Infant Buddha Found in Western Australia Confirmed as Ming Dynasty Artifact

An infant Buddha that was discovered back in 2018 along a roadside in Shark Bay, Western Australia, has been recently confirmed as originating from the Ming Dynasty, and was given an evaluation of USD$119,310.

Shayne Thomson, who runs FINN films with Leon Deschamps, recorded video showing the excavation of the small artifact after stumbling across it with a metal detector.

“This is pretty amazing, it seems old,” Thomson says in the video. After lifting the object to reveal the Buddha’s front, Thomson is heard astonished by his finding, adding “I don’t know the history behind that, we’ll find out, we’ll do some research.”

Deschamps and the infant Buddha recently appeared on an episode of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, which is where Lee Young, a Managing Director of Dore and Rees auctioneers who specializes in Asian Art, confirmed that the figure originated from the Ming Dynasty, dating its origin between 1368 and 1644.

Young said on the program that the object on its own would probably carry a “presale estimate of about 3,000 to 5,000 pounds.” However, after noting the finding’s historical significance, Young said he wouldn’t be surprised if the hammer fell at £100,000, “because there is only one of these with that story.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the “most exciting possible explanation for the object’s presence in WA is that it came on the 1421 Ming treasure voyage,” which “could mean the Chinese visited the region almost 200 years before Dutchman Dirk Hartog landed in 1616.” The report also included another possible explanation, which is that “it arrived in the 150 or so years since the 1870s, when the Chinese are first known to have come to the northwest coast.”

“In the last four years, it has cost us significant personal capital and time to be able to investigate and protect the Buddha appropriately,” Deschamps wrote in a statement to Storyful. Breaking down the fees, Deschamps added that “it makes our investment in time and capital well over $100K, which is how we have now decided to set our reserve for the auction.” Credit: FINN Films via Storyful

Video transcript

- This is pretty amazing. It seems old. It looks like it was gold. It was covered in gilt. OK. Must have been broken off there. I wonder if it's candle-- oh, it's not a candle holder. Wow.

There it goes. Oh, that's heavy. Oh, wow! Wow! Unbelievable! Wow! That is incredible! What a find. I'd like to know the history behind that. We'll find out. We'll do some research. That is so heavy. Wow. Incredible.

Still finding this hard to believe. It's very, very solid. It might be brass, but it's extremely heavy. Still with the gilt. Should be able to find out what it is. But that is incredible, still with the gilt on there. And then on the ground there in that hole, only probably 5, 6 centimeters down. Absolutely incredible.