Researchers earlier this week finished removing antiques from a 700-year-old wrecked ship in waters off Binh Chau commune in the central province of Quang Ngai.

To reach the objects, a wall was built around the ship and the sea water pumped out. The work, carried out by Doan Anh Duong Company, took 20 days.

The archaeologists brought ashore 268 buckets of artefacts, including dishes, jars, bowls, pots and coins dating from the 7th century.

They were surprised to find that one third of the vessel is still intact although it has been under water for 700 years, said Nguyen Van Viet, director of the Centre for South-east Asian Prehistory.

"I have studied wrecked ships for 30 years, but this is the first time I have had a chance to touch and work inside a rather intact ship like this," he said.

"The ship and its antiques are so meaningful for researchers of archaeology and shipping."

The 24m-long timber vessel is divided into 12 holds. Much of it, including the rudder and bulkhead are relatively undamaged.

All objects found will be stored and displayed at Quang Ngai Provincial Museum.

If the ship proves to be Vietnamese, it will reflect the importance of ports in central Vietnam to regional trade and shipping.

At the time, these ports were probably the busiest in Southeast and Eastern Asia.-VNA