The Hoi An Shipwreck
The Hoi An shipwreck sank in the middle of a typhoon zone known as the Dragon Sea, between the late 15th century and early 16th century. It has been named after the nearby town of Faifo, known in modern geography as Hoi An. The shipwreck was found in the early 1990s by local fishermen, who however did not excavate the wreck. Hoi An shipwreck is in fact the only wreck site to have been completely excavated in a correct archaeological manner. The Vietnamese Government, together with the Maritime Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Oxford, and other important associations, formed a partnership to take charge of this landmark excavation.
The pieces of ceramic recovered were produced in the mid 15th century in Chu Dou, in the Hai Duong province, modern North Vietnam. Hai Duong was known as the largest ceramics production centre in Medieval Vietnam. The Hoi An shipwreck is not only the earliest known cargo of this type, but also is the only large Vietnamese cargo to have been discovered.
Everyday and Special Items
The vessel was loaded with more than 250,000 pieces. The vast majority of the pieces recovered were utilitarian and everyday objects. The remainder were some exquisite pieces decorated with great skill. The pieces featured a very free decorative style, painted at speed using a very wet brush. Cups, bowel, lidded boxes and dishes have been recovered, all potted in moulds. Such moulds allowed a quicker and cheaper production. The dishes especially, were fired face-to-face, making it possible to fit more dishes in the kiln, another cost and time saving idea.
Hoi An Lidded Box
Lidded boxes are the most common type of vessel recovered from the Hoi An shipwreck. Such boxes varied in size, form and decoration, usually featuring a floral or geometric decoration, extending from the sides to the lids. Decorations of this type ensured that the correct lid would have been fitted to the correct box. Interestingly, not only male artists were employed in ceramic production in Vietnam, but also women and children.