A brass coin found in Malindi could hold the secrets to a sunken ship that sailed the East African coast in the 15th century. Pecking University’s professor Qin Dashu believes that the coin came from a ship led by Chinese Admiral Zheng He in the early 1400′s. This ship was used to carry large amounts of Ming ceramics for trading purposes. According to Christies one Ming vase can cost up to USD133,000. This vase was sold for USD21.6 million in a Hong Kong auction.
The actual monetary value of the find may belong solely to the Chinese. This is based on the 2001 UNESCO Convention which states that shipwrecks over the age of 100 years cannot be claimed by random parties. Zheng He’s fabled shipwreck is almost 600 years old and is therefore protected by the Convention. If it is found, the remains will become a part of China’s cultural heritage. In such cases a finder’s fee is often offered based on the value of the treasure and the negotiation skills of the finder.
The Chinese government has since invested KES200 million to fund an excavation in Malindi. A team of Chinese archaeologists led by Professor Qin arrived in the country on Sunday to supervise the project. The excavation kicked off on Wednesday but a second team will arrive in November to look for Zheng He’s shipwreck. They estimate that the first phase of the project will run for a period of two months. Professor Qin’s team will continue to work on the site until they can determine the true value of the find.