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Sunken Galleon Yields Priceless Treasure : Archeology: Among articles recovered from a Spanish vessel sunk in the Philippines by a Dutch warship were 3,000 pieces of Ming Dynasty china, pottery, Samurai swords.

May 30, 1993|CLARO CORTES | ASSOCIATED PRESS

MANILA, Philippines — Nearly 400 years after being sent to the bottom by a marauding Dutch warship, the Spanish galleon San Diego has yielded a huge trove of archeological treasures.

Eusebio Dizon, chief of the underwater archeology department of the National Museum, said 28,000 items have been catalogued since the hulk was found in 1991. The list could grow once coins and other small items are cleaned.

The collection will provide clues about life aboard a Spanish galleon, trade patterns in Asia and military matters.

Among the articles recovered were 3,000 pieces of blue and white Ming Dynasty china, the porcelain artifact most sought by collectors. Divers also found Philippine pottery, Japanese swords, Spanish cannon and muskets, European-made astrolabes and dozens of Spanish silver coins.

They also found more than 100 skeletal remains.

Dizon said some of the jars were still intact and contained remnants of food like hazel nuts and bones of wild pigs and cows.

"It could be the world's most extensive underwater archeological find," he said.

Franck Goddio, a French antiques collector turned amateur archeologist, found the San Diego under 178 feet of water off Fortune Island near Batangas province, 45 miles southeast of Manila.

Goddio spent three years studying in Spanish, Dutch, Mexican and Philippine archives before beginning his search. He found the San Diego after two years of underwater explorations.

The team of Filipino archeologists and French crew completed the salvage operation this month. It cost Goddio's group $2.9 million.

Under an agreement between Goddio and the National Museum, rare items from the ship will be considered Philippine national treasure. The rest of the relics will be divided equally between the government and the French group.

Dizon said the Samurai swords found in the wreck indicated the Spaniards hired Japanese warriors to help fight the Dutch, the main threat to Spain's colony in the Philippines at the time.

Gabriel Casal, director of the National Museum, said the wreck also could rewrite portions of Philippine history.

Dizon, who received his doctorate in marine archeology from the University of Pennsylvania, and Casal, a Benedictine priest who studied archeology in Rome, said the find does not support an account of the Dec. 14, 1600, battle by the galleon's captain, Juan Antonio de Morga.

"Apparently, Morga wanted to portray himself as a great hero and exaggerated his accounts of the battle with the Dutch," Casal said.

Morga, who was a judge and not a naval officer, said he put up a gallant stand against Adm. Oliver Van Noort, who was then the Dutch naval commander in Asia.

But the wreckage showed he was a poor seaman and commander, the experts said. Most of the cannon, some weighing 2.8 tons, were positioned on one side of the galleon, said Dizon, who was among those who dove to the wreckage.

The weight of the bronze cannon could have caused it to lean to that side, rendering them useless because the barrels would have pointed at the water, he said.

The first public exhibition of artifacts from the San Diego has been tentatively scheduled for early next year in Paris. A world tour is being planned.

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