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Treasure of the Salcombe Cannon Site

 

Acquired with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund, The British Museum Friends and the Brooke Sewell Fund

CM 1999-12-7

Coins and Medals

    Treasure of the Salcombe Cannon Site

    Sa'dian dynasty, Morocco, 16th-17th century AD
    Found in Salcombe Bay, Devon, England

    'The pot is similar to my breakfast bowl, practically every West Indian house has bowls like that. Looking at the coins, straight away I think of 1p, 2p and 50p coins. Maybe the thickness has changed over the years. From an Afro-Caribbean point of view it reminds me of 'bling' culture and men having three or four big rings. Every year I go to Barbados, some of these coins remind me of Barbados cents.' Darwin Goodridge, of English/West Indian/Barbadian origin

    In 1999, the British Museum acquired a group of over 400 gold coins, broken pieces of gold jewellery and ingots as well as pewter, pottery sherds and a merchant's seal. This assemblage was recovered by a group of divers from the sea bed in Salcombe Bay in Devon. The coins were struck by the Sharifs of the Sa'dian dynasty, who ruled Morocco during the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries. The latest coin found was struck by Sharif al-Walid (reigned 1631-6) in AH 1040 (AD 1631).

    This is a unique find in the history of Britain. It provides us with tangible evidence of a flourishing trade taking place between North Africa and Europe from the late sixteenth century. The fragmentary condition of the gold jewellery and ingots suggests that this may have been a hoard of bullion, exported with the intent of melting it down. The identity of the ship is not known: it may have belonged to Barbary pirates who were raiding the Devon coast at this time. It could also have belonged to an English or Dutch merchant on the busy trade route between Europe and North Africa. The ships carried gold, sugar, almonds, aniseed and ostrich feathers from Morocco in return for European cloth and guns.

    V. Porter and P. Morison, 'The Salcombe Bay Treasure', British Museum Magazine: the-3, 30 (1998), pp. 16-18

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