Smithsonian exhibit sparks controversy

A display of 9th century Chinese pottery, discovered in 1998 in the wreck of an Arabic ship near Indonesia, has sparked controvery in the archaeological community. Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds, was scheduled to be exhibited at Washington's Smithsonian Institution.

The Tang ceramics in the exhibit were discovered by local fishermen in 1998 and sold to the Singaporean government. Members of the archaeological community reacted to the exhibit with protests, considering the artifacts to be "looted." The Smithsonian was scheduled to host the exhibit beginning in April, 2011, but a decision to continue with the exhibit is currently on hold.

"This shipwreck is one of the most significant shipwrecks to be found in modern times," says James Delgado, a nautical archaeologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It is the only shipwreck to date that we have found which has direct archaeological evidence of trade between the Arab world and the Chinese world."