Sunken Treasures


The exhibition Sunken Treasures features ceramics and other objects found aboard eight shipwrecks dating from the ninth to the nineteenth century. The ceramic treasures tell fascinating stories about the Maritime Silk Road in Asia and reveal a hitherto unknown world of international trade and exchange.

Ships from all over the world sailed the Maritime Silk Road for centuries in search of pepper, silk and porcelain. Sometimes the ships that perished lie on the seabed for centuries as time capsules. The wrecks and certainly the well-preserved ceramics provide a trove of information.

The ship San Diego demonstrates that Spain was already a major player in international trade around 1600. It sank during a battle because it was overloaded with cannon, ammunition and provisions. Salvage operations revealed that the San Diego contained products from all over the world. For example, the Kraak porcelain in its hold was purchased from Chinese traders in the port of Manila. The Dutch VOC ship Witte Leeuw sank thirteen years later, after attacking two Portuguese vessels. Greed cost the Dutch their lives: the powder room exploded and the merchandise aboard ended up at the bottom of the sea, a great loss for the VOC.

Kraakware, China, early 17h century
© Ottema-Kingma Found.