Thousand Years Currencies

Take a look at currencies used a millenia ago

Coin from Cirebon shipwreck (907/960) by UnknownMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Have you ever wondered what type of currency people used 1,000 years ago? The findings at Cirebon shipwreck opens up many information about currencies used between 9-10th Century. 

Indochinese Peninsula and major islands of Indonesia (1573) by Egnazio DantiPalazzo Vecchio Museum

The Cirebon shipwreck is interesting since it carries cargo from Srivijayan Kingdom 650 -1377 (modern day Sumatra), China, different areas of Southeast Asia and West Asia to Mataram Kingdom (modern day Java). It is fitting that cargo also carries different kinds of money.

Gold mas or tahil ingot (800/899)British Museum

Gold mas or tahil ingot

This type of gold ingot is in a size of a button. It is the earliest evidence from Javanese currency.  While the ingot was not found on the Cirebon shipwreck, it is most likely to be on board and survived together with the people who manage to flee from the sunken ship.

Coin from Cirebon shipwreck (907/960) by UnknownMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Chinese cash

Chinese ‘cash’, small coins with a distinctive square hole in their centres, are common finds on both shipwrecks and terrestrial sites throughout Southeast Asia.

The el-Amarna Hoard (-1352/1336)British Museum

Different sizes of ingots

Unlike gold mas or coins, ingots comes in different sizes, shapes and weights.  Ingots are generally made of metal, either pure or alloy, heated past its melting point and cast into a bar or blocks or rods using a mold chill method. Ingots are considered smaller in value.

Silver ingotsMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Silver ingots

On Cirebon shipwreck about 19 kilogram of silver ingots were recovered from the site. The silver came in two kinds of bars.  The  first type are fairly thick, quadrangular slabs with concave sides and typical ‘folded corners’, it is likely thin silver sheets wrapping the bar. 

Silver ingotsMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Silver ingots

The second type of silver ingots were distinctly lighter, thinner and irregular. The eleven ingots found on Cirebon shipwreck weighed more than 13 kilograms. 

Rod shaped tin ingots (0907/0960) by UnknownMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Tin-led rod ingots

The use of assorted shapes of cast tin ingots as currency of lesser denomination are the so called ‘animal’-, ‘gambar’- or ‘tampang’-money. Such as this tin-led amalgam money in shape of rod. 

Stupa shaped ingots (0907/0960) by UnknownMarine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Tin-led stupika cone ingots

This type of ingot is considered small change. The function of the hole in the middle so that it is easy for people to carry and arrange using strings.

Ring shaped tin-lead ingots, Unknown, 0907/0960, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Tin ingots, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Ring shaped currency made out of tin-led amalgam.

Handle shaped tin ingots, Unknown, 0907/0960, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Recovered tin ingots, Horst, 0907/0960, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Detail of tin ingots, Unknown, 0907/0960, From the collection of: Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta
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Handle shaped ingots made out of tin-led amalgam.

Jejak Kayu Belitung Timur 1Marine Heritage Gallery Jakarta

Continue and learn more about Indonesia's traditional boat making

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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