A small coin was recovered outside the hull under a piece of lead abaft the sternpost on the starboard side. Dull gray in color, and highly encrusted with corrosion products, the coin (00,544) is in very poor and fragmentary condition. When placed in a storage solution of sodium sesquicarbonate, it tinted the solution green, suggesting that the coin was made of copper. Rather than attempting to clean the piece by mechanical or electrolytic means, a decision was made to treat it in an air-tight container with a solution of alkaline dithionite for two weeks in an attempt to reduce the corrosion products back to the parent metal. However, due the the apparent lack of core metal, the treatment was only successful in loosening the outer corrosion products from the sulfided core. Once the concretion was removed, the coin and its encrustation still retained sufficient detail to be drawn and photographed for tentative numismatic identification. Both the core and outer concretion were consolidated in acryloid B-72 folowing dehydration by a series of alcohol baths.
Fig. 70. Once the concretion was removed from this encrusted Spanish coin, details emerged which helped identify and date this copper coin, a blanca, minted between 1471 and 1474 during the reign of Henry IV. Corrosion product (left), Obverse side of coin (right).
Photographs of the coin and encrustation were sent to Dr. John Kleeberg, Associate Curator of Modern Coins at the American Numismatic Society, who showed them to his colleague, Dr. Alan Stahl. They identified the coin as a billon blanca, minted between 1471 and 1474, possibly at the Cuenca mint during the reign of Henry IV (1454-1474) of Castille and León (John Kleeberg to R. Smith, 6 July, 1995) The term billon (vellón) refers to coinage made from an alloy of silver heavily debased with copper. Blanca was the lowest denomination of coins minted during this medieval monarch’s reign.
Features discernible at the upper right quadrant on the obverse side of the fragmentary coin are the edge of the castle (symbol of Castille) within a lozenge (diamond) encircled by a beaded ring. At one o’clock are visible the letters H E, which are part of the legend HENRICUS DEI GRACIA. On the reverse side of the coin, visible also on its encrustation in a mirror image, is the rampant lion (of León) within a lozenge surrounded by a beaded ring. At the top corner of the lozenge is the Cross of Jerusalem, and at 11 o’clock the letters R E, which are part of the legend XPS VINCIT XPS REG. On both sides of the coin various annuletes (punch marks) can be discerned at the sides of the lozenges, a characteristic of Henry IV blancas.
A similar blanca is described in two standard Spanish numismatic catalogs as a dinero (Castan and Cayon 1980:202; Cayon and Castan 1991:279). However, Dr. Stahl believes this designation is incorrect; his study of medieval mint decrees indicates that blancas of this type replaced earlier coins in 1471, and continued to be minted until 1474, when Henry was succeeded by his half-sister Isabella, who married Ferdinand (A. Stahl, pers. comm., 1995). During their reign, no other copper-based coins were issued until the coinage reform of 1497.
Fig. 71. Type 28 blanca minted in Cuenca, Spain 1471-1474. (From Cayon and Castan 1991, not to scale).
Fifty-nine blancas of this type were unearthed during excavations at La Isabela in the Domincan Republic, the first European settlement in the New World, which was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1494 (Stahl 1992; Deagan 1992). A single blanca of Henry IV also was found at the Long Bay site on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, which is argued to have been the first American landfall of Columbus in 1492. Analysis by atomic absorption and emmission spectography of the San Salvador coin determined that it contained 3.97% silver and 95.7% copper (Brill 1987).
According to Dr. Stahl, Henry IV blancas were a principal medium of exchange that was used in the Americas upon the arrival of Spaniards. Circulation of these coins probably decreased in Europe after the minting reforms of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1497, and ended in the Americas after 1535, when the Mexico City mint began a large coinage output (John Kleeberg to R. Smith, 6 July, 1995). Discovery of this late medieval example of “small change” at the stern of the Emanuel Point Ship prompts questions as to the longevity of circulation of these coins by Europeans in the New World. By the 1550s, this would have been an old coin of little negotiable value; perhaps its provenience aboard the sailing ship was that of a keepsake or pocket-piece belonging to a passenger or crew member. Or, the coin came aboard very early in the ship’s career, was lost by its owner, and continued with the ship to its last port of call. Another possibility is that the coin may have been present among older ballast stones that were loaded aboard the ship at an established port, where dumps of recycled stones were available to vessels in need of additional ballast.
Two shards of thin glass were recovered from excavations amidships. One (08,776) is an amber or yelowish-brown color, comparable in shade to Munsell #10YR 5/8. It measures 9.2 mm by 11.2 mm and is 1.6 mm in thickness. A single similarly amber-colored glass shard (2.6 mm in thickness), slightly curved and badly abraded was found on the Molasses Reef Wreck (Smith 1986a:4).
Fig. 72. This small amber-colored glass shard was recovered from excavations amidships.
The second shard (08,796) is quite thin, and light greenish-gray in color, comparable to Munsell #5GY 7/1. It measures 15 mm by 25.5 mm, and is .5 mm in thickness. This shard corresponds to the pale green “lightbulb glass” found at Santa Elena, South Carolina. The Santa Elena glass ranged from .5 mm to 1.55 mm in thickness, averaging at .81mm (South et. al. 1988:25). The pieces probably were household items, from stemmed glass ware. Shipboard examples of this pale green glass have turned up at Molasses Reef with the recovery of the bottoms of two nearly identical pharmaceutical vials (Keith 1987:255). These were similar to others found at the sixteenth-century offshore colony of Nueva Cádiz, Venezuela, which are described containers for medicines from Southern Spain (Willis 1976:63-64,
Tiny droplets of mercury (azogue) initially were noticed adhering to small concretions recovered from the mast step assembly, and again from the sternpost area of the site. As excavations progressed at the stern, larger quantities of mercury were discovered in sediments along the port and starboard sides and between the last three frames of the ship. To date, approximately 250 milliliters (3,270 grams) of mercury have been recovered.
Mercury, or quicksilver, was employed in mining to separate precious metals from baser metals in crude ores. Smelted itself from cinnabar ore, the liquid metal formed an amalgam with nobler metals when heated in a mixture of their ores. It was then extracted through distillation for reuse. Quicksilver also was used in small quantities for medicinal purposes (Biringuccio 1943:81). First transported to the New World by Columbus in 1494 in the search for gold in the Antilles, liquid mercury has been recovered from excavations at La Isabela, Dominican Republic, where 155 grams were collected from the sediments inside the storehouse (Deagan 1992: 63). Apparently, it had escaped into the soil when a container broke apart or rotted. Ceramic crucibles, used to melt gold, were also found.
Quicksilver was not transported to the Spanish colonies in quantity until the mid-sixteenth century when it was imported to Mexico, under royal monopoly, for the amalgamation of silver from ore by a new method called the “patio process.” The process is generally credited to Bartolomé de Medina, a native of Seville, who received permission to import the metal in 1556 (Haring 1964:158). Sources for mercury in Europe at that time were Almadén, Spain, site of one of the most extensive deposits of cinnabar, and Idria in the Austrian Alps (Whitaker 1941:5).
Mercury first came to Florida with the expedition of Luna in 1559. Viceroy Velasco wrote to Luna that he was sending a special red stone (cinnabar) of quicksilver metal (piedra del metal del açogue) and the pellet (gauarro) that went with it, as well as instructions on how to use them to find gold and other precious metals in the new colony (Velasco to Luna, October 25, 1559. In Priestley 1928: 1:77)
The presence of mercury in the bilge of the Emanuel Point Ship suggests that, at one time, the vessel had carried a cargo which included quantities of quicksilver, which may have leaked from containers and gravitated into the bottom of the hold. Transport of mercury was a tricky business, since the metal oxidizes very quickly, resulting in corrosion of containers and resultant leakage, which is difficult to recover, especially at sea.
Quicksilver has been found on other sixteenth-century shipwrecks, although not in the quantity recovered from the Emanuel Point Ship. Tests conducted at a shipwreck site in the Bay of Campechy produced brass pins with mercury adhering to them (Smith 1988:88); small pools of quicksilver were also found in the hull of the Fuxa wreck, thought to be Nuestra Señora de Rosario, which sank on the northeastern coast of Cuba in 1590. By far the greatest quantity of mercury was found on the remains of two quicksilver transports Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and Conde de Tolosa, which wrecked in a hurricane on the north coast of the Dominican Republic in 1724. They were carrying 400 tons of mercury, enough to supply the mines of Mexico for a full year. The galleons had been specially strengthened to carry their precious but unstable cargo by installation of shelves in the bottom of the holds upon which boxes of the mercury were stacked. The cargo of quicksilver was poured into sheepskin bags, then sealed in wooden casks. Each cask held a half a quintal (hundredweight) of metal; three such casks were packed into a wooden box padded with thick grass matting. Each box held 1 1/2 quintals of (about a gallon and a half) quicksilver, and was painted on the top with the royal arms of the Spanish Crown (Smith 1988:104).
Three types of objects, which appear to have been deposited at the site subsequent to the ship’s wrecking, were recovered during the initial testing phase. They are all associated with fishing activities. Several pyramid-shaped lead fishing weights were found among the ballast stones in the central portion of the site. They are of a modern type, molded with small wire rings for attaching them to fishing line.
During examination of the ship’s anchor, two encrustations were collected, which upon electrolytic reduction appear to be associated with shrimp trawling activities over the site. One encrustation consisted of several small steel chain links, that were fashioned with a threaded closure fitting; the other encrustation contained a slender piece of wire rope. These modern objects may have been part of a
shrimping net, which at some time in the past may have become caught on the