More old shipwrecks, antiques found off Vietnam central coast

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Explorers have located shipwrecks containing antiques in waters off the central province of Quang Nam not long after two others were discovered off nearby Quang Ngai Province.

Tran Tan Vinh, a member of an exploration team from the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, told Thanh Nien that last Friday they discovered the shipwrecks and antiques off Tam Hai Commune, Nui Thanh District.

His team has reported the findings to the province People's Committee, the local government, which would instruct related agencies to make plans to salvage and conserve the vessels and antiques.

A committee needs to be established to assess the antiques' origins and dates, he said.

But he also said Doan Ngoc Khoi, deputy director of the Quang Ngai Museum, tentatively dated them back to the 12th-13th centuries after evaluating samples.

The department ordered the exploration following reports that some local people recently found antiques, both intact and broken, in the waters.

Many dealers have come to Tam Hai to buy the items, paying from VND150,000 to VND1 million for them.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Dinh Tan Tau, 39, a local diver, said in the last two months he has found various objects at a depth of some five meters and in two locations around the Bac Cape off Ban Than Hill and the mouth of the Ve River.

Some 300 meters west of the cape, he had found nearly 80 "small" pottery jars and tens of ceramic dishes with jade green glaze, he said.

But most of them were broken while seawater affected their glaze, he said.

He had also found many ceramic boxes used to contain cosmetic powders, many of them intact, and more than 10 copper coins there.

Around the river mouth he had found eight "large" dishes glazed in dark green and still intact, a broken bowl 30 centimeters across, a stone mortar, three "large" bricks, a knife, and other items.

Tau said he also found a three-meter long cylindrical wooden object that was 0.4 meters across with "ancient" characters etched on its surface.

In Quang Ngai, four ancient shipwrecks have been salvaged since 1999, including two in August believed to date back to the 17th century.

From the second wreck, found last September, around 4,000 intact objects were recovered and dated back to the 13th century.

Seabed Exploration, a company that specializes in salvaging shipwrecks in Southeast Asia, estimates that Vietnamese waters have 40 old ships, but the government has yet to act on the information.

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