The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), in partnership with Qatar Museums’ Department of Archaeology and the Years of Culture initiative, will host a public lecture on two ancient shipwrecks off the coast of Indonesia, shining the spotlight on the robust trading routes that encircled the world over a century ago.

Organised as part of Year of Culture legacy programming, the event will take place in the MIA Auditorium on Monday, 19 February, at 6:30 pm. It is free and open to the public who pre-register through the MIA website.

Renowned scholar Stephen A. Murphy will lead the discussion titled From Srivijaya to the Abbasid Caliphate: The Belitung and Cirebon shipwrecks and maritime connectivity in the 9th and 10th centuries CE.’ He holds the position of Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Years of Culture Legacy Coordinator and Spokesperson, Aljazi Al Khayareen, said:

‘The lecture by Dr Stephen Murphy promises to be a captivating exploration of the ancient maritime world, uncovering hidden stories of trade and cultural exchange. The Years of Culture initiative takes the long view of cultural partnerships, creating legacy content that continues to celebrate the rich tapestry of connections between Qatar and the partner nation. I would encourage everyone to take this opportunity to journey through time and space and discover the fascinating maritime history that binds the Gulf region and Indonesia.’

The talk will delve into the heart of the 9th and 10th-century Indian Ocean World to discover the untold tales of globalisation and cultural convergence that once connected the Gulf region with modern-day Indonesia. The spotlight will be on two archaeological wonders – the Belitung and Cirebon shipwrecks – revealing the powerful connections that shaped the world over a millennium ago.

In the middle of the ninth century, a ship embarked from the Gulf on a monumental journey, connecting three major cultures: the Abbasid Caliphate, the maritime power of Srivijaya, and Tang dynasty China. Laden with Chinese ceramics, the ship faced disaster near Palembang, a major port in southern Sumatra (modern-day Indonesia). The Belitung wreck, discovered in 1998 by fishermen, stands as one of the few surviving Indian Ocean World shipwrecks from the ninth century.

Just over a century and a half later, another vessel set sail from southern China, stopping at a port in southern Sumatra before heading to Java. Known as the Cirebon Wreck, this ship carried Chinese ceramics and Middle Eastern glassware, offering insights into interregional trade between Indonesia and China in the tenth century. Discovered between 2004 and 2006, the Cirebon Wreck provides valuable information on trade and the exchange of ideas and social ties that shaped the world. Artifacts from the Cirebon shipwreck are on permanent display at MIA and the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ).

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, visit Lecture: From Srivijaya to the Abbasid Caliphate. Questions can be addressed to: [email protected]. For more information about the Museum of Islamic Arts, please visit their website here: Museum of Islamic Arts.


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