|Discovering Asia's ceramic development|
The decorations above were drawn from Royal Nanhai artefacts, but these patterns also appear on Nanyang pieces.
This wreck was discovered in 54 metres of water, 10 nautical miles from the nearest Malaysian island. Only the surface of the site has been investigated, but the ship appears to be of 'South China Sea' type. This represents a mixture of traditional Chinese and Southeast Asian shipbuilding features, perhaps the result of Chinese settlement in Southeast Asia(1). The ship was quite small, possibly around 18 metres long with a beam of 5 metres.
The Nanyang has hull planks joined by wooden dowels - similar to boats built nowadays in Terengganu. Her ceramic cargo is well organized, in cargo compartments separated by transverse bulkheads. This site has not yet been excavated, but four hundred ceramic pieces were recovered for study purposes. These are mainly early Sisatchanalai celadon. They include ring-handled jars, large celadon plates, smaller bowls and earthenware. Storage jars are from Thailand and China.
The Nanyang is one of the earliest ship discoveries with Sisatchanalai celadon. She may have sailed soon after celadon production started at the Sisatchanalai kilns, which seem to have switched entirely to the new product: no underglaze decorated ware from Sisatchanalai is found on the Nanyang or the later Longquan wreck.
Surface scars caused by a spur disc can be seen on many of the celadon plates from the Nanyang. This early system, in which ceramics were stacked one above the other, was soon abandoned at Sisatchanalai. It was previously thought that these kilns had already abandoned the use of spur discs by the time celadon was introduced.
Incised decoration for celadon plates on the Nanyang is relatively simple: a single border, and 'onionskin' or lotus petals on the cavetto. Foliated rims are found - eg the example with spur disc scars - but there are few in this cargo, whereas there are many in the later cargo of the Royal Nanhai . On the plate shown to the left, note the relatively wide foot ring, with shallow recess, and scar from a wide-diameter tubular support. The glaze 'drapery' shows that firing was at a high temperature. The clay is pasty; Sisatchanalai potters had yet to find the finer grey clay seen in the later celadons of the Royal Nanhai.
The tall narrow lug-handled storage jar seen on the right is from the Noi
river kiln site (Maenam Noi) in Thailand's Singburi province. The earlier Turiang
does not have jars like this; later wrecks do. Large storage jars from Suphanburi,
similar to those on the earlier Turiang and later Longquan, have
been seen on the Nanyang site. One of the Chinese storage jars on the
Nanyang is shown bottom right.