Archeology on this shipwreck site adds both information and confusion to today's art history. The archeology and the early Ming pottery found on the site suggest that present knowledge need review. For More information about the importance of the Turiang shipwreck and its mixed ceramic cargo, click here
It was thought in the 70's that potters moved from Sukhothai to start additional kilns at Sisatchanalai when sources for better clay were discovered in that area. Sisatchanalai, it was supposed, first made a few fishplates in imitation of Sukhothai and then concentrated their production on the main body of their ceramics, which included pottery like underglaze black and celadon wares
The Turiang shipwreck (+/- 1370) add new data
to art history, early Ming pottery and archeology
This chronology was adjusted in the 1980s after archaeological excavations at the Sisatchanalai kiln complex. These showed that these kilns were more ancient, and definitely larger than Sukhothai. Consequently, it became accepted that the Sisatchanalai site was the earliest producer of hign-fired ceramics and consistently manufactured larger numbers of ware than Sukhothai. Then it was thought that the Sukhothai kilns might not have made more ceramics until the 15th century, and that they produced only about 10-12% as much as Sisatchanali. This seemed like a reasonable conclusion, since at least 800 kilns have been counted at Sisatchanalai but only 50 have been noted at Sukhothai. There have however been no comprehensive excavations at the Sukhothai site, much of which was destroyed for the building of a new road within the Sukhothai Historical Park.
Various scholars devised theories to explain the differences in size and the relationships between the two kiln sites. It was thought that Sukhothai might have had insufficient clay resources and/or the Sisatchanalai site was simply better managed. Shipwreck pottery recovered in the Bay of Thailand generally supported the idea that Sukhothai was a relatively minor producer. This company's discovery of four fully loaded wrecks, all with Thai pottery, did little to contradict the idea of lesser numbers of ware from Sukhothai. The Longquan wreck did however indicate that the low percentage of Sukhothai exports might not be correct after all, at least not during all periods. The cargo from this early Ming-period wreck comprised about 20% Sukhothai wares, and only 40% Sisatchanali ceramics. The remainder of the wares came from China. In this one instance the proportion of Sukhothai wares to Sisatchanalai was 1:2.
Then came the discovery of the Turiang wreck. Not only is the proportion of wares surprising, the date for the founding of the Sukhothai kilns must also be revised. Thousands of Sukhothai fish plates were seen on the first dive, without any example from Sisatchanalai in sight. This, despite the fact that the ship was headed for Indonesia, a major market for Thai ceramics.
Further investigation did reveal Sisatchanalai wares but in limited numbers and from a time before the Sukhothai kilns are believed to have opened. The obvious conclusion is that the Sukhothai kilns were in operation earlier than supposed, at the same time that the so-called 'Mon' wares (which are the type recovered) were being produced at Sisatchanalai. This Mon group of wares has been securely dated by radiocarbon samples from the kiln site to the mid 14th century. Thus it seems that the Sukhothai kilns must have begun exporting before the time of the Ming ban in AD. 1369. The few Chinese ceramics recovered, indeed, are types traditionally assigned to the Yuan dynasty (AD. 1279-1368).
While the Turiang cargo may not exactly represent the proportions of production at the two main kiln centers in the Sukhothai kingdom, it gives pause for thought. It is even possible that brick-built kilns were first introduced at Sukhothai and then copied at Sisatchanalai, where in-ground non-brick kilns were previously in use. The cargo also suggests that the first major exports of Thai pottery came from the Sukhothai rather than Sisatchanalai site. Of course, by the 15th century, when the Sisatchanalai potters were producing higher quality ceramics, they became the major source.
In suggesting a time when Sukhothai was the major supplier, it is interesting to review old data from the Philippines. H. Otley Beyer, who first looked at the presence of Thai ceramics in the islands, was convinced that Sukhothai wares typified lower stratigraphic levels. Sisatchanalai wares, he believed, came later and were associated with 15th-century Chinese blue and white ceramics. It should be noted, incidentally, that 95% of the ceramics from the Turiang wreck are highly deteriorated after their long submersion in salt water. This makes the few intact examples extremely valuable.
In summary, it is believed that the Turiang wreck sank at a time in the 14th century, possibly around the very beginning of the Chinese Ming dynasty in AD. 1368. A special report on this wreck and its cargo is now published by Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California.
Sisatchanalai dish profile
The vareity of painted wares onboard the Turiang suggest prolonged production.
Sisatchanalai early green-
glazed wares (left) and "mon" bottles (top) were supposed to
be manufactured long before Sukhothai made fishplates
Sisatchanalai underglaze flower motifs were different
from those at Suklhothai
Centre medallion motifs on Sisatchanalai and Sukhothai underglaze wares. The secondary clay in use at the time of Turiang's departure, did not allow painting directly on the pot. The pot was therefore covered with a more viscous 'slip' before the motif was pained. After painting, the wares were covered with a clear glaze thus protecting the design.
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Nanhai Marine Archaeology Sdn. Bhd. was incorporated on the recommendation of the Malaysian authorities. This was done in order to formalize and to expand on the company’s researcher’s extensive knowledge of Asia’s ceramic developments and maritime trade. The company’s researchers have been engaged in the search for historical shipwrecks for more than two decades and another decade researching maritime trade. Most of this work is concentrated to the South China Sea, a virtual highway for ancient shipping linking China to India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia in an extensive maritime trade system. This ancient trade started sometime around the 4th century and lasted well into the 19th century.
Following a successful shipwreck discovery, the company obtain a government permit to excavate the wreckage, and then carry out detailed marine archaeological procedures in recovering the artifacts, mapping the ship's remains and securing other data for future research. After each concluded project and following conservation of recovered artifacts, we search for and pinpoint ruined kiln sites and compare its wasters with the recovered ceramics until we are satisfied we located the place in which the shipwreck pottery was made centuries earlier.
Our arrangement with the Malaysian authorities is such that we finance all operations and train young Malaysian nationals (on our initiative) in maritime archaeology and related research. After giving all unique and single artifacts and thirty percent of all recovered items to the National Museum (and assisting with exhibitions of artifacts from each project) we are allowed to sell our portion of the recovery to finance future projects. The findings from ongoing research and the compilation of reports, books and catalogues are available on these pages as well as on a separate Internet site: http://www.maritimeasia.ws Due to the unquestionable authenticity and precisely dated shipwreck pottery, many International Museums now display our shipwreck pieces as reference material.
The artifacts sold on this website are therefore legally and properly excavated and can be supplied with an export permit from the Department of Museum in Malaysia should this be required. This unique working arrangement makes us one of the few Internet sellers that sell from own excavation and deliver a meaningful Certificate of Authenticity with every artifact issued with a serial number. So, if you are interested to purchase some of our Antique porcelain, old time pottery or other shipwreck artifacts from the Song dynasty, Ming porcelain or Chinese blue and white porcelain or the famous Yixing teapots, you can rest assured that every piece is excavated through proper archaeology by our own staff. We do not sell anything that is not excavated by ourselves or properly recorded and researched before offered for sale so every piece comes with the “Best possible provenance” WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO EMAIL OUR PRINCIPAL RESEARCHER; Sten Sjostrand SHOULD YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR POSSIBLE PURCHASE
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