Wreck found off Kyushu may have carried Mongol invaders (Source: Asahi Shimbun, October 21, 2011)
The wreck of a ship thought to have taken part in the ill-fated 13th-century Mongolian attempts to invade Japan has been discovered beneath the seabed off western Japan.
Archeologists said Oct. 20 that the boat was found lying beneath about one meter of sand and mud in 20-25 meter deep waters near Takashima island in Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture.
The keel of the vessel, about 50 centimeters wide and 15 meters long, and sections reaching about 2-5 meters on both sides of the keel are intact. It is the first wreck linked to the 13th-century invasion to have been discovered with much of its hull structure intact.
The archaeologists think the ship may have been more than 20 meters long when afloat.
The team, led by Yoshifumi Ikeda, professor of archaeology at the University of the Ryukyus, will not immediately try to salvage the hull or relics from the wreck and plan, in the short term, to take only conservation measures such as covering the site with nets to protect it.
Ceramic shards and bricks thought to be from China have been recovered near the site, helping to link the find to the Mongolian-led expedition, the researchers said. Previous surveys have found anchor stones and weaponry connected to the fleet on the seabed in the area.
The Mongolian-ruled Yuan dynasty of China (1271-1368) tried to conquer Japan on two occasions in 1274 and 1281. Battles were fought in northern Kyushu on both occasions and the 4,400-vessel invasion fleet sent to Japan in 1281 is thought to have been devastated by a storm near Takashima island, one of the “kamikaze” (divine winds) that were credited with saving Japan from the Mongol invasions.
Ikeda and his team will talk about the find at a news conference on Oct. 24.