Ceramic Assemblages From Shipwrecks in Southeast Asia From the Last Half of the Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Centuries

Atthasit Sukkham1, Asyaari Muhamad2, Clifford Pereira3

1Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum and School of Humanities and Tourism Management, Bangkok University, Thailand

2Institute of the Malay World and Civilization (ATMA), The National University of Malaysia, Malaysia

3African Studies Department, School of Modern Languages & Cultures, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Previous research suggests that the peak of Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramic trade in Southeast Asia occurred after the late 14th century CE and possibly ended in the first half of the 18th century CE. A focus in trading during this period has resulted in a lack of understanding about what occurred within the ceramic trade after the early 18th century CE. This paper discusses six shipwrecks found in the South China Sea or in Southeast Asian Waters with ceramic assemblages dated from the last half of 18th to the early 20th centuries CE: Samed Ngam (Chinese Fujian junk, 18th century), Diana (British sailing country ship, c. 1817), Tek Sing (Chinese Fujian junk, c. 1822), Desaru (Chinese junk, 1840-1850), Francis-Garnier (formerly Man Nok or Ruea Mail wreck, European crew steamer, c. 1921) and Tha Krai (European crew steamer, 1942-1945). Analysis of the origins, typologies, dates and functions of a sample of the 454,420 pieces of ceramic recovered from these vessels demonstrates that Chinese ceramics, Chinese-made armorial or heraldic ceramics, Chinese-made Bencharong ceramics, and European ceramics offer useful diagnostic evidence for post-peak ceramic trading patterns around the coasts of Southeast Asia. The recorded ceramics fall into three main categories, those products being shipped to sell, the remains of earlier ceramic shipments, and utilitarian pottery used by the ship’s crew. This body of archaeological evidence suggests a variety of cultural practices influenced the fairly recent maritime ceramic trade in Southeast Asia.