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Treasure harvested from the Great Basses PDF Print E-mail

A collection of silver coins discovered from a wreckage of a ship that had sunk in the sea off the Great Basses reef (Maha Ravana) off Kirinda on the Southern coast about 310 years ago is now on display at the Galle Marine Archaeology Museum.

The conservator of artifacts said many of the coins had been damaged and discoloured.  According to history, the ill-fated ship had been carrying a consignment of silver coins from Surat in the north western coast of India to the eastern coast and while it was sailing through Sri Lankan waters it had gone off course, probably due to a storm and had hit a reef.

The archaeologist said that the coins manufactured during the reign of the last Mogul emperor Auranzib (AD 1638 – AD 1707AD) had been discovered by a team of marine researchers under Mike Wilson in 1961 and Dr Arthur C. Clark drawing the attention of international marine researchers.  However, the coins were conserved in the Galle Marine Museum after it was established. The researchers said that the sea off Kirinda where the ship had sunk was usually rough throughout the year excepting for about one month during the transition period between the South Eastern and South Western monsoons.

Southern Province Chief Conservator of Artifacts K Y Saman Gamini said that the coins carrying the figure of Emperor Aurunzib had been manufactured as a mark of respect to the emperor. He said the coins that had been open to sea water for a long time were cleaned with a special chemical by the conservators before displaying them at the Marine Museum.  The chief conservator said some of the coins discovered by Mike Wilson in 1961 had been sent to America for conservation and were already on display at the Smith Museum. He said 17 artillery guns and four anchors of the ship were among other artifacts discovered from the wreckage by the marine archaeologists.


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