A 28-meter long Phanom-Surin shipwreck (PNS) found in the upper Gulf of Thailand dates roughly to the same period as Singapore’s ‘Tang shipwreck’, the Belitung. In Thailand, this period is known as the Dvaravati Period.

While pre-Islamic evidence of Arab/Persian trade in East Asia was not clear previously, the rise of sea trade in the 8th-9thcenturies as reflected in the records of Arab geographers (e.g. Ibn Khurdādhbih and Abū Zayd), together with such finds as the Phanom-Surin and Belitung wrecks, has made us realize that a sea route would have been in regular use by around the end of the 7th century.

Unlike the Belitung, the artefacts found onboard the PNS (including a Pallavi inscription on a torpedo jar) do not make it possible to identify the ship’s route. But whereas the Belitung’s original materials have been identified as East African, the structural timber and wadding and coir of the Phanom-Surin shipwreck have been identified as materials available in Southeast Asia.

You will find a 20-minute YouTube video that introduces key facts concerning the Phanom-Surin shipwreck with a talk given at the 2020 Global Islamic Archaeology Showcase by Abhirada Komoot from the Centre for Islamic Archaeology and Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuhLLxCka5g

Photo courtesy of Southeast Asian Archaeology