Sri Lanka a treasure trove of unexplored maritime history: archaeologists

Nov 25, 2007 (LBO) – Archaeologists working on a Dutch colonial era shipwreck in Sri Lanka’s southern Galle port say 12 more wrecks lie submerged, awaiting excavation and cataloging as historical treasure.

In 1999, the team had also uncovered a human skull. “There are 27 sites which contain 12 shipwrecks in the Galle port,” Rasika Muthucumarana, archeologist from the maritime archeology unit in Galle, told LBO.

The maritime archeological team who worked on the Dutch wreck, the Avondster, has already started work on excavating a wooden ship and a steel steam ship in the bay.

Muthucumarana says the archaeology unit excavates and conserves the artifacts but the wreck will be left underwater as breeding grounds for fish and corrals.

It is also expensive and time consuming to collect pieces of wrecks and assemble them on dry land, Muthucumarana said.

The ships lying underwater were used by merchants to transport goods and some of the wrecks date back to the 13th century.

The recently excavated Avondster, which belonged to the Dutch East India Trading company, was wrecked in 1659 when her anchor slipped and the ship ran aground.