Belitung: The Afterlives of a Shipwreck

Speaker: Natali Pearson
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2023-5-9 | 19:00-20:30 (Shanghai)
2023-5-9 | 21:00-22:30 (Sydney)
2023-5-9 | 7:00-8:30 (New York)
2023-5-9 | 15:00-16:30 (Abu Dhabi)

In 1998, the Belitung, a ninth-century western Indian Ocean–style vessel, was discovered in Indonesian waters. Onboard was a full cargo load, likely intended for the Middle Eastern market, of over 60,000 Chinese Tang dynasty (619–907) ceramics, gold, and other precious objects. It is one of the most significant shipwreck discoveries of recent times, revealing the global scale of ancient commercial endeavors and the importance of the ocean to these trading networks. But this shipwreck also has a modern tale to tell, of how nation-states appropriate the remnants of the past for their own purposes, and of the international debates about who owns—and is responsible for—shared heritage. In this seminar, I focus on the afterlives of this ship and its cargo, the controversy that has accompanied its discovery and display, and the new knowledge it has brought to the surface about the maritime silk route.

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, the University of Sydney, where she is affiliated with the School of Humanities. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Indonesia. She holds a PhD in Museum and Heritage Studies (2019, USYD), a Masters of Museum Studies (2013, USYD), a Masters of Arts in Strategy and Policy (2006, UNSW Canberra) and a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) with First Class Honours in Indonesian and History (2002, UNSW Sydney). Her first book, Belitung: The Afterlives of a Shipwreck, is published by University of Hawai‘i Press (2022).

Introduction by Tansen Sen, Professor of History, Director of the Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai.



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