Taean-Mado Shipwreck No. 2: underwater excavation by the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage of KoreaNRIMCH (ed.) with Minkoo Kim , Seon-Young Park , Deogim An and 14 other Contributors 478 pp., more than 500 colour pictures and plans, b&w line drawingsNRIMCH, Namrong-ro 136, Mokpo, Jeollanamdo 530–840, Republic of Korea, 2011, npg (sbk), ISBN 978-8963257815
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2013 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 221–223, March 2013
How to Cite
McKillop, B. (2013), Taean-Mado Shipwreck No. 2: underwater excavation by the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage of KoreaNRIMCH (ed.) with Minkoo Kim , Seon-Young Park , Deogim An and 14 other Contributors 478 pp., more than 500 colour pictures and plans, b&w line drawingsNRIMCH, Namrong-ro 136, Mokpo, Jeollanamdo 530–840, Republic of Korea, 2011, npg (sbk), ISBN 978-8963257815. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 221–223. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12008_9
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
In 1985 John Gifford and colleagues noted the need for training, funding, legislation and public awareness of underwater archaeology (The UNESCO international survey of underwater cultural heritage, World Archaeology 16:3). The Republic of Korea is an example of a country that has worked hard to address the challenge arising from the discovery of hundreds of medieval shipwrecks in its coastal waters. The research report reviewed here considers the second of four Goryeo-period (918–1392) wrecks found in waters off the coast of Taean county, Chungcheong province. Taean-Mado shipwreck No. 1 was excavated in 2007 and published in 2009. The Goryeo court, in the present-day city of Gaeseong, North Korea, obtained food supplies and ceramics in enormous quantities from the provinces of Jeolla, Chungcheong and Gyeongsang (present-day South Korea). Cargo ships travelling north towards the capital had to navigate the strong currents, high tides and mud-flats of the Taean peninsula as they headed up along the western coast of the Korean peninsula. Since about 1971, some 250 discoveries and reports of underwater cultural heritage have been made in Republic-of-Korea waters. Two excavated vessels, the Shinan wreck (a Chinese vessel) and the Wando wreck (a Korean ship) were on display at the National Maritime Museum of Korea at Mokpo when the reviewer visited in 2011. The Shinan Wreck, discovered in 1976, has been thoroughly published, and is well known to art historians and nautical archaeologists.
Less well known is the published research on medieval Korean wrecks, which has led to important advances in the understanding of Korea's shipbuilding technologies and history. The Taean-Mado No. 2 report forms part of this body of research. Since most of this material has been published in the Korean language, the findings have not been widely circulated to the international community. However, scholars, including Randall Sasaki and Whan Ki Moon, have begun to present English reports of highlights of Korea's maritime archaeological achievements since about 2000, and these are worthy of note.
The report of Taean-Mado shipwreck excavations published in 2011 describes work undertaken from May to October 2010. The authors note that the publication timescale was very tight, and that further research reports will be issued later. High-quality images of major discoveries begin the report. As well as wooden cargo tags, invaluable for identifying the date, origin and intended recipients of excavated items, two fine celadon vases are illustrated. These two vases, of a type known variously by their Chinese, Korean and English names as meiping, maebyong and plum vase, are of a distinctive shape. Past studies have described them as flower vases or containers for wine. The cargo tags attached to them in this wreck, however, state that they contained sesame oil and honey. The tags also use the Chinese character-word jun 樽 to describe the vases. This is a new term to scholars of Goryeo-period ceramics. Ceramics manufactured in the major coastal pottery centres of Gangjin and Buan have been a major component of excavated finds in sea-bed archaeology in 20th- and 21st-century Korea. These were the kilns that produced the beautiful plain and decorated ceramics required by the Goryeo court—ceramics whose quality was so high that a 12th-century visiting Chinese envoy, Xu Jing, praised them in his travel diary description of Goryeo life and society. While the No. 2 wreck contained only 140 ceramic objects (far fewer than the 20,000 excavated from No. 1 wreck) the record of these two vases containing honey and oil constitutes a significant addition to the literature about Goryeo celadon, a ceramic type which is considered by modern Koreans as one of the archetypal Korean cultural icons. Both vases are made of high-fired porcellanous stoneware and are covered in iron-rich glaze fired in a reducing atmosphere to a jade-green colour. One is lobed, and has inlaid decoration in black and white. The other is monochrome, smooth walled, and subtly incised with graceful floral designs.
As well as the ceramics, wooden tags with personal and place names were significant finds on the vessel. They have led researchers to date the sunken vessel to c.1200 AD. The dating is based both on the stylistic analysis of the ceramic vessels, and through associating the names of LEE Geuk Soo and YOO Dae Gyeung (found on the wooden tags) with historical figures who are recorded in the dynastic archive as officials in the capital, active around 1200 AD.
After the ‘highlights’ section of the book, the report proceeds to detail the geo-data of the wreck-site, the dates of the excavation, a site-map, excavation photographs and diary (team photograph, p. 35). The 100-page section following lays out the climate and tide data relevant to the excavation. At p. 88 there is a striking, large pull-out plan of the ship. In common with other Korean cargo-carriers of the period this was a heavily built vessel entirely fastened by wood—pegs, treenails and tenons. No nail or any iron was used (though well attested in Goryeo then). It was of clinker construction in pine, with a single mast, and, apart from the regular wooden fastenings, this ship had a special type of long tenon, known in Korean as a jangsak, to hold the five bottom planks as they are brought together at the stern. In all 41 ship parts in exceptional condition were recovered. There are about 20 pages (105 ff) showing frames with drawings and models; pp. 102–3 give different angles on the mast-step; and, another whole section (pp. 448–467) is devoted to joints, fastenings and reconstructed parts. Unfortunately the text and captions are all in Korean. The team has been able to conclude that the vessel's dimensions were 12.6 m long and 4.4 m wide with a depth of 1.2 m. It had a fairly sharp chine which was connected to the bottom in two different ways: either by butt joint or with an L-shaped riser cut diagonally. Some frames were fitted slant-wise to give extra strength. The one unique feature noted in the English page-long abstract was the use of the jangsak.
A 200-page section of the work describes and illustrates the cargo with photographs and drawings: baskets, grains, animal bones, ceramics, spoons and cooking vessels. As already mentioned, cargo tags are among the most important finds and 47 of them were found. They demonstrate that the ship was travelling from Gochang, North Jeolla Province, to Gaegyeong (modern Gaeseong) captal of the Goryea dynasty. Foodstuffs identified are rice, beans, malt, fermented soya beans and salted fish. Of the ceramic vessels, most were dishes, bowls and cups. Baskets, bronze spoons in the distinctive Korean ‘swallow tail’ shape (p. 390) and chopsticks were also found and thought to be personal possessions of the crew. Cast-iron cooking pots were also present. The report details the technical analysis (including microscopy) of the various materials—ceramic, wood, metal—excavated. For instance, p. 375 presents the composition of glaze and body materials of ceramics of various types.
The Taean-Mado Shipwreck No. 2 is an example of the riches on the sea-bed near that area of the southwest Korean coast. Korean people think of the coast of Taean county as an ‘underwater Gyeonngiu’, drawing a comparison with the archaeological treasure house that survives in the former capital of another early peninsular kingdom, Unified Silia (668–935 AD). It is clear that the treacherous waters of the Taean Sea area contain much valuable material heritage from the Goryeo dynasty, an age when a cultivated and devoutly Buddhist élite required goods and food in huge quantities to be shipped from the south to satisfy its needs. As present-day divers, archaeologists, historians and conservators continue to explore and record this material, we will greatly expand our understanding of what Sasaki and Lee (op. sit.) have described as the rich, well-developed and diverse shipbuilding tradition of Goryeo Korea. The Taean-Mado Shipwreck No. 2 report is a valuable as well as a handsome addition to the literature and should lead those with an interest in world transport systems in medieval times to examine the Korean case closely. The supply routes, the economic history and the shipbuilding technology of Goryeo Korea is a subject of increasing interest being steadily revealed thanks to the efforts of the NRIMCH.