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Arabian Coins Found in Rhode Island May Solve 400-Year-Old Pirate Mystery

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  • Captain Every and his men became infamous for plundering a Mughal ship carrying pilgrims who were returning from Mecca, as well as a vast amount of riches.
  • Bounties were placed by King William III of England on the heads of Every and his men.
  • Every and some of his men made their way to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas and from there was never seen again.
  • The discovery of the 17th-century Arabian coin may prove that Every and his crew were able to settle in New England and integrate.

The disappearance of Captain Henry Every, a notorious 17th-century pirate, has become a celebrated story and one of the most popular cold cases in history. Now the discovery of a handful of Arabian silver coins in an orchard in Rhode Island may shed light on what happened to the world’s most wanted man in 1695.

Every and his crew, who were aboard the ship “Fancy,” became infamous for plundering ‘Ganj-i-Sawai’ (‘Exceeding Treasure’), an armed trading ship of the Mughal empire which has been sailing to Surat, India, from Yemen.

It was carrying pilgrims who were returning from Mecca. A vast amount of riches was also onboard.

Some versions of the story suggest that Every and his men also raped the women aboard the Mughal vessel.

Every and his crew took their plundered riches to Bourbon (now Réunion). They divided the treasures among themselves, with each man receiving £1,000 (the equivalent of £93,300–128,000 today).

Pretty soon, news of their attack on the ship came out and bounties were placed by King William III of England on the heads of Every and his men.

They disagreed on where to sail next. Eventually, some of the men stayed in Bourbon while the rest made their way to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas.

They were never seen again and the English conducted the “world’s first manhunt” in search of the men. It was regarded as a “nearly perfect crime” by historians. For the longest time, it was assumed that Every eventually sailed to Ireland in 1696 and the trail went cold from there.

The discovery of the 17th-century Arabian coin, which was found by amateur historian and metal detectorist Jim Bailey may shed light on what happened to Every.

According to Bailey, the coins could be evidence that Every and his men made his way to the American colonies, where they used the plunder for day-to-day expenses while on the run.

The first complete coin was found in 2014 at Sweet Berry farm in Middletown, where Bailey found old colonial coins two years earlier, along with an 18th-century shoe buckle and some musket balls.

He became excited upon seeing the Arabic text on the coin. It was later confirmed that the coin was minted in 1693 in Yemen.

Since then, other detectorists have discovered 15 additional Arabian coins from the same era – 10 in Massachusetts, three in Rhode Island, and two in Connecticut.

According to Sarah Sportman, the state archaeologist for Connecticut, “It seems like some of his crew were able to settle in New England and integrate.” This means that Every was able to hide in plain sight by posing as a slave trader, which became common in 1690s New England.

Historian Mark Hanna of the University of California San Diego said that “The story of Captain Every is one of global significance. This material object — this little thing — can help me explain that.”

Bailey’s findings was published in a study in the American Journal of Numismatics.

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