2 historic shipwrecks and their artefacts found in Singapore’s territorial waters

SINGAPORE: Two historic shipwrecks and their artefacts – together with Chinese ceramics from way back to the 14th century – have been found inside Singapore’s territorial waters round Pedra Branca island, situated on the easternmost level of Singapore.

In 2015, a number of ceramic plates had been found accidentally by business divers concerned in a maritime operation, which led to the invention of the primary historic shipwreck about 100m to the north-west of Pedra Branca.

One yr later, the National Heritage Board (NHB) commissioned the Archaeology Unit of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) to survey and examine the positioning, and to conduct excavations to recuperate wrecks and objects from the shipwreck.

These excavations, which continued till 2019, led to the invention of a second historic shipwreck about 300m east of Pedra Branca. Excavations to recuperate artefacts from the second shipwreck had been carried out from 2019 till mid-2021.


The two shipwrecks originated from completely different intervals, based on ISEAS’ findings.

The first shipwreck contained Chinese ceramics and could date again to the 14th century, a time when Singapore was referred to as Temasek, the analysis acknowledged.

(*2*)Small and fine blue-and-white dish with lobed rim
Small and wonderful blue-and-white dish with lobed rim from the primary shipwreck. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) 

Some of the important thing finds embody Longquan dishes and bowls, and a jarlet. Fragments of blue-and-white porcelain bowls with lotus and peony motifs from the Yuan dynasty had been additionally found in the shipwreck.

This ship carried extra of those blue-and-white porcelain than “any other documented shipwreck in the world,” mentioned Dr Michael Flecker, a visiting fellow and venture director of Maritime Archaeology Projects at ISEAS.

“Many of the items are uncommon, and one is believed to be distinctive,” he mentioned.

Diver with longquan ware
A diver holding a Longquan dish that was recovered from a rock crevice. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

ISEAS’ analysis additionally famous that direct parallels may be made between the finds from the primary shipwreck and these from archaeological excavations at Empress Place performed in 2015 and from previous excavations at Fort Canning Park.

The second shipwreck, famous ISEAS’ analysis, is more likely to be the Shah Munchah, a service provider vessel that sank whereas voyaging from China again to India in 1796.

Range of artefacts from second shipwreck
A spread of non-ceramic artefacts recovered from the second shipwreck. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Artefacts recovered from this shipwreck embody a spread of Chinese ceramics and non-ceramic artefacts, equivalent to copper-alloy, glass sand agate objects, in addition to 4 anchors and 9 cannons of the ship. The cannons had been sometimes mounted on service provider ships employed by the East India Company in the course of the 18th and early nineteenth centuries, and used largely for defensive functions and signalling.

Figurine of Guanyin head
A Guanyin head figurine was recovered from the second shipwreck. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Among the important thing non-ceramic finds in the second shipwreck had been a jar shard depicting a dragon motif; an earthenware duck; collectible figurines of Guanyin’s head, comfortable Buddha and a boy of fine fortune; collectible figurines of a canine and legendary sea creature Makara; a figurine of a Chinese couple holding followers on a biscuit base; and a Qingbai figurine of a horse with a side-saddle rider.

Figurine of boy of good fortune and dog
Figurines of a boy of fine fortune (left) and a canine had been retrieved from the second shipwreck. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

“Had the ship survived another 23 years, she would almost certainly have called at the re-established port of Singapore. Her incredibly diverse cargo provides great insights into the type of goods that would have been exchanged and purchased by the new inhabitants of this fledging city,” mentioned Dr Flecker.

Qingbai figurine of a horse with a side-saddle rider
Qingbai figurine of a horse with a side-saddle rider. The headgear suggests a scholar. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)


After the removing of salt through the method of desalination, the artefacts should be meticulously cleaned, conserved and catalogued. In-depth analysis and documentation can even have to be carried out.

Once the conservation, analysis and documentation have been accomplished, NHB will work in direction of exhibiting the artefacts in its museums from end-2021.

Archaeological studies and analysis may also be printed by ISEAS. The institute may also conduct talks for members of the general public.

Blue-and-white ginger jar lid
A blue-and-white ginger jar lid was recovered from the second shipwreck. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Mr Yeo Kirk Siang, director of NHB’s Heritage Research and Assessment, instructed CNA that the discoveries are “significant” in unveiling Singapore’s historical past.

“What is critical about it’s it unveils a part of our historical past earlier than 1819. That half is little recognized to date. With each discover, it enriches our understanding. Singapore’s historical past is clearly linked to our maritime commerce – in the previous and even right now,” he mentioned.

Sorting finds from shipwreck
A diver kinds via gadgets retrieved from the shipwrecks. (Photo: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) 

“Understanding our maritime history helps us understand Singapore’s relations, our context and our place in the world, our geographic location, why it’s important, what’s the reason for our existence, and what’s the reason for our success.

“If we can understand our past, it gives us a more grounded understanding of the world that we live in today,” he added.

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