Chinese treasure hunters have uncovered a priceless haul of Ming Dynasty pottery in a shipwreck at the bottom of the South China Sea.
The treasure – which disappeared in the 16th century – was discovered 5,000 feet beneath the waves.
Video footage from a deep sea explorer submarine shows at least 100,000 porcelain pieces settled on the ocean floor for as far as the eye can see.
The Deep Sea Warrior sub’s cameras pick out stacks of traditional blue and white rice bowls and plates plus highly decorated vases and jars.
Experts say they date back to the Zhengde period of the Ming Dynasty, from 1506 to 1521 AD.
Chinese media does not give a value to the astonishing haul, but a single Ming Dynasty cup from around the same period sold for GBP 3.6 million in 2016.
The treasure was reportedly found in what antiquities officials call Shipwreck 1 on the Northwest Land Slope of the South China Sea.
Researchers believe the pottery had been stacked in containers around 10 feet tall and spilled out as the ship sank.
A second nearby wreck – Shipwreck No. 2 – was found to be loaded with hundreds of similar-sized logs neatly laid out next to each other.
They are believed to be dating back to the earlier Hongzhi period of the Ming Dynasty from 1488 to 1505 AD.
Both wrecks were discovered in October last year and now scientists are carrying out an extensive survey of the site.
Tang Wei, director of the Archaeological Research Centre of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said Shipwreck 1 was taking exporting porcelain.
The other wreck was bringing imported exotic timber into China.
The director of the Department of Archaeology of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage Yan Yalin said of Shipwreck 1: “The sunken ship is relatively well preserved, with a huge number of cultural relics and a relatively clear era.”
He added: “It has important historical, scientific and artistic value.
“It is not only a major discovery of deep-sea archaeology in my country, but also a major archaeological discovery of the world.”
Officials say the full survey of the wreck sites will not be complete until April next year.
Scientists believe the discovery confirms China’s role as a key trader with nations around the South China Sea, the maritime section of the Silk Route.