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Jar from Sapudi Island Shipwreck, possibly Chinese



This jar was found by fishermen trawling the seabed for prawns, near Sapudi, off Madura in the early 1980's. It was found with around 600 other bowls which have been identified as Ming Dynasty sailor's bowls which were used by the Ming armada as ballast. All the pottery ware was recovered encased in coral and shells, by traditional divers using very simple equipment and very strong lungs, but without archaeological knowledge, skills, or interest. Thierry Dureiux collected it in Kalianget, Madura, from dealers who had bought the haul off the fishermen, not long after it had been recovered from the sea.

Unlike the majority of the soup bowls that were found in the wreck, this jar was not thrown on a wheel and skilfully produced in mass. It appears to have been made using the ancient coil method and meant to stand or hang, for there are loops for a string to go through on the upper part of this jar. Maybe the string was to secure the jar during sea travel, and this was a condiment jar in a junk's kitchen. The activities of the Ming armada in the Indonesian waters created a rise in trade and commerce within the archipelago.

The main find in this wreck were the Ming Dynasty humble sailor's ballast bowl. In the Indonesian countryside the humble ballast bowl could be traded for good profit, and it is likely that this jar began its life underwater near Sapudi when an accident happened on a small inter-island journey. At that time Tuban, Gresik, Jepara, and Banten were the busy ports of Java and many new port cities emerged from the lucrative spice trade all over modern day Indonesia, but Sapudi Island is not on major a trade route. This and the small size of the wreck, again, suggests that this jar might have been on the smaller, inter-island trade routes when it sank.

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