‘Literal shipwreck treasure’ from famous doomed Dutch vessel resurfaces


“So to be able to hold them, to be able to examine them is extremely rare,” she said.

Jordan said because the coins pre-dated European colonisation of Australia, “for a lot of people, these coins are literally the oldest thing they will see in history”.

Queensland shipwreck expert Celeste Jordan says the oldest of the four coins dates to the 1560s, while the youngest is from 1623.

Queensland shipwreck expert Celeste Jordan says the oldest of the four coins dates to the 1560s, while the youngest is from 1623.Credit:Tony Moore

The Dutch East India Company was “huge in the spice trade” at the time and the Batavia was one of seven ships making its way around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope before it was wrecked on June 4, 1629.

“Batavia is probably the most famous of the four Dutch East Indies shipwrecks off the WA coast because of the mutiny.

“There were 115 people systematically murdered by Jeronimus Cornelisz and his cronies.”

Cornelisz subsequently had both hands cut off and died on the gallows on October 2, 1629.

Jordan said the Queenslander, who willingly gave over the coins after being told his prize was illegal, told her he had taken them from the Batavia wreck on Morning Reef, near Beacon Island.

She said the earliest coin was from the 1560s.

“The last digit is not there on this one.

“This next one is from 1614, and this one clearly says 1623. And this one, the fourth one, doesn’t have a date,” she said.

“On one coin from 1614 you can see whoever it is, I’m assuming it is potentially the Dutch king of the time, he has a sword, he is in armour and holding a shield or a bag and the shield actually has a small dragon on there,” she said.

One of four silver coins from the 1629 wreck of the Dutch East India flagship, the Batavia.

One of four silver coins from the 1629 wreck of the Dutch East India flagship, the Batavia.Credit:Tony Moore

“The dragon is roaring, his tongue is out, his wings are out, which is quite a fun detail,” she said.

Examining a coin from 1623, “you can see the detail in the feathers here and the other side of the coin also has quite beautiful detail in the gentleman’s armour”.

“You can also see the armour in the coin, you can see it is undated. But you can see the man’s hair and beautiful collar and all the metal of his armour.”

The oldest coin has silver detailing which looks part of a crown.

“If I turn it over you get part of the shield. It also has some cracking in the coin itself.

“I think one of the most interesting things about this coin here is that somebody has tried to clip a piece of silver from this coin.”

It has been illegal since 1976 to take objects from historic shipwrecks.

The coins will be returned within weeks to the Western Australian Shipwrecks Museum in Fremantle, which holds and displays a significant collection of Batavia artefacts.



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