Not Your Normal Boring Scientific Conference
The International Symposium titled "Underwater Archaeology in Vietnam and Southeast Asia: Potential and challenged issues" was held in Quang Ngai City from 14-16 October 2014. Like most scientific symposiums a number of scientific papers were presented. However, unlike most it also had a "hands on" component.Guest to the symposium had the opportunity to visit 10 newly discovered shipwrecks. Introducing this "graveyard of ancient ships" to international friends, Vietnamese underwater cultural heritage expert - Nguyen Tuan Lam - said "scientists surveyed an area within a radius of 10 km2 in the Strait of Vung Tau of Binh Chau Commune. They discovered 10 ancient sunken ships. Two of the ships have been excavated. The rest have many ceramic antiques and tools of the crew dating back to the 8th-18th centuries. They are very near the coast. In particular, there is an ancient wreck made of ropes of about 1,200 years old (equivalent to the 8th century)." Some of the newly discovered wrecks are in only 4 meters of water. About 200 scientists dived on the different wrecks and offered their impressions to the other members of the symposium as the significance of the found ships.Local fisherman found the first of the ships last year with artifacts being found in water as shallow as 2 meters. Little remained of the ships as they appeared to have been sunk by burning. At that time, Dr. Doan Ngoc Khoi, deputy head of the Quang Ngai Museum, affirmed that the antiques, which boast intricate patterns such as phoenix and windmills, date back from between the 14th century and the early 17th century. The items are believed to be enamel-coated porcelain and terracotta, which were produced by a firm in Guangdong, China.
According to Khoi, several antique ships were wrecked off Binh Chau because the area was on the ancient Silk Road. Merchant ships would stop in the region to take on fresh water or seek shelter from storms before moving on. The ships could have burned naturally, or could have been set on fire by pirates.
Quang Ngai province is conducting a survey, with the participation of international experts, to make a map and cultural heritage records for Binh Chau waters to give to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The province is seeking recognition of Binh Chau as a national shipwreck relic site and calling for investment in tourism services in this area. Tourism development is a major project of the government.The potential for scuba diving is one area that they wish to develop.