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Ming Jiajing Fort San Sebastian Wreck

This wreck, situated near the sea in Fort San Sebastian in Moçambique, was discovered in 2001 by the team from Arqueonautas, a Portuguese salvage company.  Subsequent research carried out by its team  revealed that this wreck is most likely the remains of the Portuguese ship  nao Espadarte.  It went to India in 1554 and while on its return journey to Portugal , it broke its mast at the Cape of Good Hope and was forced to go back to Mozambique .  It stranded at the point of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte at a depth of 5 fathoms [9m])

Besides a substantial amount of gold ingots, some Chinese porcelains were recovered.  Some pieces have the mark Ming ‘jiajing nian zao’, ‘
嘉靖年造‘ ie  ‘made in Jiajing’.  However, the most significant find is a  dish decorated with a white hare on the interior and bird perched on the branch of a  peach tree on the external wall. The external base carries a mark with the cyclical date ‘gui chou nian zao’ ‘癸丑年造‘ ie  ‘made in the gui chou year’.  The Chinese system of dating is based on cycles of sixty years.  This particular cyclical date corresponds most likely with the year A.D 1553 (Ming Jiajing) or the next cycle date of A.D 1613 A.D (Ming Wanli).  Stylistically, it is unlikely to be the earlier cycle date of A.D 1493 (Ming Hongzhi).   The thin outline and wash method of motif execution was used on the blue and white wares in this wreck .  This style of drawing began during the Jiajing period and was popular even till Ming Chongzhen period.  However, those pieces with Jiajing mark found on the wreck and the document regarding the sunken ship nao Espadarte confirmed that the porcelain wares were from Jiajing period.  


Some of the artifacts from this wreck auctioned by Christies










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Written by NK Koh (28 Jul 2009)