The Cirebon shipwreck

©UNESCO/U. Guerin / Chinese ceramics from the Cirebon wreck

In 2003, local fishermen caught Chinese ceramics in their fishing nets in the Northern Java Sea, Indonesia. These objects belonged to a shipwreck known as the Cirebon wreck which sank in the Java Sea at the turn of the first millennium. The merchant ship was exporting a large amount of Yue yao (Yue ware), a Chinese porcelain produced in the ancient region of Yue, in particular Yue ewers with bulging bellies, bowls, platters and incense burners, and figurines of birds, deer and unicorns. Some of the ceramics discovered would have been used as religious offerings.

In April 2004 the Cirebon wreck was excavated by a private company, which raised some 50,000 pieces of the cargo, releasing non-sellable artifacts into the ocean.

Study of the wreck can teach us more about the Maritime Silk Road and the most common maritime routes. Because of the large and varied cargo it is probable that the ship probably took on its wares in a South Sea port, a destination for international maritime trading where the widest range of goods would have been available.

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