Archeologists believe shipwreck found off Japan belongs to Kublai Khan’s 13th-century “lost fleet”

Laura Rozen

Marine archeologists say that the ancient wreckage of a ship discovered in the seabed off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan, belongs to the ancient "lost fleet" of ships deployed by China's 13th century Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, CNN reports.

Explorers found the 20-meter-long shipwreck some 25 meters off the coast of Nagasaki using ultra-sound equipment, buried about a meter deep in the sandy seabed. Archeologists believe the ship dates back to 1281, and was part of a 4,400-vessel fleet that China's Mongol rulers deployed in a thwarted attempt to invade Japan.

The discovery of the ship's well preserved and mostly intact 12-meter-long keel "could go a long way to helping researchers identify all the characteristics of the 20-meter warship," CNN reported, citing the head of the research team that made the discovery.

"This discovery was of major importance for our research," Yoshifumi Ikeda, of Okinawa's University of the Ryukyus, said at a recent press conference in Nagasaki, according to the CNN report. "We are planning to expand search efforts and find further information that can help us restore the whole ship."

According to Japanese legend, two typhoons--known as the Kamikaze--that occurred seven years apart in the 13th century twice saved Japan from Mongol invasion by "destroy[ing] two separate Mongol invasions fleets so large they were not eclipsed until the D-Day landings of World War II," CNN reported. China was not so spared, however, and was ruled by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty from 1271-1368.

"According to a contemporary account cited in the book Khublai Khan's Lost fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada," by maritime archaeologist James P. Delgado, the typhoon's destruction of the over 4,000-vessel Yuan Dynasty invasion fleet created such a vast quantity of material wreckage "that 'a person could walk across from one point of land to another on a mass of wreckage,'" CNN reported.

The wooden-planked ship, originally believed to have been painted light gray, is among "more than 4,000 artifacts, including ceramic shards, bricks used for ballast, cannonballs and stone anchors [that] have been found in the vicinity of the wreck, linking it to the Yuan Dynasty invasion fleet," CNN reported.

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