Genetic sequencer used in wreckage salvage

Writer: Han Ximin  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2022-12-05

The high throughput genome sequencing equipment, MGISEQ-2000 genetic sequencer developed by MGI Tech Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Shenzhen-based BGI Group, had been used in the salvage of the Yangtze No. 2 Ancient Shipwreck, the largest wooden shipwreck discovered underwater in China to date.

Archaeologists used the equipment to test rice hull samples and through DNA comparisons, they were able to estimate the rice’s production places and ages. It helped calculate the port where the rice was loaded, a release from MGI said Friday.

The wreckage was recently lifted out of the water off Hengsha Island at Chongming District in Shanghai.

By cross-examining the rice, Jingdezhen porcelains and many other cultural relics discovered around the shipwreck, archaeologists confirmed that the ancient ship dated back to the reign of Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1875) during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The 150-year-old “time capsule” carried rich historical information. It marked another milestone achievement in China’s underwater archaeology and provided valuable evidence for studying China’s maritime civilization and for the mutual exchanges among ancient civilizations.

Based on its age and size, the shipwreck is presumably a kind of ancient Chinese sailing ship. It was the first time that this specific type of ship was discovered in the waters off the coastal areas of China.

The shipwreck was first detected in 2015 during a key underwater survey carried out by the Shanghai Research and Protection Center of Cultural Relics and other relevant departments using sonar technology.

In addition, porcelains produced during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), a complete 60-centimeter-high green porcelain vase and porcelains made in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, were also discovered.

This March, a salvage project was officially launched, which became China’s largest ancient wooden ship archaeological and cultural relic protection project. On Sept. 6, the salvage project officially started, and after 77 days, the shipwreck was successfully lifted out of the water.

According to BGI, high throughput sequencing technologies stimulated genomics’ rapid development, which has been used in archaeological and genetic research.