In 1998, an Arab ship carrying goods from China was discovered at the bottom of the Indian Ocean off Belitung Island, Indonesia. Dating from the 9th century (China’s Tang Dynasty), the Belitung shipwreck is the earliest Arab vessel of this period to be found with a complete cargo, including silver ingots, bronze mirrors, spice-filled jars, intricately worked vessels of silver and gold, and thousands of ceramic bowls, ewers, and other vessels. Uncovering its mysterious origins reveals the interconnections between two great powers, the Tang and Abbasid Empires, whose influence collectively stretched from the East China Sea to North Africa. The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route provides the earliest evidence of a maritime silk route — and confirms the vibrant exchange of ideas and technologies that occurred centuries before the Portuguese entered the region in the late 15th century. Through the display of approximately 300 objects from its cargo, this exhibition tells compelling stories about the ship, its crew, and the treacherous movement by sea of domestic and luxury wares between continents 1,200 years ago.
John Vollmer, Guest Curator for the Aga Khan Museum’s presentation of this exhibition, is a senior curator and scholar specializing in Asian art, textiles, decorative arts and design. He is a former director of the Design Exchange, Toronto and Kent State University Museum in Ohio. He was Senior Curator Fine and Decorative Arts at the Glenbow Museum, Calgary and has held curatorial positions in the Far Eastern Department and the Textile Department at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Vollmer is Principal, Vollmer Cultural Consultants, based in New York City.
The Lost Dhow: A Discovery of the Maritime Silk Route is jointly organized by the Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board, and the Aga Khan Museum.
The exhibition has received support from PSA International Pte Ltd and Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited.
The objects in the exhibition are from the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. Acquisition of the Tang Shipwreck Collection was made possible by the Estate of Khoo Teck Puat.
The recovery and conservation of the collection was undertaken by Tilman Walterfang.