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Aga Khan Museum Presents the North American Premiere of THE LOST DHOW: A DISCOVERY FROM THE MARITIME SILK ROUTE Today

Travelling for the first time outside of Singapore for its North American premiere, the exhibition The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route opens at the Aga Khan Museum today, December 13.

In 1998 the shallow waters off Belitung Island in the western Java Sea yielded what would prove to be the earliest and most important marine archaeological discovery of the 20th century: a ship laden with gold, silver, and bronze objects - in addition to 57,500 Chinese ceramic artifacts. No human remains were found on board, but coins and other personal effects revealed remarkable details about the crew's origins. Ultimately identified as an Arab dhow approximately 1,200 years old, the ship provided the first hard evidence of a Maritime Silk Route that saw the vibrant exchange of goods, ideas, and technologies between Tang China and the Abbasid Empire.

For the first time ever in North America, a stunning array of artifacts from this cargo is on display at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Jointly organized by the Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board, and the Aga Khan Museum, the exhibition The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route runs from December 13, 2014, to April 26, 2015 with a full complement of multi-disciplinary programming. "This exhibition beautifully shows that creative exchanges between China and the Islamic world were fully under way one thousand years ago," notes Alan Chong, Director of Singapore's Asian Civilisations Museum. Henry Kim, Director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum, adds, "The Lost Dhow exhibition is a natural fit with the Aga Khan Museum. The cross-cultural exchange exemplified by the dhow's cargo is exactly what our collection and programming both celebrate and explore."

Highlights of the exhibition include:

• A green-splashed ewer featuring a handle in the form of a lion with a dragon-head spout and ringhandled cups, among nearly 200 pieces of white ceramics decorated with splashes of bright green that were found with other higher-value items of cargo from the Belitung shipwreck. Chemical analysis of broken pieces from the wreck suggests they were produced at the Gongxian kilns in Henan Province, renowned for its undecorated white wares.

• A white ware cup stand, among about 300 pieces of white-glazed wares made in northern China at the Xing and Ding kilns in Hebei Province. High-fired white wares approaching porcelain in translucency and hardness were an innovation of northern Chinese kilns during the Tang dynasty. Highly prized by Chinese aristocrats because of their perceived similarity to luxury silver dishes, these wares were also coveted in foreign markets, particularly in West Asia where they were imitated.

• A gold cup, which is completely unique among the items recovered from the cargo. Gold acquired great value in Chinese culture during the Tang dynasty. The shape of this vessel, metallurgical technology, and drinking of grape wine came from West Asia.

The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route is guest-curated by John Vollmer, an internationally recognized curator and scholar in the fields of Asian art, textiles and costume, decorative arts, and design. An international symposium, a film series, and performances by Silk Road-inspired musicians such as Wu Man, Kayhan Kalhor, and Sandeep Das are among the programming initiatives that will provide historical context for the exhibition and encourage conversation about the importance of preserving and sharing maritime heritage. A richly illustrated publication written by Simon Worrall and published by the Aga Khan Museum accompanies the exhibition.

For more information about the Aga Khan Museum, its upcoming exhibitions, and its programming, please visit

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