This elegant, long-necked glass vessel was found in the Cirebon shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia. The bottle shape is characteristic of wares from the early Abbasid period (9th-10th century), the majority of which manufactured in Persian workshops. Several other fine glass vessels of similar presumed origin were found in the wreck.
Bottles such as this were used to hold precious liquids for the table, such as perfumed waters or wine mixed with herbs and spices. Glass from the Islamic world was particularly prized as a trade item in the Far East, especially China. In return, China shipped large quantities of ceramics westwards, including examples found in the Cirebon wreck.
In 2003 a shipwreck was discovered 90 nautical miles (160 kilometres) off the coast of Cirebon, a port city in Indonesia. Referred to now as the Cirebon shipwreck, it had been lost in the Java Sea for over 1000 years. The wreck was found by local fishermen whose nets caught some of the Chinese ceramics originally onboard. Subsequently, the wreck was excavated by archaeologists in 2004-2005, yielding thousands of pieces of glassware, jewellery, ceramics and various trinkets.
Half of the findings have been acquired by Qatar Museums and will feed into ongoing research into 10th-century trade routes between the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The ship’s final voyage can be traced back to 970 CE based on copper coins from the Chinese kingdom of Nan Han (917-971 CE) that were onboard. It is believed the ship was engaged in long coastal voyages from China to the Middle East, via Southeast Asia and India.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH
BARI, H., 2014, The Cirebon Wreck, dated around 970, its meaning and its presentation [Unpublished report, Pearl and Jewellery Collection, Qatar Museums].
HARANSTININGSIH, N., WIBISONO, S., MIKSIC, J. 2010, Catalogue of the Cirebon Wreck, Sunken Treasures from the Tenth Century (Five Dynasties or Early Northern Song), PNAS BKMT, The Republic of Indonesia, Jakarta.
LIEBNER, H. H. 2014, The Siren of Cirebon. A Tenth-Century Trading Vessel Lost in the Java Sea, PhD University of Leeds.