Project Genkai Sea

Surveys and Research for the Submerged Sites in Genkai Sea

(Project Number 10410094)
Science Research-Funds in the 10th through 12th year of Heisei
(Scientific Research (B)(2))
Report on the Result of Research

Head Investigator
Tadashi Nishitani,

Department of History and Geography
Graduate School of Humanities, Kyushu University
March, 2001


As for the study of underwater archaeology, there have been very few cases of archaeological surveys and excavations in Japan. Therefore, it will have to be said that most of aspects of underwater archaeology have been less developed in the discipline of archaeology. The academic environment in which students can research has not been good enough, because most colleges have not shown much of their interest towards underwater archaeology. This causes to prevent from the progress of the discipline.

There have been few archaeological evidences from the sea to show in detail the interchange relations. Under the circumstance, the discipline of underwater archeology is to obtain preciously the processes such as search and discovery of the submerged sites, and archaeological surveys following. If these processes are accomplished during the research, our research will be expected as an important step for underwater archaeology in Japan.

Therefore, the Field chosen as a purpose of the research is Genkai Sea lying between the Korean peninsula and the northern Kyushu. This sea has been thought as a suitable field to understand the traces of various activities for human beings by the method of underwater archaeology at the bottom of the sea.

This time, it has paid attention especially to this field, because the information which a sunken vessel seen at the bottom was brought by a former professional diver. The diver who salvaged sunken steel vessels in the late 1950's in Genkai Sea saw a wooden vessel buried in the sand. Along with the vessel, he saw ceramics, pithos, anchor stocks, and ink-stone as well. These objects can be identified to some extent with their belonged countries, regions or periods. Therefore, our research of the sunken vessel as archaeological remain has been carried out.

The surveys of the first phase were carried out in the first season of 1994 through third season of 1997 by Kyushu Okinawa Society for Underwater Archaeology, and after these campaigns finished, a new phase of the survey with a grant from the Science Research-Funds started in l998 and continued until 2000 by Department of Archaeology, Kyushu University. The preliminary survey is to identify the Hikosan-maru, which was a steel vessel sunken 4.5 km northeast of the island of Genkai-jima in 1936; finding this ship is key to search a wooden vessel. The Hikosan-maru was found in third season of 1997. In the forth season of 1998, six survey grids (I A,I B, 2A, 2B, 3 A, 3 B) were set at the site which the Hikosan-maru sunk ; one grid is l800X1800m in width,and three grids such as 2 A, 2 B, and 3 A were especially chosen for the survey with Side-Scan Sonar and ROV.

DGPS was also used for recoding the location of a research vessel. Sixty-two anomalies were selected for a most likely medieval vessel. These points were recorded as a state coordinate (X. Y), latitude and longitude, and the form in the location (a distance, compass angle, and direction), which is based on centering the Hikosan-maru. Thirty-two of these anomalies including "object 3"were proved not belonging to the wooden vessel, and rest.of thirty was left for the next season.

In the fifth season of 1999, twenty-seven additional anomalies including "point 27" were selected from the data recorded in the 1997 through 1998 season. ROV of this season often broke down during the survey. Therefore, all anomalies could not be identified except for five.

Five campaigns for the survey of medieval wooden vessel in Genkai Sea have been done, but we have not yet found the vessel as archaeological remain. This survey will have to be continued.