Quang Ngai authorities seek to salvage antiques from sunken ship

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Fishermen dive for antiques from a centuries-old sunken ship just off the Quang Ngai Province coast Sunday. Authorities are scrambling to prevent them and salvage the vessel's cargo themselves.

Authorities in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Ngai Tuesday sought government sanction to salvage cargo from a ship that sank 500 years ago and to send archeologists to assist with the task.

The petition came amid efforts since Sunday to stop an influx of fishing boats, divers, and hundreds of antique hunters to the site in Binh Son District.

Le Quang Thich, deputy chairman of the province People's Committee, said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should issue a license and provide experts from the Institute of Archeology to oversee the work and assess the items, news website VnExpress reported.

If approved it would be done in three days by the Quang Ngai Museum and a marine salvage company, the museum's deputy director, Le Thi Chung, said.

Authorities have seized many items looted by dealers and others, including sophisticated Chinese ceramic bowls and plates made during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) era, she said.

 

500-year-old ceramic bowls made during the Ming Dynasty era in China that Quang Ngai Province authorities seized from antique hunters who looted them from a sunken ship since Sunday

During that period in history many Chinese ships came to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean to trade, and the vessel found off Quang Ngai could have sunk in Vietnamese waters due to bad weather, officials said.

Chung said the museum had found hundreds of pottery and stone items from the same area in 1999, and they are being exhibited in the Vietnam History Museum in Hanoi.

Local fishermen who have joined the hunt said hundreds of items have been found around 100 meters from the coast and 1.5 meters under the seabed in waters three meters deep.

They have been mobbed by antique dealers.

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An unidentified fisherman said one boat owner had found around 200 antiques, including ceramic plates that fetched up to VND60 million (almost US$3,000) on the black market, while 30 others had found dozens of items.

"Some fisherman have earned a billion dong selling the plates," he said.

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