Friday, October 28, 2005

Divers unveil exquisite treasure pulled from depths of Java Sea


Yahoo! News: "An ornately sculpted mirror of polished bronze is one masterpiece among the 250,000 artefacts recovered over the last 18 months from a boat that sank off Indonesia's shores in the 10th century.

On a small mould is written the word 'Allah' in beautiful Arabic script, on top of a lid sits a delicately chiseled doe.

Tiny perfume flasks accompany jars made of baked clay, while slender-necked vases fill the shelves of the hangar along with brightly colored glassware from the Fatimides dynasty that once ruled ancient Egypt.

A team of divers, among them three Australians, two Britons, three French, three Belgians and two Germans, excavated the vessel laden with rare ceramics which sank more than 1,000 years ago some 130 nautical miles from Jakarta.

Their finds, including artefacts from China's Five Dynasties period from 907 to 960 AD and ancient Egypt, are already causing a stir among archaeologists who say the cargo sheds new light on how ancient merchant routes were forged.

"A 10th century wreck is very rare, there are only a few," says Jean-Paul Desroches, a curator at the Guimet Museum in Paris, after seeing photographs of the early hauls.

He says the wreck and its cargo offers clues to how traders using the Silk Road linking China to Europe and the Middle East, used alternative sea routes as China's merchants moved south because of invasions from the north."