The exhibition presents valuable archaeological finds retrieved from the merchantman which sunk in the Sveti Pavao shallows near the island of Mljet at end of the 16th century. Since 2007, the Department for Underwater Archaeology of the Croatian Conservation Institute has been conducting rescue archaeological investigations on this site, funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia. In 2010, Croatian archaeologists were joined by a team of underwater archaeologists from Italy from the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice, who took part in the excavations until 2012. All the exhibits were reconstructed by the Croatian Conservation Institute.
The merchantman that ended its journey in the Sveti Pavao shallows carried oriental goods intended for the European market. The most numerous and best preserved part of the ship’s cargo was pottery made in the Ottoman town of Iznik. During the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the highly praised pottery production in Iznik reached its peak in production quality, and decoration, and this continued during the rule of his heirs, Selim II and Murad II. In the second part of the 16th century, this pottery became popular in Europe and was shipped as luxury goods to major market centres such as Dubrovnik or Venice.
Along with a cargo of Iznik pottery, this exhibition brings forth the results of six years of underwater archaeological research on the shipwreck. Other items on display include the recovered bronze cannons, glass, metal and ceramic vessels, coins, ship’s equipment and the crew’s personal possessions, which perfectly illustrate the life on a Venetian merchantman.
Objects found in closed archaeological contexts, like the ones from the Sveti Pavao shipwreck are of exceptional value in terms of dating the production of pottery in Iznik and illustrating economic relations, and they are also a unique example of maritime trade between the East and the West during the second half of the 16th century.