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N21359 Coins (9), Australia, Marchinbar, N. E. Arnhemland. Comprising 5 ex Kilwa Sultanate (AD 1294-1493) and 4 European low countries (AD 1690-1784), with photograph (undated) and documents, 1982-1984. Click to enlarge.

Coins (9), Australia, Marchinbar, N. E. Arnhemland. Comprising 5 ex Kilwa Sultanate (AD 1294-1493) and 4 European low countries (AD 1690-1784), with photograph (undated) and documents, 1982-1984

    It is likely then that these Kilwa coins are relics of an early Portuguese exploration around the coast of Northern Australia. They are certainly the oldest coins yet found in an Australian context even if their deposition was likely the result of a later event.

    The second sub-group of Low-Land coins appears to have no connection with the Kilwa group other than sharing the same locality at a probable remove of some 250 years. It comprises four doits struck in the Low Countries for use by the Dutch East India Company ranging from AD 1690 to 1784. Coins of these types are found from time to time on the coasts of Western and Northern Australia. They provide evidence of a possible Dutch wreck in this area, or of some Dutch contact.

    Summary

    Object No.

    N21359

    Object Statement

    Coins (9), Australia, Marchinbar, N. E. Arnhemland. Comprising 5 ex Kilwa Sultanate (AD 1294-1493) and 4 European low countries (AD 1690-1784), with photograph (undated) and documents, 1982-1984

    Physical Description

    Coins (9), Australia, Marchinbar, N. E. Arnhemland. Comprising 5 ex Kilwa Sultanate (AD 1294-1493) and 4 European low countries (AD 1690-1784), with photograph (undated) and documents, 1982-1984

    History

    Notes

    This group of minor copper coins was discovered over a period of time by Mr M Isenberg, during the Second World War, in the same immediate beach area on Marchinbar Island which lies about 75 miles to the north of Arnhemland and is part of the Wessell Group. These coins cannot be classed as a hoard as they are involuntary losses, probably by wreck, falling into two unrelated sub-groups whose only connection is the accident of locality.

    The first of these sub-groups contains five coins from the Kilwa Sultanate in East Africa in the vicinity of Tanzania. These coins cannot be dated exactly as they do not bear dates. The chronology and dating of the Kilwa Sultans is still a matter for debate and dates suggested here are at best tentative. These Sultans are represented: Sulaiman ibn al-Hasan (2); Ali ibn al-Hasan (2); al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman (1). The date span suggested by current research is from about AD 1294 to about AD 1308. While it is possible that these coins represent a Kilwa trading expedition as they were renowned as sailors, it is more likely however, that they are connected with Portuguese explorations in the 16th Century, east of the Grand Meridian, which divided the world into spheres of Spanish and Portuguese influence.

    The Portuguese sacked Kilwa in AD 1505 and probably conscripted these experienced sailors for service in their ships. By AD 1519/20 the Portuguese had established a major trading post and fort in Ambon, to the near north of Australia. Theoretically, any move east of this line would have been an invasion of the Spanish sphere of influence inviting dire consequences back in Europe. Any explorations would thus be conducted in the greatest secrecy, so that we can only guess the extent of Portuguese explorations of Australia. It is believed that they were extensive and may have covered the whole east coast of the continent.

    An eye witness to the sack of Kilwa in AD 1505, a German named Hans Mayr, noted that “Kilwas had copper coins like our ceptis, four being equally to one real: Portuguese coins have the same value there as at home.” This is evidence that Portuguese and Kilwa coins, in the low values at least, circulated at parity. Islamic copper coins have an extremely long circulating life and there is nothing unusual about coin up to 400 years old still being in circulation in times.
    It is likely then that these Kilwa coins are relics of an early Portuguese exploration around the coast of Northern Australia. They are certainly the oldest coins yet found in an Australian context.

    The second sub-group appears to have no connection with the Kilwa group other than sharing the same locality at a probable remove of some 250 years. It comprises four doits struck in the Low Countries for use by the Dutch East India Company ranging from AD 1690 to 1784. Coins of these types are found from time to time on the coasts of Western and Northern Australia. They provide evidence of a possible Dutch wreck in this area, or of some Dutch contact.

    - From Sydney Mint Museum label written by curator, Major HP (Pat) Boland, c1982

    Source

    Credit Line

    Gift of M Isenberg, 1985

    Acquisition Date

    18 June 1985

    Cite this Object

    Harvard

    Coins (9), Australia, Marchinbar, N. E. Arnhemland. Comprising 5 ex Kilwa Sultanate (AD 1294-1493) and 4 European low countries (AD 1690-1784), with photograph (undated) and documents, 1982-1984 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 October 2020, <https://ma.as/305381>

    Wikipedia

    {{cite web |url=https://ma.as/305381 |title=Coins (9), Australia, Marchinbar, N. E. Arnhemland. Comprising 5 ex Kilwa Sultanate (AD 1294-1493) and 4 European low countries (AD 1690-1784), with photograph (undated) and documents, 1982-1984 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

    Incomplete

    This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.