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A crane lifts a merchant boat that sank off the south China coast 800 years ago/XINHUA

Focus on China

Chinese archaeologists to begin excavation in Kenya

A crane lifts a merchant boat that sank off the south China coast 800 years ago/XINHUA

MOMBASA, Kenya, May 8 – The second round of the historical underwater ship excavation in a $3.6 million partnership project in the Coastal region of Kenya is set to commence in November with the arrival of Chinese archaeologists in the country.

A 13-member delegation has been in the country since last month to conduct surveillance over the expected archaeological sites in Mombasa and Malindi-Mambrui/Ngomeni area, according to the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Assistant Director of Coastal region Athman Hussein.

Hussein told journalists here on Tuesday that a team of 80 people will be around to ensure the historical event is filmed and transmitted to the whole world as a way to help market Kenya as an underwater cultural heritage hub.

The Mambrui wreck, according to Athman, is a local ship believed to be between 150-200 years old, while the Mombasa channel has two wreckages, both assumed to have been ships from the Portuguese which sunk in the 17th century and are near Fort Jesus.

“The ship had begun being excavated in the 1980s but due to shortage of funds, the process was stopped, but now it’s back, with the assistance of the Chinese,” Athman added.

“This time however, we shall not excavate in Lamu due to the fact that by that time, the tides will be high and thus the sea will be rough,” he said.

The recent delegation was led by Ao Jie from the department of underwater archaeology of China’s national museum.

In the first excavation in Lamu and Malindi, the archaeologists discovered important artefacts including porcelain and shillings, which helped explain the rich history that exists between Kenya and China.

“The coastline of Kenya has a lot of shipwrecks and if we continue with this partnership, we shall be able to discover lots of issues,” Athman added.

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The project is a joint venture under the agreement signed between Kenya and China. In the agreement, it was agreed that China assists in excavation of underwater archaeological sites, including Chinese wreck, and also support in terms of training, the Kenyan archaeologists, cooperation of terrestrial archaeologists between university of Pekin and NMK, among others.

The November project is set to run for two and a half months before completion.


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