Shipwrecks as time capsules

The Dutch merchant vessel Geldermalsen left Canton for Amsterdam on the 21st of December 1751 carrying gold, porcelain, and tea. On the night of 3rd of January drifting in uncharted waters and bad weather, she had struck a reef and slowly sank.
In late spring of 1985, 235 years later, Captain Michael Hatcher found the ship which become known as the Nanking Cargo after the type of porcelain it contained. It was, by any standard, a remarkable haul. There were more than 150,000 pieces, including dinner settings for up to 144 guests including dishes, plates, bowls, mugs tureens and salt cellers. The cups are without handles. According to the archives coffee and tea cups with handles only become fashionable after 1760. Shipwrecks are time capsules, datable fairly precisely and enormously enlarge our knowledge of Chinese export porcelain design, technology and taste.