World News

Octopus finds ancient Korean porcelain trove

SEOUL (Reuters) - An octopus clutching a finely glazed plate helped lead South Korean archaeologists to a major cache of ancient porcelain buried under the sea for centuries.

An excavation team worker recreates how an octopus helped lead archaeologists to a major find of ancient porcelain buried under the sea for centuries in this undated handout released by the National Maritime Museum in Mokpo, South Korea. REUTERS/National Maritime Museum, Mokpo/Handout

Archaeologists and divers are currently removing high-quality green and blue-green porcelain from what appears to be a 12th century shipwreck.

“These are the highest quality artefacts ever discovered in our seas,” said Yun Yong-i, a Korean art history professor at Myongji University.

So far, 542 pieces have been recovered. Another 2,000 have been seen in the wreck and officials said there could well be more as divers continue to search the ship.

The collection includes hundreds of well preserved celadon cups, bowls, plates and other works that Yun said were for the noble class and government officials in the Goryeo Dynasty, which ruled from 918-1392 and was known for its porcelain.

Yun, who verified the authenticity of the find, said the collection will be handed over to the government.

The octopus, the size of an orange, pointed the way to the wreck when it was pulled up in May.

It was nestled in a trap made of shells laid out by a fisherman and was clutching one of the ancient plates over the trap entrance in an attempt to hide.

The fisherman reported his plate find to authorities.

“I can’t believe how such a small octopus managed to cover its shell with a such a large plate,” said Moon Whan-suk, an official at National Maritime Museum, from the ship that is serving as the headquarters of the excavation

“I guess it meant for us to discover the artefacts,” Moon said.