8/13/2019 Relics of the Kamikaze
That October, the years of fieldwork paid off with the discovery of the ship's remains. After 20 years of
investigation, the waters of Imari ay finally yielded, albeit in more than one piece, one of the khan's ships.
!t government"financed constr!ction of a new fish"farming installation directly atop the wreck site was
slated to begin shortly. #hile that pro$ect provided f!nds to %OA's investigations, the 2,(00"s)!are"
foot site had to be completely e*cavated by the end of 2002. #ork this past year""aided by a large team of
divers, !nderwater comm!nication systems, and an intensive program of e*cavation in cooperation withthe Takashima +!se!m of olk -istory and !lt!re and the !k!oka ity +!se!m""proceeded rapidly.
In a series of dives, I was able to watch as the site yielded an incredible array of well"preserved feat!res
and artifacts. The main portion of the wreck site lies in / feet of water and is b!ried beneath fo!r feet of
thick, visco!s m!d. #orking with a doc!mentation crew, I watched as they mapped each artifact,
photographing and then recovering ceramics, tortoiseshell combs, scraps of red leather armor, h!ll planks,
and part of a watertight b!lkhead.
The artifacts range from personal effects, s!ch as a small bowl on which was painted the name of its
owner, a commander #eng, to provisions and the implements of war. The provisions incl!de a large
n!mber of storage $ars in vario!s si1es, all of them hastily and cr!dely made. They hint at the rapid, if notr!shed, pace of the khan's mobili1ation for the invasion. &o, too, do the anchor stones. hinese anchor
stones of the period are !s!ally large, well"carved, single stones that were set into the body of the stock to
weight the anchor. Those fo!nd at Takashima are only ro!ghly finished and made of two stones. +ore
easily and )!ickly completed than their longer, more finished co!nterparts, they are not as strong as the
single stone anchors. It may be that these hastily fabricated anchors contrib!ted to the fleet's demise in the
storm that dashed %!blai's hopes for the con)!est of apan
The weapons recovered from the site incl!de b!ndles of iron arrow tips or crossbow bolts, spearheads,
and more than 30 swords and sabers. 4!ring one dive, I saw a +ongol helmet !pright on the bottom, fish
swimming in and o!t of its pro$ecting brow. lose to the helmet was perhaps the most ama1ing discovery
yet made""tetsuhauor ceramic pro$ectile bomb. %OA has recovered si* of these from the wreck. Theyare the world's earliest known e*ploding pro$ectiles and the earliest direct archaeological evidence of
hinese alchemists invented g!npowder aro!nd A.4. 500, and by 6600 h!ge paper bombs m!ch like giant
firecrackers were being !sed in battle. hinese so!rces refer to catap!lt"la!nched e*ploding pro$ectiles in
6226, b!t some historians have arg!ed that the references date to later rewritings of the so!rces. In his
recent book In Little Need of Divine Intervention,which analy1es two apanese scrolls that depict the
+ongol invasion, owdoin ollege historian Thomas onlan s!ggests that a scene showing a sam!rai
falling from his horse as a bomb e*plodes over him was a later addition. onlan's research masterf!lly
ref!tes many of the traditional myths and commonly held perceptions of the invasion, downplaying the
n!mber of ships and troops involved and arg!ing that it was not the storms b!t the apanese defendersashore, as well as conf!sion and a lack of coordination, that thwarted the khan's two invasions. !t his
s!ggestion that the e*ploding bomb is an anachronism has now been demolished by solid archaeological
evidence. +oreover, when the apanese *"rayed two intact bombs, they fo!nd that one was filled $!st with
g!npowder while the other was packed with g!npowder and more than a do1en s)!are pieces of iron
shrapnel intended to c!t down the enemy.
The site has yielded fragmentary h!man remains. A crani!m, resting where a body had perhaps been
p!shed face down into the seabed, and a pelvis, possibly from the same individ!al, now rest in the
conservation lab awaiting analysis. This state"of"the"art lab, at the Takashima +!se!m of olk -istory and
!lt!re, is filled with containers of freshwater in which artifacts rest. Initial st!dy of the artifacts has
revealed new information abo!t the khan's forces. Only one percent of the finds can be attrib!ted to a