A shipwreck dating from the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 ACE), has recently been analyzed by a team of archaeologists from the Shandong Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in China. The ship was found at a construction site in Heze City in 2010, and has been under study since that time.
The ship itself was of wooden construction and measured over 21 meters long (over 60 feet). It had crew cabins (where men slept 4 across) and cargo areas separated by bulkheads to protect its precious cargo of porcelain, gold, jade, and lacquerware as it traversed trade stops along the shores of the Yellow River.
Archaeologists conclude from the disposition of the ship, that it was traveling downstream when it struck an object or had some other sort of accident that caused it to sink.
The ship’s kitchen also doubled as its control room, and there was also a distinct captain’s cabin and a cabin used as a shrine. From the kitchen, an iron stove, pot, and ladle were recovered, as well as a wooden cutting board. In shrine cabin, archaeologists found an incense burner and stone-carved figurines of Buddhist arhats, or enlightened individuals, sitting beside seemingly tame dragons and tigers – an image of a peaceful world.
In addition to its luxurious cargo, everyday artifacts from the crew’s cabins paint a picture of life as a sailor in Yuan China. Inside the crew quarters, porcelain pitchers, net sinkers, scissors, oil lamps, and bronze mirrors were found. (Words by Laura Kelley; photos from the journal, Chinese Cultural Relics.)