Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

China Team to Finalise Plans to Dig Out Vessel

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All Africa
By Mazera Ndurya
December 12, 2005


Nairobi - The fate of an underwater archaeological project to excavate a 15th century ship that sank in the Indian Ocean, off Lamu islands, will be known next week.

A team of Chinese officials is due in Kenya to discuss a memorandum of understanding with the Government.

The delegation, led by the chief of the state administration of cultural heritage (the equivalent of minister for National Heritage), Mr Shan Jixiang, will hold discussions with Kenyan officials before signing an agreement for the partnership in the project.

According to communication to the office of the Vice-President and ministry of Home Affairs, the delegation will be in Kenya on December 19-23 for the mission, a follow-up of a technical survey carried out by Chinese and Kenyan experts.

Other senior Chinese officials expected are Mr Gu Yulai, the general director of the protection of cultural heritage; Mr Zhang Jianxin, the director of foreign affairs, and Mr Tang Wei, a senior official in the department.

The multi-million-shilling project, says the head of coastal archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya, Mr Herman Kiriama, will also seek to unravel further historical evidence on the ship, part of a fleet led by legendary Chinese mariner Zheng He, who visited the East African coast about 600 years ago.

Another team of Chinese archaeologists, led by the head of antiquity, Mr Yan Yalin, carried out surveys at Shanga, around the Pazzeria rocks, locally known as Mwamba Hassani, in August and laid the ground work for the excavation.

They were then to travel back to China and come up with a pact that was expected to be signed this month to start the project.

"This will be the biggest underground archaeology ever to be conducted since the excavation carried out by Americans near Mombasa's Fort Jesus in the 1970s," Mr Kiriama said.

According to the agreement, the Chinese government is to provide funding and equipment as well as the structures for training and research. The training will be done in China.


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