Sunken Treasures of Brunei

Posted by jerry on August 16th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel

After a wonderful Sunday afternoon at Tidbinbilla, I headed into Canberra city centre and visited the National Museum of Australia – and there was a delightful exhibition of ceramics, bronze artifacts and textiles related to a recent archeological find off the coast of Brunei: The Sunken Treasures of Brunei Darussalam. The sunken vessel went down around 1600 providing a great snapshot of life and trade of that time in that area.
willow pattern bowl

They say the South China Sea was the Mediterranean of the East, and this is ample demonstrated by the treasures that emerged from this wreck. It was a trading vessel – at least twice the size of anything operated by any of the European countries, showing that the Asians had sophisticated sea going vessels far superior to the Europeans. It also illustrated the kind of volume of trade between the countries of the region. There were at least three different styles of ceramic pots from different regions, and in a range of styles suggesting a wide variety of cultural contacts.

sunken treasures of Brunei

Pots from South China Sea

The exhibition is on now and runs until 4 October, when it will move to the Western Australian Maritime Museum – so if you are in the west, catch it there! It is well worth a look, the exhibition is well laid out and includes interactive displays, some 500 pots and several ornately cast cannon on loan from Brunei and some exquisite textile pieces. There is also a beautifully illustrated catalogue to go with it. This is definitely one of the better exhibitions to come to the NMA.


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