Japan and the UK have long been in contact through the ocean and evidence can be found of numerous foreign ships from underwater archaeological sites around the seas of Japan, often in the form of wrecks. The Okinawa islands in the south had long been independent as the Ryukyu Kingdom and played a crucial role as the conduit of trade between Japan and the outside world. Naturally, many foreign ships had passed through, and in some cases were stranded in the area now found as underwater archaeological sites. Among them, British shipwrecks are dominant in number.
The talk focused particularly on the ship called the Benares, a 19th century clipper ship that departed from Cardiff Port and became stranded in Okinawa on the way to her final destination in 1873. The wreck site was found in bay of the very north of Okinawa-jima Island, called Ginama Bay. Investigation of the site and archival research of the ship in England revealed the interesting story of the Benares, as well as the history of cultural interaction between the UK and Ryukyu at that time.
About the contributors
Yumiko Nakanishi is an archaeologist working at the Cultural Property Preservation Division, Osaka Prefectural Board of Education. She obtained an MPhil in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge in 2001 and is currently a PhD candidate at Cambridge specialising in heritage management and public archaeology, as well as the final phase of Kofun Period in Kinki region of Japan. She, together with other colleagues, is undertaking several ongoing underwater archaeological projects on Ishigaki Island and other islands in Okinawa region. Publications include:); “The Great East Japan Earthquake and cultural heritage: towards an archaeology of disaster”, Antiquity, Vol. 87 (2014): 258-269; and “Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in England”, In Pursuit of Japanese Public Archaeology, 2015:97-112 (Japanese only).
Chiaki Katagiri is the chief curator of Archaeology at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, since 2011. He was born in Nagano in 1976, and graduated from Okinawa International University in 1999 majoring in archaeology. From 2000 to 2011, he worked as a Specialist in Okinawa Prefectural Archaeological Center having undertaken many excavations, some of which are crucial to human history in the Ryukyu Archipelago. He has long been actively engaged in and leading investigation and research of underwater cultural heritage in Ryukyu Archipelago, and organised a large-scale special exhibition on underwater cultural heritage last year in his museum. He is one of the co-authors of the book published in 2014, Underwater Cultural Heritage in Okinawa (Okinawa-no Suichu Bunkaisan, Japanese only).