1600 Ship Wrecks between Arugambay and Galle

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Hidden Treasure
25 November:34:06
By Gayan Ratnayake

Sri Lanka a treasure trove of unexplored maritime history: archaeologists

Nov 25, 2007 (LBO) A?a??a?? Archaeologists working on a Dutch colonial era shipwreck in Sri Lanka’s southern Galle port say 12 more wrecks lie submerged, awaiting excavation and cataloging as historical treasure.

“There are 27 sites which contain 12 shipwrecks in the Galle port,” Rasika Muthucumarana, archeologist from the maritime archeology unit in Galle, told LBO.

The maritime archeological team who worked on the Dutch wreck, the Avondster, has already started work on excavating a wooden ship and a steel steam ship in the bay.

Muthucumarana says the archaeology unit excavates and conserves the artifacts but the wreck will be left underwater as breeding grounds for fish and corrals.

It is also expensive and time consuming to collect pieces of wrecks and assemble them on dry land, Muthucumarana said.

The ships lying underwater were used by merchants to transport goods and some of the wrecks date back to the 13th century.

The recently excavated Avondster, which belonged to the Dutch East India Trading company, was wrecked in 1659 when her anchor slipped and the ship ran aground.

The Avondster Actonel mail order

The Avondster was excavated for four years from 2001 where the team recovered 2,000 artefacts. But the 2004 tsunami swept away around 70 percent of the collection, Muthucumarana says.

The excavation was financed by the government of Netherlands which gave 700 million rupees to Sri Lanka to initiate development and conservation projects on heritage sites in the southern region from 2006 to 2009.

One of the main goals of the excavation was to build capacity of Sri Lankan archaeologists and conservators to continue a permanent archaeology program in the island, says Senerath Dissanayake, director general of the department of archaeology.

Furthermore, the projects focus on developing cultural tourism activities that would help the local economy of the region through more employment opportunities.

At present, the Dutch funded development projects are focused on restoring the colonial-era forts in Galle, Matara and Katuwana, and the Kataragama temple.

An ancient Dutch warehouse within the Galle fort is being restored to be used as a maritime museum and a visitor centre.

Unconfirmed reports say that over 1,600 shipwrecks lie along the coastline of Sri Lanka from Colombo to Pottuvil in the eastern coast, that have not been excavated due to financial and other difficulties.

In Galle, of the dozen sunken ships in the harbour, six ships belonged to the East India Trading company.

The Galle Port

The Galle bay was used from the pre Christian times as a natural harbor in the southern region but gained importance after the 12th century.

Several stone anchors of Indo-Arabian origin have also been discovered, one weighing almost a ton made of stone probably from Oman, and with a wooden anchor stock around five hundred years old.

Excavated stone anchor

Another anchor has been found of Mediterranean origin, similar to those used in Roman times.

A celadon bowl which was named after its tint of green (celadon) is one of the few relics found, relating to the early trade with China’s Southern Song dynasty (13th century). But the famous blue-and-white Chinese ware is found in abundance.


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