Hot on the heels of news of discoveries that suggest that Macassar traders were sourcing beads from Dutch and other European spice traders to trade with the Yolngu of Arnhem Land for sea cucumbers, comes news of the discovery of a 250 year old cannon on a NT beach.
While it was originally thought that the cannon might have come from a Portugese vessel, there is now speculation that it had come from a Macassar vessel blown off course.
If it was of non-European origin this has some implications for the Kilwa coins problem.
We know that before the European arrival in Indonesia in the sixteenth century, there was no circulating coinage as such, and instead people used Chinese coins, as they still do in religious ceremonies.
It’s quite possible that the Kilwa coins some how ended up in the pool of circulating currency, just as VoC (Dutch East India company) duits did in the early days of the Dutch presence in Indonesia. And we can wave our hands once more and say that they ended up on the Wessell islands in a single shipwreck of a Maccassar or VoC ship.
If we had a mix of Chinese coins of the sort in circulation in Indonesia and the Kilwa coins I’d plump for a Macassar shipwreck, but the presence of VoC duits points to a ship with greater involvement with the European presence (I’m choosing my words carefully here, as if it’s true that Macassars acquired glass beads from the Dutch and traded them on, its quite conceivable that there could have been duits on a Macassar boat – it doesn’t mean that it was a VoC boat).
And where does this leave the Kilwa coins?
I’m tempted to say that they were simply there by accident, perhaps as someone’s lucky coins, or as special coins intended for an offering. They probably entered the pool of currency through the spice trade. I can believe that Kilwa coins could have got to Sri Lanka or South India, and ended up in a spice traders bag of mixed coins, and from there made their way to Indonesia …
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