Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Team to excavate 600-year-old ship

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The Standard
By Joseph Murimi
March 08, 2006


A team of Chinese archaeologists is expected in the country this week to begin excavating the wreckage of a ship that sunk more than 600 years ago.

A director of National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in-charge of sites and monuments, Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, on Wednesday said the team would comprise underwater archaeologists, ethnographers and historians.

He said Kenyan scientists would also participate in the underwater expedition in Lamu to unearth any treasures the vessel owned by the legendary Chinese mariner, Zheng He, may contain.

Kibunjia said the excavation was aimed at unveiling Chinese heritage at the Coast and unravel the mystery of Chinese sailors who settled in an Island in Lamu after their ship sunk in the 15th century. Findings could also reveal how sailors used to travel to Kenya and what commodities were traded at the time.

The rare marine excavation touted to be the biggest in Kenyan history would also enable them to trace Chinese descendants in parts of the Lamu archipelago. It is believed that sailors in other vessels did not realise that one had sunk and therefore did not stop to rescue the survivors, but continued with their voyage.

Kibunja said ethnographers and historians would be asking questions and tracing the roots of the residents of Lamu who have Chinese ancestry. He said interest in the sunken ship increased three years ago. China’s Department of Cultural Heritage sent a team to Lamu for a fact-finding mission and met families of Chinese descent and some ceramics were recovered in the sea.

The exercise could be a major tourism boon as Chinese tourists visit Kenya to learn more about their heritage.


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