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Lost Coins Found In America May Unlock Mystery Of History’s Most Wanted Pirate

by : Emily Brown on : 02 Apr 2021 16:18
Lost Coins Found In America May Unlock Mystery Of History's Most Wanted PiratePA/Public Domain

A handful of Arabian coins found in New England may offer clues about the actions of one of history’s most wanted pirates as he escaped capture in the late 1600s. 

English pirate Captain Henry Every, who commanded the pirate ship Fancy, ambushed and captured a royal vessel named Ganj-i-Sawai, owned by the powerful Indian emperor Aurangzeb, on September 7, 1695.

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The ship was travelling from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to India and carried Muslim worshippers back from their pilgrimage as well as tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver.

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Every’s ambush is known as one of the most heinous robberies of all time, with historical accounts cited by Associated Press saying his crew tortured and killed the men on the ship and sexually assaulted the women. The thieves escaped to the Bahamas but, as word of their crimes spread, King William III of England put a large bounty out for their capture.

Historians knew that Every eventually sailed to Ireland in 1696, but the coins uncovered in Rhode Island and other parts of New England suggest the pirate first made his way to the American colonies, where he and his crew used the stolen goods to pay for expenses while on the run.

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The first intact 17th-century Arabian coin was uncovered at Sweet Berry farm in Middletown by Jim Bailey, an amateur historian and metal detectorist, in 2014.

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Bailey became interested in searching the farm after finding colonial coins, an 18th-century shoe buckle and some musket balls two years earlier, and his efforts paid off as the Arabian coin was among the oldest ever found in North America.

Research determined that the coin was minted in 1693 in Yemen; an interesting revelation as there was no evidence that American colonists living in the New World had travelled to the Middle East to trade until decades later.

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Following Bailey’s initial discovery, other detectorists have found 15 more Arabian coins from the same era. Another three were found in Rhode Island, alongside 10 in Massachusetts, two in Connecticut and one in North Carolina, where Every’s men are believed to have first come ashore.

Sarah Sportman, the state archaeologist for Connecticut, commented: ‘It seems like some of his crew were able to settle in New England and integrate. It was almost like a money laundering scheme.’

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As he avoided capture, Every hid in plain sight by posing as a slave trader; even stopping at the French island of Réunion to get some captives on his way to the Bahamas so he would look the part, Bailey said.

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Bailey, an amateur historian who has a degree in anthropology from the University of Rhode Island, has said there is ‘extensive primary source documentation to show the American colonies were bases of operation for pirates’.

Every’s exploits live on in the present day after inspiring a 2020 book by Steven Johnson, Enemy of All Mankind, as well as PlayStation’s video game series Uncharted and a Sony Pictures movie version of the games, starring Tom Holland. 

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life, Crime, history, Now

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The Associated Press
  1. The Associated Press

    Ancient coins may solve mystery of murderous 1600s pirate