A new archaeological project focusing on the history of the Port of Acapulco has yielded its first treasure: thousands of fragments of a 400-year-old shipment of Ming-dynasty china.
Described as “export-quality Chinese porcelain,” the porcelain fragments — rice bowls, cups, plates and platters — were found just a meter and a half underground.
The pieces had arrived aboard the China Galleon and date back to a period of time between 1572 and 1620, when Ming emperor Wanli ruled over China. The discovery was made near Acapulco’s cathedral, in what is known as the city’s Old Quarter.
In an interview posted on the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) website, researcher and archaeologist Roberto Junco said “we discovered there were four or five models or styles . . . characteristic of a type of . . . export-quality porcelain that the Chinese made, mainly in the factories of Jingdezhen, China’s ‘Porcelain Capital,’ and exported around the world.”
The find also included fragments of a coarser type of ceramic used to make containers for shipping provisions, such as spices and liquids.
Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf ports were often targeted by pirates, which could explain why the china shipment appears to have been destroyed.
The China Galleon regularly sailed between Asia and the New World for 250 years, “leaving an indelible trail along the Pacific coast,” said INAH.
The ship regularly sailed between Acapulco and other Mexican ports and Manila, in the Philippines, and today’s Taiwan, where it would load up on Chinese spices, silks and other goods.
This was the first excavation carried out in the port city under an archaeological recovery project sponsored by the INAH, which started earlier this month.
The main purpose of thie project is to recover the port’s past given the prominent position it held during colonial times, which was characterized by the exchange of ideas and merchandise, peoples and lifestyles from four different continents.
“With this project, INAH seeks to remember the unprecedented importance Acapulco had in the global trade, along with its unique cultural wealth, evident in its present population.”