The shipwreck was excavated in 1985 by the combined efforts of the National Museum of the Philippines and World Wide First, Inc. (WWF). The materials recovered were dated from the 16th to 17th centuries Common Era (CE).
The presence of these gongs in the Kanduli shoal shipwreck supports the assumption that the cargo was destined for trade in Borneo as their ethnic groups were known to use these gongs for ritual purposes.
According to Antonio Pigafetta’s account in 1521, he saw a young girl tapping two bronze gongs during his visit with the Spanish naval fleet led by Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu Island. He also saw four gongs in a private house in Mindanao, where Chinese junk regularly traded. This further shows the Philippines’ involvement in the gong trade market during that period.
To start the year 2021, the National Museum of the Philippines Museum From Home Series features the Kanduli Shoal Shipwreck that was discovered in Kanduli Shoal, also known as the Royal Captain Shoal, near Palawan Island. This is the second shipwreck found in the Kanduli Shoal. The first shipwreck, Royal Captain, was featured a few weeks ago.
While the National Museum of the Philippines’ team and the French team of underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio were conducting electronic surveys in 1985 for the search of the British East Indiaman vessel Royal Captain, the presence of a much older cargo was accidentally found hidden in a coral structure. The materials were dated to the 16th to 17th centuries CE (Common Era), roughly 200 years older than Royal Captain.
The site of this second wreck was named Kanduli (Royal Captain) Shoal Shipwreck and lies at 4-5 meters deep on top of the shoal, which is technically a coral atoll. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets and normally surrounds a body of water called a lagoon. A shoal, on the other hand, is a natural submerged ridge, bank, or bar that consists of, or is covered by, sand or other unconsolidated material, and rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface. They are also known as sandbanks, sandbars, or gravel bars.
The archaeological materials recovered from the wreck included Chinese blue-and-white porcelains, monochrome porcelains, bronze gongs, glass beads, iron ingots, earthenware, stoneware jars, and some bone fragments inside the jars. The porcelains comprising plates, saucers, bowls, cups, boxes, bottles, and jars were identified as Zhangzhou wares produced in the region of Fujian Province, China. The glass beads characteristics particularly the wound type suggest a Chinese origin. Similar types have also been found in the terrestrial sites in Bolinao, Pangasinan; Calatagan, Batangas; Porac, Pampanga, and Sta. Ana, Manila which was dated from 14th to 16th centuries.
There were no wooden remains found on the site. This may be because the wreck was on a shallow site, making it exposed to natural elements and human activity which hastened its deterioration. Despite this, the Kanduli Shoal Shipwreck was believed to be an Asian vessel as indicated by the nature of the recovered materials. The investigators believed that the vessel engaged in Southeast Asian intra-regional trade, possibly covering the Borneo to Manila route. The vessel may have been on its way to Borneo from China when it struck the uncharted atoll during the northeast monsoon that sealed its fate.
The archaeological study is very important in supporting the accurate interpretation of past events, which helps in reconstructing our history. When a site is disturbed or pilfered, we lose information forever without the significant context to assist us in piecing together our story. This is much more valuable than the selfish individual’s monetary gain or enriching their personal collections. Our heritage and recounting its narrative through material culture benefits future generations and our aspirations as a nation.
If you see or have knowledge of sites being looted, report to your local government authorities immediately or contact the closest NMP office near you.
Text and poster by NMP MUCHD | National Museum of the Philippines