Ancient Coins Provide Clues to 300 Year Old Pirate Mystery

Thanks to an ancient Arabic coin recently found in Middletown, Rhode Island, one of history's most famous cold cases is one step closer to being solved.

In 1695, royal vessel Ganj-i-Sawai was sailing en route to India, carrying not only Muslim pilgrims on their way home from Mecca, but tens of millions of dollars worth of silver and gold. The ship, owned by Indian emperor Aurangzeb, was ambushed and captured by the pirate ship Fancy and it's captain, Henry Every.

After brutally torturing and killing most of the passengers onboard, Every and his crew stole the ship's cargo and fled. News of their heinous crimes quickly spread, and King William III of England put out a large bounty on their heads. This sparked the first worldwide manhunt, and the pirates were forced to go on the run for the remainder of their lives.

While there is some evidence that proves that Every and his crew first escaped to the Bahamas, historians agree that the trail goes cold after they were known to have sailed to Ireland. Most of their journey and where they eventually ended up has remained a mystery. Some records suggest that Every posed as a slave trader for a time, and even picked up Black captives from the French island Reunion to strengthen the facade.

There has also been mounting evidence that the pirates sailed to the American colonies posing as a slave ship. From obscure records, it is believed that Every and his crew arrived in Rhode Island with 4 dozen slaves in 1696 on a ship called the Sea Flower after abandoning the Fancy. One man's incredible find in 2014 while metal detecting makes this theory even more convincing.

Jim Bailey, an amateur historian who once worked as an archaeological assistant on a pirate shipwreck, found an ancient Arabic coin with his metal detector on a farm in Middletown, RI. The coin, which is confirmed to have been minted in Yemen in 1693, is among some of the oldest coins ever found in North America.

Its presence provides strong evidence to the theory that Every and his crew stopped through the colonies and spent some of their plunder gathering supplies, as there would be no trade routes between North America and the Middle East for many decades after that time. It is even believed that some of the pirates stayed and integrated into New England society.

Since Bailey's historic find in 2014, 15 other similar coins from that time period have been found, with a total of 10 in Massachusetts, and small numbers in Rhode Island, Connecticut and North Carolina.

Jim Bailey, who has an anthropological degree from the University of Rhode Island, has since done research on historic documentation that provides more evidence of pirate presence in the American colonies. He has published his findings in a research journal of the American Numismatic Society.

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