Science

Coins found in New England help solve 1600s pirate mystery:

One tarnished silver coin at a time, the land is yielding new evidence that in the late 1600s, one of the world’s most ruthless pirates roamed the American colonies without fear.

The newly unearthed documents also strengthen the case that English buccaneer Henry Avery – the target of the first worldwide manhunt – went into hiding in New England before sailing for Ireland and vanishing into thin air.

“At this point, the amount of evidence is overwhelming and undeniable,” historian and metal detectorist Jim Bailey, who devoted years to solving the mystery, told The Associated Press. “Everyone was doubtlessly rushing to the colonies.”

Pirate booty
Four 17th-century silver coins with Arabic inscriptions lie on a table in Warwick, RI, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022.

Steven Seane / AP


In 2014, after unearthing an unusual coin engraved with an Arabic inscription at a pick-your-own fruit orchard in Middletown, Rhode Island, Bailey began retracing every step.

Research confirmed that the foreign coin was minted in Yemen in 1693. Bailey then learned that this corresponded to the millions of dollars in coins and other valuables that Har and his men had seized on September 7, 1695 in the robbery of the Ganj-i-Sawai, an armed royal ship owned by the Indian emperor. Had taken. Aurangzeb.

Historical accounts say that the Har band tortured and killed the passengers aboard the Indian ship and raped several women before fleeing to the Bahamas, which was a haven for pirates. But word of his crimes soon spread, and the English King William III – under heavy pressure from a discredited India and influential East India Company trading magnate – placed a huge bounty on his head.

Explorers and archaeologists have unearthed 26 identical coins stretching from Maine to the Carolinas. All coins except three struck New England, and none can be dated from when the Indian ship was captured.

“When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that can’t be true,'” said Steve Album, a rare coin expert based in Santa Rosa, California, who has helped identify all the silver Arabic coins. helped. in New England.

“But these coins have been found legitimately and in some instances archaeologically, and each one predates the shipwreck,” said Alb, who has lived in Iran and traveled widely in the Middle East. Already happened.

Detectorists have also unearthed a gold nugget weighing 3 grams—slightly heavier than a US penny—from a potato field located on top of a hill in Little Compton, a seaside town in Rhode Island.

There is no documentary evidence that naturally occurring gold has ever been found in the state. Bailey and other experts believe that the nuggets probably originated somewhere along the Gold Coast of Africa, which was the center of the slave trade in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Adding to the intrigue, two silver Arabic coins were recovered near the nugget, and each is known to have seized a considerable amount of gold while sailing to the coast of West Africa.

A cigarette card showing Henry Avery, sometimes erroneously referred to as John Avery, an English pirate who operated in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the mid-1690s.

Lambert & Butler via Getty Images


The latest proof of every pour on American soil isn’t just metal — it includes paper and pixels.

Bailey had already found records showing that the Sea Flower, the ship used by Hare and his men, arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1696 after ditching the ship used in their murderous raid. Documents that have since surfaced reveal that the pirate captain was with three Rhode Islanders aboard another pirate ship when he fled India. The three arrived with Avery in the Bahamas on March 30, 1696, and Bailey states that they essentially worked as getaway drivers in exchange for booty.

Captured pirates William Phillips and Edward Saville testified on August 27, 1696, that one of the two ships that left the Bahamas went to Virginia and New England before reaching Ireland. Crucially, Bailey said, the records clarify a muddy timeline that has long been misinterpreted by historians to suggest he was on a Caribbean island every two months — something he never did as a fugitive. Will happen.

“There’s no way to work on your tan while sitting on the beach in the Bahamas and waiting to get caught,” Bailey said. “Indeed, everyone had been in New England for over a month and was weighing their options of starting their lives anew in the colonies or going back to England.”

Each exploit has inspired Steven Johnson’s book “Annie of All Mankind” and the final installment of PlayStation’s popular “Uncharted” video game franchise. Earlier this year, Sony Pictures released a film adaptation starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and Antonio Banderas.

Bailey’s next challenge: finding out what happened to everyone after he arrived in Ireland on June 20, 1696.

“We are chasing the lost history behind one of the greatest crimes of the 17th century,” he said.

Pirate booty
Metal detectorist Jim Bailey scans dirt for Colonial-era artifacts in a field Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Warwick, RI.

Steven Seane / AP


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