Vietnam museum, salvager share 13th century antiques

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Ceramics items from the 13th century and earlier that were salvaged from a sunken ship off central Vietnam last June. Photo by Hien Cu

Nearly 5,000 antiques from a sunken ship discovered off the central coast more than a year ago have been divided between the salvage company and a local museum.

The antiques dating back to the 13th century and earlier were saved from a three-story merchandise sailing vessel discovered in September 2012 by local fishermen in Quang Ngai Province.

Ho Chi Minh City-based Doan Anh Duong Company, which salvaged the 4,975 items last June, received 67 percent of them, and the Quang Ngai Province Museum got the rest.

Local officials and experts said the division was based on value rather than number of items and that it was a fair one that satisfied both sides.

Pham Quoc Quan, former director of the National Museum of History, said most of the antiques were ceramics pieces decorated with dragons and phoenixes, all categorized into brown-glazed and celadon-glazed potteries or blue and white and blue-flower porcelain items.

“The brown-glazed pottery from this ship was very strange to Vietnamese archaeologists,” Quan said.

The museum got to keep a bronze weight, a bronze mirror, and bronze currency from China’s Song Dynasty, which ruled between 960 and 1279, and other items from the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century.

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Chien, deputy director of the National Museum of History, said the coins would be used to ascertain the age of the ship.

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Chien said the ship alone is a treasure as it is relatively intact and was made of rare wood and with a unique structure.

Experts also say the ship is probably the oldest one ever found in Vietnamese waters.

The province is still working with archaeologists to preserve the ship which has been sealed off with iron fencing at the discovery site around 100 meters offshore. The site is in waters three meters deep, but water inside the fencing was pumped out.

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