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A Joseon Dynasty vessel discovered with 100 pieces of white porcelain

A Joseon Dynasty vessel discovered with 100 pieces of white porcelain

Posted November. 06, 2014 08:14,   


Two divers were swimming forwards relying on lights after leaving Nurian, a 290-ton vessel for the discovery of cultural heritage in the water. It was 11 meters deep off the island of Mado, Taean County, South Chungcheong Province, at around 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Where are you?” (control room)

“I’m getting closer to the ship. It’s the bow. It’s not visible. I can’t see 20 centimeters ahead.” (diver)

A little later, the camera on the diver’s head revealed some of the wooden ship in mudflat. It was well preserved and showed clear texture of wood.

Breathing raggedly, the divers moved to refloat the arm that was 10 meters apart from the body of the ship. They could not see clearly because strong currents stirred muddy water. But they refloated the arm in 40 minutes from when they started diving. The arm is 2.1 meters and the original arm is estimated to be around four to five meters. Hong Gwang-hee, on-site head of the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage, said, “An arm is generally tied to a stone. A wooden arm is quite rare.”

The National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage under the Cultural Heritage Administration said on Wednesday that it discovered an old ship, which is presumed to be made during the Joseon Dynasty, off the island of Mado (tentatively named Mado 4). The research institute said, “As it had two pieces of Buncheong celadon (grayish-blue-powdered celadon) that look like a bowl made in the early stage of the Joseon Dynasty, the ship is likely to have been made during the Joseon era.” Korea discovered 12 old vessels in the sea and all of them except for Yeongheungdo of the Unified Shilla were from the Goryeo Dynasty. It is the first ship of the Joseon Dynasty. The size of Mado No. 4 is 11.5 meters long and six meters wide. As it tilts towards right, some of the hull is above the mudflat. It is a typical Korean vessel based on its shape and wooden nails instead of iron nails in Korea.

As many as 111 pieces of white porcelain made in the late 18th century during the Joseon Dynasty were found in the bow. Ten pieces of bowls, dishes, cups, and candlesticks were piled up in groups. White porcelain candlesticks are considered as very rare artifacts because they were first discovered, not being handed down by some families.

“As Buncheong celadon, which was made in the early stage of the Joseon Dynasty, was found in the ship, I’m not sure whether the packages of 18th century white porcelain were loaded to Mado 4,” Hong said, “But given that the porcelain was discovered with rice straws as buffer, I’m sure that they submerged in the water while being transported.”

Na Seon-hwa, the chief of Cultural Heritage Administration, said, “Scholars believed that Joseon porcelain was supplied to regions that are near kilns, as each region had its own kiln. But this discovery confirmed that porcelains travelled a long distance.”

Many ships sank in the waters off Taean county, as old records say, “We cannot describe in words because the shape of surprised boiling water comes in tens of millions of forms.” The area have produced four vessels of the Goryeo Dynasty including Taean, Mado 1, 2, and 3, and some 2,800 artifacts since 2007.