Treasure of the Great Basses Reef.

Lump of Surat Rupees at Smithsonian

A lump of silver 1701 Surat rupees from the shipwreck discovered on 1961 March 22nd by Arthur C. Clarke and Mike Wilson at the Great Basses reef off the south east coast of Lanka near Kirinda. The science fiction grand master Sir Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) who settles in Lanka in 1956 now resides there permanently.

Silver rupee minted in Surat (near Bombay) of the Mugal Empire, issued by Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir (ruled 1658-1707), with Islamic date 1113 AH (1701).

The coins appeared to have been packed in coir sacks with about 1000 coins each and perhaps packed several sacks to a wood chest. The coir bags held together long enough for the silver coins to have been concreted solidly together, so that when the sacks rotted away, the coins remained in twenty five pound lumps in the shape of the sack. The coins in the middle of the lumps were in perfect mint condition. The inner side of the outer coins were similarly protected as was the reverse of the coin shown above.

The Smithsonian institute was donated a 1,000 rupee lump soon after the discovery of the unrecorded wreck on the Great Basses Reef - off the south east coast of Lanka.
Accession record 239761 dated December 7, 1961 describes a gift made to the Smithsonian by Arthur C. Clarke. as 1 cluster of approx. 1000 silver rupees dated 1702, found off Great Basses Reef, Ceylon by Mr. Mike Wilson. Appendix C of Clarke's book are notes supplied by Mendel Peterson, former Curator of Underwater Exploration for the Smithsonian Institution, on the Preservation of objects recovered from the Sea.

This Lump of coin was last shown in public at the Aditi - The Monies of India exhibition at the National Museum of American History from 1985 October 24, till 1986 April 24. An image of it appears in the interesting exhibition souvenir.

Paul Johnston, Curator of Maritime History informs me that the underwater collections gathered back in the 1960's by Mendel Peterson, currently has this item, and sent me this photograph of it. Thousand coins as shown on right in loosely sacked lump is about a 8 inch cube (well packed 4x4x62 coins it will be about 4.3 inch cube)

Lump at Smithsonian
© Smithsonian

Another complete lump with the coins still embedded in coral could be seen at the Clarkives in England, and third is currently with Carl Fismer of DiveForTreasure in Florida. I am in the process of obtaining high quality images of various lumps for this website. I have not yet had the opportunity to see a complete lump. There are a number of small broken parts and I saw one in Colombo few years ago in the possession of Valerie.