Lena Shoal Shipwreck

The Lena Shoal shipwreck was accidentally discovered by fishermen in the waters of Busuanga, northern Palawan in the early part of 1996. Significant looting occurred before the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) and the Far Eastern Foundation for Nautical Archaeology (FEFNA) carried out archaeological excavations. More than 7,000 archaeological specimens comprising high-fired ceramic trade ware from China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Burma, along with earthenware, elephant tusks, tin ingots, glass beads, bronze bracelets, and gongs, and organic materials were recovered. Analysis of the Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramic wares puts the date of the shipwreck to the late 15th century during the reign of Chinese emperor Hong-zhi (1488-1505).

The remains of the wooden hull measured approximately 18.3 meters long and 5 meters wide; it is estimated that the ship’s original length was approximately 24 meters while having a carrying capacity of about 100 tons.

The cargo of the Lena Shoal shipwreck reflected the internationality and diversity of maritime trade in the 15th century. The dominant cargo of ceramic wares was produced in the kilns of China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Burma, while other artifacts likewise came from different areas in China and Southeast Asia. The presence of Islamic-influenced ceramic shapes and motifs among the cargo suggests that the Lena Shoal shipwreck may have been destined for Islamic communities in the southern Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

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