Preliminary analysis of timber and metal remains from Shah Muncher Shipwreck

Author: Jian Cheng Ng

Ng, Jian Cheng, 2022 Preliminary analysis of timber and metal remains from Shah Muncher Shipwreck, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


In 1796, a Country ship, Shah Muncher, sank in the vicinity of Pedra Branca, a rock outcrop situated in the middle of the entrance to the Singapore straits from the South China Sea. During a geophysical and diver visual survey conducted in 2019, Shah Muncher’s ship remains were found. Subsequent archaeological excavations on the shipwreck between 2019 and 2021 revealed a plethora of scattered remains consisting of ceramics, glassware,organic remains, cannons, anchors, and small timber and metal fragments associated withthe ship’s structure.

Country ships were constructed in India by local shipwrights, but their design and appearance exhibited European shipbuilding traditions. They were heavily involved in the maritime trade between China and India from the eighteenth- to the nineteenth-century. These ships are fitting examples to illustrate the cross-cultural connections between the theoretical aspects of ship archaeology, which include technology, tradition, economics, purpose, environment, materials, ideology and the social aspects onboard the vessel.

This research embarks on an archaeometric approach to study the timber and metal fragments from Shah Muncher. It aims to identify the structural features of the vessel and how they compare with archaeological remains of other Indian and British colonial-built vessels. The study informs on technology, tradition, environment, material and possible cross- cultural connections on Shah Muncher and reveals its connections with other contemporary British colonial-built vessels. Results from the analysis identified various similarities and differences in ship construction and techniques between Shah Muncher and other contemporary Indian and British colonial-built vessels. Findings from this research contributes to the understanding of British colonial shipbuilding during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Furthermore, it provides valuable insights into the maritime cultural landscape within the Singapore Straits.

Keywords: Country ship, British colonial shipbuilding, Singapore Straits, timber analysis, metal analysis, eighteenth to the nineteenth century

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2022
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Wendy van Duivenvoorde