The Philippines

In collaboration with the National Museum, IEASM/FEFNA conducts archaeological missions in the Philippines. The main focus of this work is the research, discovery and study of the wrecks of ships sunk on the reefs off the archipelago.

Initiated by textual and/or oral testimonies as well as archaeological discoveries from previous years, underwater surveys are systematically continued using geophysical detection devices in order to deepen research leads and verify working hypotheses.

 Because the discovery of wrecks is of "archaeological, historical or artistic" interest - as identified by French legislation - the IEASM/FEFNA and the National Museum of the Philippines have defined a research project to study the history of the archipelago through trade, from the 8th-9th century to the 18th century. The scientific approach takes into account the study of junks found during systematic searches for wrecks of European origin or following indications provided by fishermen who have brought archaeological material ashore. Mapped, archaeologically assessed and sometimes excavated, the wrecks are named after the reef near the place of their discovery. The cargoes of these merchant ships offer a broad view of Asian production and make it possible to understand and retrace the different stages of trade between the Middle Kingdom and the countries of South-East Asia - the "Nanhai trade" -, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East over more than six centuries.

Until recently, only the final, European phase of trade with the Far East was known, which began with the arrival of the Portuguese in Asia in the 16th century. However, the excavations reveal the forms and intensity of exchanges between China and the riparian countries in the earlier periods, from the 11th to the 15th century. In this way, the cross-fertilisation of the objects found contributes to the historical interpretation of the wreck as a site; it provides information on the activities, behaviour and needs of a human group, and even on the cultural and commercial relations that this group may have had with other groups.