submerged cargo from the belitung shipwreck

A mass of green-glazed storage jars found at the stern of the ship. Photo by M. Flecker.

The Discovery

In 1998, fishermen diving for sea cucumbers off the coast of Belitung, a small island in the Java Sea, discovered a mysterious mound rising above the flat seabed. It was found to consist of Chinese ceramics, twelve centuries old, the cargo of an ancient shipwreck. When the ship was recognized as an Arab dhow, scholars realized that this was the first physical proof of a maritime trade route between West Asia and China—and that Sinbad the Sailor might really have existed.