PortandTerminal.com, April 19, 2020
LONDON – Global pandemic or not, there have still been two announcements so far this month of major shipwrecks discoveries in Europe.
The first we reported on was the discovery of several Roman-era ships at the site of a Serbian coal pit.
The latest find, reported yesterday by England’s The Guardian, is the incredible discovery of a massive 17th-century trading ship discovered off of Lebanon in the Mediterranean Sea.
A glimpse into the early globalization of trade
The 17th-century Ottoman merchant ship, described as “an absolute colossus”, was so big two normal-sized ships could have fitted on its deck. Its vast cargo has hundreds of artefacts from 14 cultures and civilisations, including the earliest Chinese porcelain retrieved from a Mediterranean wreck, painted jugs from Italy and peppercorns from India.
Sean Kingsley, director of the Centre for East-West Maritime Exploration and archaeologist for the Enigma Shipwrecks Project (ESP), told the Observer: “This is truly ground-breaking, one the most incredible discoveries under the Mediterranean.”
ESP say the ship reveals a previously unknown maritime silk and spice route running from China to Persia, the Red Sea and into the eastern Mediterranean.
The ship, which is thought to have sunk around 1630, while sailing between Egypt and Istanbul, is a time-capsule that tells the story of the beginning of the globalised world, Kingsley said: “The goods and belongings of the 14 cultures and civilisations discovered, spanning on one side of the globe China, India, the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and to the west North Africa, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium, are remarkably cosmopolitan for pre-modern shipping of any era.”
He added: “At 43 metres (141 feet) long and with a 1,000-ton burden, it is one of the most spectacular examples of maritime technology and trade in any ocean. Its size is matched by the breadth of its cargoes.”
The Chinese porcelain includes 360 decorated cups, dishes and a bottle made in the kilns of Jingdezhen during the reign of Chongzhen, the last Ming emperor that were designed for sipping tea, but the Ottomans adapted them for the craze then spreading across the East – coffee drinking. Hidden deep in the hold were the earliest Ottoman clay tobacco pipes found on land or sea. They were probably illicit because there were severe prohibitions then against tobacco smoking.
Kingsley said: “Through tobacco smoking and coffee drinking in Ottoman cafes, the idea of recreation and polite society – hallmarks of modern culture – came to life. Europe may think it invented notions of civility, but the wrecked coffee cups and pots prove the ‘barbarian Orient’ was a trailblazer rather than a backwater. The first London coffeehouse only opened its doors in 1652, a century after the Levant.”
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