A stoneware basin from the Lingga Wreck
A diver recovering bowls from the Flying Fish Wreck


Sister Ships: Three 12th Century Shipwrecks in Southeast Asia by Dr Michael Flecker

6.30pm Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Imagination Room, Level 5
National Library Building
100 Victoria Street
Singapore 188064

In 1998 the Ceramic Society of Indonesia published a book entitled The Pulau Buaya Wreck: Finds from the Song Period. The cargo was salvaged in 1989 and consisted primarily of ceramics from Guangdong and Fujian, with a smattering of finer wares from other provinces. Unfortunately, there was no archaeological documentation, so all context has been lost and we know nothing of the origin of the ship.

Nearly three decades after the salvage of the Pulau Buaya Wreck, two new shipwrecks have come to light. Remarkably, the Lingga Wreck also sank within sight of Pulau Buaya, with a primary cargo of Guangdong ceramics. Again, there was no archaeologically excavation, however photographs provided some context. The hull remains had been identified, and a precise date had been determined. The Flying Fish Wreck sank far away, near Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. She was archaeologically excavated. Her cargo consisted primarily of Fujian ceramics along with some finer wares from Jingdezhen.

While there are a few comparable artefacts linking the two new finds, the Pulau Buaya Wreck bridges the gap with many parallels. From a comparative analysis it may be reasonably concluded that the Pulau Buaya, Lingga and Flying Fish Wrecks were all Southeast Asian lashed-lug ships that sank during the first quarter of the 12th century, towards the end of the Northern Song dynasty (960 to 1127 CE). They were all transporting Chinese ceramics and ironware to Southeast Asian markets, thus they were sister ships.

About Dr. Michael Flecker

Michael started his working life in 1985 as a civil engineer in a Singapore-based company. In 1987 he joined Pacific Sea Resources for the two-year excavation of a Manila Galleon, Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, in Saipan. Since then, he has directed some of the most important shipwreck excavations in Asia, including the 9th century Belitung Wreck; the 10th century Intan Wreck, the 13th century Java Sea Wreck; the 15th century Bakau Wreck; the 1608 Binh Thuan Wreck, and the 1690 Vung Tau Wreck.

Michael’s specialty is ancient Asian ship construction and trade. He earned his PhD from the National University of Singapore, based on his excavation of the Intan Wreck. This thesis was published as a book by the British Archaeological Report Series (2002). Other works include the book, Porcelain from the Vung Tau Wreck (2001), chapters in Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light on Old Pottery (2009), Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds (2010) and numerous other books, along with many articles in international journals. He recently completed a stint as research fellow at the Singapore ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

This talk is free and open to the public, SEACS members and their guests. No RSVP is required. The program will begin at 6.30pm promptly and end at approximately 8.30pm. Parking is available in the National Library basement carpark and the closest MRT stop is Bras Basah.