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The Thai Shipwreck of Yamami Site Project

Scientific Direction: Dr. Daniele Petrella, Ph.D.
Starting and ending year: 2011-2012

It is traditionally known that Japan, during the Tokugawa or Edo Period (1603-1868), activated a strong policy of closure that also extended to trade with foreign countries and the Asian continent in particular.

If this were true, it would not explain some underwater archaeological evidence dating back to that period and relating to trade materials that came to light during various research activities conducted in the seas of Kyūshū. This group includes the finds discovered at the Yamami site in the seas of the island of Ōjika (Nagasaki Prefecture), located in the Gōto archipelago, where part of the Kubilai Khan Fleet's research was conducted from 2009 to 2012.

But what were these findings and why were they located there?

The Yamami archaeological site is located 100 m off the coast of Karamizaki at a depth of 5 m, between the islands of Ōjika and Nozaki in the Gōto archipelago.

In 1992, some fishermen spotted and pulled out of the seabed some ceramic artefacts of Thai origin dating back to the 17th century. They were transport amphorae, and the fishermen immediately alerted the relevant authorities.

In 2003, the ARIUA (Asian Research Institute for Underwater Archaeology) conducted an initial investigation that, although limited, was characterised by the discovery of an intense deposit of ceramic artefacts all from Thailand.

Once it was established that the area was an 'archaeological site', the investigation was shelved.

It will have to wait until 2011, when the Italian team led by Daniele Petrella, commissioned by Hayashida Kenzō, will investigate the site again.

The search extended over a wider area and led to the identification of a Thai wreck that was heading towards the coast of Kyūshū.

Once again, the expedition was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Japan Foundation.

diver at work in the Ojika sea
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