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The Kingdom of Ruhuna

Stone anchors from Arabia

Several stone anchors have been found in Shri Lanka's waters, clustered together near the Black Fort in the area of Kamba Bandina Gala, a traditional mooring site for the lighter vessels which ferried cargo between large ships and the jetties. Anchors are not only found in association with wrecks: ships lose anchors frequently, because they jam or because they are not properly secured. Some old anchors may also be used as fixed moorings.

One large anchor of Arab-Indian pattern was recovered in 1997, and two broken anchors of similar type have been found. Several dozen of these anchors have been found in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, with the largest concentrations near Qalhat in Oman. The stone of the large anchor has been analysed, and is also believed to be from Arabia. The anchor is estimated to weigh almost a ton, so must have belonged to a ship of some size. It bears witness to the Arabian vessels which sailed the sea route to China and are believed to have dominated regional trade until the arrival of the Europeans.

Under the large anchor were two pieces of dense hardwood, in a position suggesting that these were the arms of the anchor. This is the first time that wood has been found in association with one of these anchors. Analysis has shown that the timber could be from the fifteenth century, preceding the arrival of the Portuguese. The anchor itself may of course be older, as timber arms would have required frequent replacement.

One anchor was found of Mediterranean pattern, known as the Byzantine-Arab style. These anchors were used in ancient times, from the time of the Kingdom of Ruhuna until recently in the Persian Gulf. Read more about this at the website: www.hum.uva.nl/galle/

Photo of the stone anchors

Above: The shaft of a large stone anchor

Drawing of Stone Anchors

Pictures used by permission from the Maritime Lanka site

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