THE SIREN OF CIREBON: A Tenth-Century Trading Vessel Lost in the Java Sea – a seminar by Dr Horst Liebner (Wed, 26 November 2014)

Organised by FASS Environment Research Cluster and Department of Southeast Asian Studies.

Speaker: Dr Horst Liebner
Date: Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS7, Level 6, Research Division Seminar Room (06-42)

Dr. Liebner will discuss the Nanhan / Cirebon wreck, a merchant vessel foundered in the Java Sea around 970 CE, excavated in a quasi-archaeologically manner by a salvage company cooperating with the Indonesian government. The vessel belonged to the so called ‘lashed-lug and doweled’, Western Austronesian (‘Malayo-Indonesian’) tradition of boat-building; the wreck’s position indicates that the ship was on her way to the island of Java. The surviving cargo ranges from Chinese stoneware and Southeast Asian ceramics, to Middle Eastern glassware, to tin and lead from –proposedly– the Malay Archipelago, and a wide variety of smaller finds, most of which can be attributed to the broader area of the western Indian Ocean. The find palpably demonstrates the far-reaching and well-institutionalised trade relations throughout early medieval Asia.

Analysing a shipwreck found in a depth of more than 50m is possible only through “virtual” approaches. Dr. Liebner will present the methodology, explicating the approaches employed in examinations of the (mainly ceramic) cargo and attempts at a reconstruction of the ship and her initial loading pattern. The results will be integrated with present knowledge of tenth-century Southeast Asia and the regions relations to the Celestial Empire. This talk proposes novel insights into the mechanics of the regional, and, ultimately, international economic and political networks which became so imperative in the developments of the ensuing centuries.

About the speaker
Dr. Horst Liebner studies the maritime culture and history of what once was called ‘the Malay Archipelago’. In 1994, his researches on the traditional boatbuilding of Sulawesi obtained an M.A. at the University of Cologne; since then he was employed as research fellow and lecturer at various universities and governmental institutions in Indonesia. On behalf of the Indonesian Government’s Research Agency for Marine Affairs and Fisheries, he in 2004 was appointed as advisor on the Nanhan/Cirebon wreck discovery’s historic background, and recently finished his PhD thesis on the find for the University of Leeds, UK.

Please RSVP with the title “LIEBNER” to by 20 November 2014.