Chinese Barge (99-12-60/52941)

View of Chinese barge model, PM 99-12-60/52941. Photo by AKN.
Chinese barge model, photo by AKN.
Detail of Chinese Barge, photo by AKN.

This vessel is a Chinese river barge. Unlike commercial barges which were frequently used to transport goods along China’s many inland waterways, the ornate decoration of this vessel indicates it was likely used for another purpose. This vessel could possibly be a Chinese imperial barge, used for the transport of royals, elites, and other high-ranking officials. State journeys offered elites the chance to display their wealth and prestige through their ornately decorated boats. Artwork from the Song and Ming dynasties features similar vessels among its designs; it is possible that this barge dates to one of these periods. I enjoyed researching the origins of this boat, and found the process rather rewarding.  Click to read more.



Searching for information on a specific boat when the information is extremely sparse is no easy feat. It truly gave me an insight on how much of archaeology is putting pieces of evidence and information together to make the site or object somehow make sense, in addition to how it fits into a greater context. Individual interpretation is a large part of the process, and without advice from other people or sources, it can lead one to dead ends. I found that one needs a methodological approach to break down the site at hand, but also a greater cultural understanding as to why the vessel was important in the grander scheme of things is a key part. This is also where personal interpretation comes to play. This boat interested me because it did not have sails and had a gazebo-esque structure on the deck. It looked unique. I was also intrigued by the inscriptions on some parts, which I later found out meant “no noise”, and the gold trim on decorative woodwork. It was a beautiful piece of technology and I wanted to learn more about it. Click to read more.

Gianna M. Lowery


Based on aspects of the model and outside research, this vessel can be tentatively dated back to the Song dynasty period in China, roughly 960 – 1279 AD. The shape of the hull and the extended deck add evidence to the Peabody’s determination of the ship as a barge. Literature on China’s maritime renaissance reveals that during the Song dynasty China contributed to the progression of shipbuilding by inventing watertight compartments in the hull and rudders. The model has both a compartmental hull and a rudder, adding evidence to the dating. The Song dynasty oversaw an expansion of maritime activity because of the economic and operational benefits of increased access to other parts of the country. The vessel’s structure would have aided it in traveling down relatively shallow waters, such as the river networks spanning the interior of China. Click to read more.

Rebecca Gonzalez-Rivas


Content of this page provided by students of Anthro 1218: Shipwrecks and Seafarers, Piracy and Plundering: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology.