The Star (Nairobi)

29 November 2012

Kenya: Final Push to Unearth Chinese Vessel in Lamu

THE recovery of a Chinese ship that sunk in the Indian Ocean over 100 years ago will start soon.

The third and final phase of the underwater excavation in Lamu is set to start after the National Museums of Kenya announced the arrival of 20 experts, including archeologists from China, this Saturday.

The experts will be working on three assignments part of which will be to try locate the ship, whose wreckage will be vital in trying to trace the historical connection between Kenya and China.

NMK assistant director for Coastal region Athman Hussein yesterday said the Chinese archeologists and those from Kenya will do the Sh200 million excavation agreement signed four years ago between the two governments.

"The team will have four archeologists from Kenya and will also try to assist the NMK to locate some of the dhows that sunk in Malindi-Ngomeni and Mombasa since local fishermen have been informing us that they have been seeing some sort of wreckage in the deep sea," said Athman.

He said the experts will use the latest technology to locate the vessel. "They were to arrive during the festivity period but there were visa hitches, which delayed them more, since they had also wanted to be part of the activities," he added.

During the second phase of the underwater and land excavation that stretched up to Mambrui in Malindi and Mombasa, several artifacts were discovered, including Chinese coins, porcelain and a mass grave bearing skeletons of the early inhabitants of the area.

"From the discovery, we came to the conclusion that Malindi and Mambrui are among the oldest settlements that were inhabited by the iron-age period class," said Athman.

"There is a lot of data being processed for the first and second phases of the project and will be revealed to the public soon." The first phase that was done last year in Lamu, included mapping out the areas and coming up with conclusions on the depth of the water, currents and other relevant issues.

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