean floor, which was believed to have gone down in 1323, within six months into its journey for Fukuoka, Japan, from Ningbo in China's Zhejiang Province.

The excavation operations, which were carried out 11 times in total, continued until 1984, during which a whopping 24,000 pieces of artifacts, surprisingly in good shape, ranging from vases, plates to incense burners, have been unearthed. Twenty-eight tons of coins were also brought to the surface. The doomed ship also carried a large number of vessels used for drinking tea and arranging flowers as well as some 1,000 pieces of metal wares like cooking utensils, pots, pans and measurement equipment.

Researchers said the sunken ship was outfitted with eight cabins, and is believed to have been some 13 meters long, 11 meters wide and 3.7 meters high, weighing more than 200 tons. Experts assumed the boat was Chinese in origin and overtaken by a storm at sea near the waters off Jeju Island and was diverted from its course before sinking to where it is now.

The museum said only some 1,000 pieces, five percent of the total relics, were previously shown to the public and that this is the first time that the museum is going to exhibit the precious treasures in full scale.

Most artifacts retrieved from the ship are trade commodities between China and Japan, offering unusual insight into the economic and artistic inclinations in 14th century Northeast Asia.

The museum said the discovery of the Sinan shipwreck laid the groundwork of the country's underwater archeology.

"There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the history of 14th century East Asia. I hope this exhibition will be helpful in answering some of the questions regarding economic and cultural exchanges," Yi said.

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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