Chinese archaeological experts will arrive Kenya on Saturday to commence the 2.5 million U.S. dollars terrestrial excavation aimed at retrieving treasures on board a ship which sank off Pate Island some 600 years ago.
The move is a solid gesture of the partnership that has existed between Kenya and China over the years and seeks to ravel the deep standing relationship between the two states, with the team expected to complete its work within six to eight weeks after the process commences.
The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Director General, Farah Idle said the equipment to be used in the excavation exercise, are expected to be cleared at the port of Mombasa, before they are ferried to Lamu ahead of the exercise.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Lamu Cultural Festivals on Friday, Farah said the diving equipment including oxygen tanks, masks, suits among others, will arrive by Dec. 10-12 and the procedure commences. "The team has already done initial pilot diving, and has established how deep the waters are, general locality of the wreckage near Shanga village and other few logistical issues," Farah said.
He told Xinhua that the findings and any treasure found within the wreckage will be used for analysis while others may have to be taken back to China for further tests.
The official also revealed that the exercise, which is a Sino- Kenya joint archaeological project in Lamu Archipelago, signed between Chinese and Kenyan governments on April 24, 2007, will involve three experts from China, and two sea experts from Kenya, including one analyst. "The issue now at hand is if we shall be able to recover anything from the wreckage, but what remains a fact is that the Kenyan government will, at the end of it, have developed its capacity for Kenyans to carry out under water archaeology, which is the first ever," Farah said.
He added that Kenyans, will be able to be undertaking their own under water archaeology even when ships sink or when there is a maritime issue to be dealt with.
He however said the whole idea was to check the inside of the wreckage, float it if possible and conduct the research.
Already, the terrestrial excavation that was being undertaken at Mambrui in Malindi was complete, with the findings over the early settlers and some of the treasures expected to be handed over soon.
According to history, a Chinese merchant ship sunk six centuries ago and still lays in the deep sea, with some of the residents in the area, Shanga village, being nicknamed as the Chinese family as they bear distinctive Asian features such as yellowness of the skin and almond eyes.