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Mongol invaders (left) fire on Takezaki Suenaga (on horseback) while a tetsuhau or ceramic projectile bomb explodes overhead
From the 13th century Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba (蒙古襲来絵詞) Japanese handscroll of the Mongol Invasion of Japan
Museum of the Imperial Collections, Tokyo Imperial Palace
Source Wikimedia Commons
Tasuku Ueda, Staff Writer, for the Asahi Shimbun, reports on the possible discovery of Kublai Khan’s invading fleet to Japan –
Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture: A wreck found off Takashima Island here is likely part of a Mongol invasion fleet that came to grief in a typhoon more than 700 years ago. The discovery was announced Oct. 2 by archaeologists with the University of the Ryukyus and the Matsuura City board of education who are researching the Takashima Kozaki underwater historic site.
Numerous artefacts have been recovered from the seabed from wrecks of fleets dispatched in 1274 and 1281 to invade Japan. In both invasion attempts, battles were fought in northern Kyushu. The fleet of 4,400 vessels sent by Kublai Khan in 1281 was wrecked near Takashima Island in a storm the Japanese dubbed ‘Kamikaze’ (divine wind) for ultimately saving their homeland from the Mongols.
An earlier report in Archaeology by James P. Delgado describes the discovery by Kenzo Hayashida of the Kyushu Okinawa Society for Underwater Archaeology (KOSUWA) of a, “…tetsuhau or ceramic projectile bomb. KOSUWA has recovered six of these from the wreck. They are the world’s earliest known exploding projectiles and the earliest direct archaeological evidence of seagoing ordnance.” Delado writes –
Chinese alchemists invented gunpowder around A.D. 300, and by 1100 huge paper bombs much like giant firecrackers were being used in battle. Chinese sources refer to catapult-launched exploding projectiles in 1221, but some historians have argued that the references date to later rewritings of the sources. In his recent book In Little Need of Divine Intervention, which analyses two Japanese scrolls that depict the Mongol invasion, Bowdoin College historian Thomas Conlan suggests that a scene showing a samurai falling from his horse as a bomb explodes over him was a later addition. Conlan’s research masterfully refutes many of the traditional myths and commonly held perceptions of the invasion, downplaying the number of ships and troops involved and arguing that it was not the storms but the Japanese defenders ashore, as well as confusion and a lack of coordination, that thwarted the khan’s two invasions. But his suggestion that the exploding bomb is an anachronism has now been demolished by solid archaeological evidence. Moreover, when the Japanese x-rayed two intact bombs, they found that one was filled just with gunpowder while the other was packed with gunpowder and more than a dozen square pieces of iron shrapnel intended to cut down the enemy.
A map of the UK with Doggerland marked as red. Image credit and © University of St Andrews
The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London this year showcases an exhibition titled Drowned landscapes –
The only lands on Earth that have not been extensively explored are those that have been lost to the oceans. After the end of the last Ice Age extensive landscapes that had once been home to thousands of people were inundated by the sea. Although scientists predicted their existence for many years, exploration has only recently become a reality.
This exhibit explores those drowned landscapes around the UK and shows how they are being rediscovered through pioneering scientific research. It reveals their human story through the artefacts left by the people – a story of a dramatic past that featured lost lands, devastating tsunamis and massive climate change. These were the challenges that our ancestors met and that we face once more today.
How it works
Current climate change and associated sea level rise are at the forefront of social and scientific discussion, but research shows that dramatic changes in the environment have occurred numerous times in the past.
One of the most significant landscapes lost to sea level rise is the European world of Doggerland. Occupying much of the North Sea basin, this inundated landscape, bigger than many modern European countries, was slowly submerged between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC. Archaeologists now consider Doggerland to have been the heartland of human occupation within Northern Europe at that time, but understanding it depends on being able to locate and visualise the landscape.
…sets out basic principles for the protection of underwater cultural heritage; provides a detailed State cooperation system; and provides widely recognized practical Rules for the treatment and research of underwater cultural heritage.
More videos on this as well as other topics here.
Diver with a Greek amphora. Image credit Big Blue Tech
Did you know that there are more than 20,000 estimated prehistoric sites lying on the bottom of the Baltic? Or that 3 million ancient shipwrecks are estimated to lie on the seabed? Have you ever supposed that more than 150 sunken cities and ruined sites are located under water in the Mediterranean, including the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Or that artefacts recovered from the sea have been dated back 300,000 years!
The seabed holds a wealth of archaeological information yet, …these sites and the stories of human history that they tell are in danger. Pillaging, salvaging, oil-exploration and drilling, shore-front development and construction are just a few of the threats facing this remarkable heritage.
Source Archaeology News Network.
To help the public enjoy our underwater heritage, UNESCO will be organising an evening event on 12 December at 7 pm in the Free University, Brussels. Following the event, and to mark the tenth anniversary of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of Underwater Heritage, there will be a meeting of experts at the Belgian Royal Library in Brussels from 13 to 14 December.