Another ancient cannon was unearthed at a construction site on Kinmen Island on Saturday, bringing to 29 the number of cannons found in a weapons cache that may date back to the 17th century.
Chen Wei-chun (陳維鈞), an associate researcher at Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology who took over responsibility for the excavation on Wednesday, said the cannons were a valuable cultural asset even if their age has yet to be determined.
“It is the largest number of cannons ever discovered at a single site,” said Chen, referring to the construction site in Chincheng Township (金城).
“The largest number of ancient cannons ever found at one site to date is 20, in Fujian Province in southern China,” Chen said.
Huang Yi-nong (黃一農), a historian and member of Academia Sinica, said after inspecting the cannons that they were similar to Western-style muzzle-loaded smoothbore cannons from the 17th century.
Ancient cannons normally bear inscriptions of who manufactured them and when they were produced, but the newly uncovered cannons are so eroded that no inscriptions could be found, leaving academics uncertain about their age.
Chen said he was seeking assistance from German scientists who have developed a technology to date the age of metal.
“If we can determine how old these cannons are, it will help us understand their historical significance,” he said.
The first cannon to be discovered was excavated by construction workers on May 5, which led to the discovery of the other 28.
The developer has turned the cannons, which vary in length from 0.9m to 1.2m and have calibers ranging from 10cm to 15cm, over to local authorities.
A local cultural official said they were similar to weapons found in other places on the island that date back to the mid-17th century.
Kinmen was occupied at the time by a warlord loyal to the dethroned Ming Dynasty. He used the island as a base to fight unsuccessfully against the Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1670.