In scenes reminiscent of the classic Ealing comedy Whisky Galore, Vietnamese fishermen began stoning police officers guarding a sunken cargo of antique chests full of Ming dynasty artefacts.
The incident on 13th October was the latest in a saga involving the fishermen of the Binh Chau commune in the Quang Ngai province, who discovered the 14th Century wreck by accident while fishing in early September. Locals quickly dived into the sea to retrieve antique bowls, coins, incense burners, ceramic sinks and stoneware before border guards arrived to relieve them of their booty, which is currently in storage at Quang Ngai History Museum. The local department of culture and tourism arranged for marine archaeologists to excavate the site, placing a temporary exclusion order around the wreck on 8th October for their safety.
Residents of the Binh Chau fishing community took offence at this, saying the wreck was their fortune and its treasures rightfully theirs, not the state’s. This erupted into violence when villagers stormed in to intercept the survey of the site, hurling both stones and insults and bringing activities to a halt. Police were mobilised and one man arrested before peace was restored, with one professor commenting that he had never witnessed such harrowing scenes in more than 30 years as an archaeologist.
Shipwrecks in Cumbria rarely yield antique chests full of treasure, but at Binh Chau it seems to be a regular occurrence, as at least five other wrecks have been discovered in the area. When it comes to antique chests, a Preston antique dealer can show a good selection.
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