It was a silver shilling, with the image of the condemned King Charles I, and one day, three centuries ago, someone lost it inside Maryland’s colonial fort at St. Mary’s. An elegant coin, showing the crowned king in profile with a long beard and high lace collar, probably misplaced by its owner, and probably searched, in vain.
Last week, archaeologists announced that, some 380 years after its loss, it appeared during the historic excavation that recently uncovered the outlines of the fort in the first permanent English settlement in Maryland.
On March 22, Historic St. Mary’s City announced that Parno and archaeological geophysicist Tim Horsley had found the remains of the post holes for the fort’s palisade, which marked one of the first settlements in what would become the United States.
The shilling would have been created in the royal mint in the Tower of London around 1633 to 1634said the project’s chief archaeologist, Travis Parno, and It may have been carried by one of the original 150 settlers who arrived at St. Mary’s in two ships, the Ark and the Dove, in March 1634.
The discovery is rare, Parno said, and further proves that archaeologists have correctly located the location of the fort.
The shilling has a mint mark, a small image of a portcullis castle, which dates it and helped “Specify exactly the date of our archaeological site”added Parno.
“We did not find many coins”, He said. “We have no shilling that exactly matches this one. Finding one that is that old so early in the dig is something unique to us. … It was quite a revelation. “
The owner of the coin could have been a person of means: “Having a coin with you, particularly a whole silver shilling, is not like someone carrying a few pieces of copper. … But it’s really impossible to know. “
A shilling in those days was valuable, but not that valuable, said Parno. I could buy pottery. Five shillings or so could buy a tool. “It wasn’t like wearing a gold doubloon,” he explained.
The shilling may pre-date the subsequent use of tobacco as currency in Maryland, which occurred after the colony established tobacco growing as a type of cash, Parno said. What’s more, it is a connection between the frontier world of the first settlers in Maryland and the political turmoil in England of the 1600s.
Location where MUST CREDIT coin was found: Washington Post photo by Bill O’Leary
The shilling was found in November by archaeologist Stephanie Stevens’ crew chief, Parno said. She texted a photo of the coin, adding the expression “OMG!”
The discovery was kept secret for safekeeping while the coin was studied. It was unveiled Wednesday when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan visited the site.
The reverse of the coin features a coat of arms and the Latin motto “Christo Auspice Regno” (I reign under the auspices of Christ).
Also unveiled was an ancient Catholic religious medal depicting five saints and a “tinkling cone,” a small copper alloy decoration likely made by Europeans for trade with Native Americans. These objects were unearthed about two weeks ago.
“We find many things that are lost, broken or thrown away”said Parno. “That is the archaeologist’s job. Sometimes it is the things that are lost that we get very excited about”.
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