1,000-year old Arab ship found under shrimp farm

1,000-year old Arab ship found under shrimp farm

Buried under their shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon, villagers discover a 1,000 year-old Arab ship from the Dvaravati period (6th-11th centuries).

The shipwreck Phanomsurin, named after the land owners, was unearthed in Samut Sakhon.


Shipwreck: 1,000-year-old Arab ship found under shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon  


Pichaya Svasti

The 1,000 year-old ship is now buried deep under the mud of a shrimp farm in Samut Sakhon. The vessel, 25m long, transported a variety of goods to coastal cities around Asia before it sank here during the Dvaravati period during the 6th to 11th centuries. Now it’s a valuable archaeological find and probably the oldest ship ever unearthed in Thailand.

“This ship is in the most complete condition I have ever seen. It had three sails intact and would have been almost ready to sail again,” famous underwater archaeologist Erbprem Vatcharangkul noted.

In Sept 16 of last year the Fine Arts Department in Ratchaburi was told of an old ship found underneath a shrimp farm located about 8km from the sea. The archaeological excavation of the ship began in December last year and is still under way and is now about 10% completed. 

Named Phanomsurin after the land owners, the ship was covered in muddy soil with one of its sides facing down. The bow and stern were lying south to north. Only its west gunwale was above the ground. Its wooden gunwales were enforced and stitched with rope, but both the wooden structure and ropes were rotten. Found in the middle section of the ship was a 17.65m-long rectangular wooden piece believed to be a part of the keel. A 17.37m-long wooden pole believed to be one of the ship’s masts was found on the west side.

A special feature of this ship is its wooden components stitched with rope. Each of these ropes has a brown smaller rope inside to ensure durability. The ship is similar in appearance to ancient Arab ships. 

Many artefacts were discovered inside the ship. Most of them are earthenware and stoneware, both unglazed from domestic kilns and glazed from China, along with some other kinds from unknown places. The rest consists of coconut fruits, toddy palms, hundreds of betel nuts, rice, halved coconut shells, wood resin, a horn, fish bones, animal bones and plant seeds. The black ropes found in the ship are still in amazingly good condition.

Some of the earthenware pieces have never been found anywhere in Thailand, being oval-shaped containers with a pointed bottom. Comparison studies found they are similar to amphoras usually found in Europe, the Middle East and India.

The amphoras are coated with black resin on the inside, with thick brown stains. The archaeologists think that the resin was used to prevent leakage or perhaps even the goods the ship was transporting. A fragment of one of the amphoras and that of a Chinese earthenware pot have ancient lettering inscribed on them, which are now being studied and translated.

In addition, several pieces of Chinese-style stoneware dating to the Tang Dynasty (8th-9th centuries) were found in the ship. One of them contained betel nuts. Several other kinds of earthenware were also found, such as Dvaravati-style pots with thick rims, which were probably used as kitchenware on the ship or destined for export.

The gunwales of this ship were stitched with ropes like those of ancient Arab ships. It is estimated that the ship dates to the 8th or 9th century and is crucial to the study of shipping in this region.

The team is waiting for the results of undergoing scientific tests in the United States to find out whether this ship is as old as the 8th-9th centuries. During that time, trade between Dvaravati cities in the present-day Central Region of Thailand flourished and was linked to other Dvaravati cities in this region. This ship is probably an important piece of evidence to confirm these cities’ trade with Arab cities and China.

Experts believe the area where the ship was found might have been a canal or a shoreline amid a mangrove forest reachable from the sea. This waterway led to other Dvaravati cities and the nearest city was Nakhon Pathom, about 30km away. From Nakhon Pathom, boats could probably have travelled further to some other cities like Khu Bua.

This ship is the first Dhow ever found in Thailand. The Dhow is an Arab ship made of wood stitched with ropes. Although a similar ship was found at the Khuan Thani Ship Wreck Site in Kantang district, Trang province, it has yet to be excavated and studied. They drank wine because amphoras were found. And they used earthenware from China and Europe. This reflects a combination of Asian and European culture.


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  • amazingly: very surprisingly, especially in a way that makes you feel pleasure or admiration - อย่างน่าประหลาดใจ
  • amid: in the middle of; at the same time as - ท่ามกลาง, ระหว่าง
  • amphora: a large ceramic jar with big handles on each side for transporting goods or liquid, usually wine - โถขนาดใหญ่ที่มีที่จับสองที.
  • ancient: very old - ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ
  • appearance: the way that somebody/something looks on the outside - ลักษณะภายนอก, การปรากฏตัว
  • archaeological: related to the study of the buildings, graves, tools and other objects which belonged to people who lived in the past, in order to learn about their culture and society (the subject is archaeology) - เกี่ยวกับโบราณคดี
  • archaeologist: someone who studies the buildings, graves, tools and other objects of people who lived in the past - นักโบราณคด
  • artefact: an object that was made a long time ago and is historically important, e.g., a tool or weapon - โบราณวัตถุ
  • bow: the front part of a ship - หัวเรือ
  • buried (verb): covered completely by something - ฝัง
  • canal (noun): a waterway, a long hole in the ground made to send water from one place to another - คลอง
  • coastal: of an area of land beside the sea - แนวชายฝั่งทะเล
  • coat: to cover something with a layer of a substance - ทา, เคลือบ
  • combination (noun): the mixture you get when two or more things are combined - การรวมกัน
  • comparison: the process of comparing two or more people or things - การเปรียบเทียบ
  • complete (verb): to finish something; to bring some project to an end after having done everything successfully - ทำเสร็จ, ทำให้สมบูรณ์
  • component: a part which combines with other parts to form something bigger - ส่วนประกอบ,ส่วนเสริม
  • condition: the physical state of a person or animal, especially how healthy they are - อาการ, สุขภาพ
  • condition: the physical state of a person, animal, thing or place - สภาพ
  • confirm (verb): to state or show that something is definitely true or correct, especially by providing evidence - ยืนยัน
  • container: something used for storing or holding things - หีบบรรจุ
  • crucial (adj): extremely important because it effects the result of something - สำคัญยิ่ง
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • destined: on the way to - มุ่งหน้าไปทาง
  • discover: to find somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before - ค้นพบ
  • durability: being able to stay in good condition for a long time - ทนทาน
  • earthenware: ceramics, pottery - เครื่องดินเผา, ภาชนะดินเผา
  • ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
  • estimated: thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available - ประมาณการ
  • evidence: facts, signs or objects that make you believe that something is true - หลักฐาน,ข้อแสดง
  • excavate: to dig in the ground in order to find things from the past - การขุดซากดึกดำบรรพ์
  • excavation: removing earth that is covering very old objects buried in the ground in order to discover things about the past - กระบวนการขุดค้นหาวัตถุโบราณ
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • export (noun): something sold and transported to another country - สินค้าออก
  • flourish: to grow or develop successfully - เจริญรุ่งเรือง
  • former: of or in an earlier time; before the present time or in the past - อดีต, แต่ก่อน
  • glazed: pottery and ceramics painted with a "glaze" and then heated in a "kiln" to make a polished and shiny look - ซึ่งเคลือบเงา, ซึ่งเป็นมันเงา, ภาชนะเคลือบ
  • ground (noun): the outer surface of the earth, that we walk on - ผิวดิน, ผิวโลก, พื้นดิน
  • ground (noun): the surface of the earth - ผิวดิน, ผิวโลก, พื้นดิน, พื้น
  • gunwale: the top edge of the side of a boat -
  • intact: not harmed, damaged, or lacking any parts as a results of something that has happened - สมบูรณ์ ไม่บุบสลาย
  • keel (noun): the long piece of wood or steel along the bottom of a ship, on which the frame is built, and which sometimes sticks out below the bottom and helps to keep it in a vertical position in the water - กระดูกงู (เรือ)
  • kitchenware (noun): things that you use to cook with such as special spoons, knives, bowls, pans, etc; kitchen utensils - เครื่องครัว, เครื่องใช้ในครัว
  • mangrove: a tropical tree that grows beside water and has roots that begin above the ground - ต้นไม้จำพวกโกงกาง
  • mud (noun): dirt mixed with water - โคลน
  • oval: shaped like an egg - รูปไข่
  • pole: a long thin stick, or piece of wood or concrete, often used for holding or supporting something - เสา, หลัก, คาน
  • present (adjective): this time, happening now, happening currently - ปัจจุบันนี้
  • province: one of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด
  • rectangular: having the shape of a rectangle - ซึ่งเป็นรูปสี่เหลี่ยมมุมฉาก
  • region: a large area of land or space, usually without exact limits or borders - ภูมิภาค, ขอบเขต, แถบ, บริเวณ
  • resin: a sticky substance produced by some plants and trees, often used for making paints, glue and plastic - เรซิน, สารที่มีลักษณะเป็นยางเหนียว
  • results (noun): what you get in the end when activity is completed (test results, research results, etc) - ผล
  • rim: the edge or lip of a jar or other container - ขอบ, ริม, รอบ
  • rotten: spoiled; decayed - เน่า เสีย
  • section: any of the parts into which something is divided - ส่วน, ส่วนที่ตัดออก, ส่วนย่อย
  • shape: the form of the outer edges or surfaces of something - รูปร่าง, รูปทรง, โครงร่าง
  • shipping: tranporting goods by ship, usually across the ocean or sea -
  • shipwreck: an accident in which a ship is destroyed or sunk at sea, especially by hitting rocks, or a ship which has been destroyed or sunk in such an accident - ซากเรืออับปาง
  • shoreline: the edge of the sea, the ocean, or lake, large river - แนวชายฝั่ง
  • similar: like somebody/something but not exactly the same - คล้ายกัน
  • sink (past form: sank): to (cause something or someone to) go down below the surface or to the bottom of a liquid or soft substance - จม
  • soil: the substance on the surface of the Earth in which plants grow - ดิน
  • stain (noun): an ugly mark left accidentally on clothes or the surface of something; blot, mark, spot - คราบ, รอยเปื้อน, รอยเลอะ
  • stern: the back side or part of a boat - ส่วนหลังของเรือ,ท้ายเรือ,ส่วนหลัง
  • stitch: to join things together, in this case, a series of photos - เย็บ,ปัก
  • study: a project that looks at some subject in great detail and produces a report to share the information - งานวิจัย
  • thick: having a larger distance between opposite sides or surfaces than other similar objects or than normal - หนา
  • transport: to move people or things from one place to another   - ขนส่ง
  • under way (adj): happening now, currently happening - กำลังดำเนินต่อไป
  • undergo: to experience a process of change - เผชิญกับ, ประสบ
  • underneath: under or below something else, especially when it is hidden or covered by the thing on top - ภายใต้, ข้างใต้
  • unearth: to find something that is buried in the ground - ขุดขึ้นมา
  • unearth: to find something that is buried in the ground; to discover something or someone that was not known before or that people had kept secret, especially by searching very thoroughly - ขุดขึ้นมา, พบ, เปิดเผย
  • valuable: very useful or important - มีความหมาย, สำคัญ, มีราคา
  • variety (noun): many different types of things or people - ความหลากหลาย
  • vessel: a boat or ship - เรือ
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