Oldest coins in Okinawa found in Shuri

The Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education announced that the eight Ryukyu gold coins thought to be the oldest every found on Okinawa were discovered in turban shells in the area of “Kyo no uchi” located to the west of the Shuri Castle.

The shells were unearthed in November, 1996, but the gold coins were not discovered then. Instead, they fell out of a shell by accident when a staff member who was working on them in January. Each coin is around 2 cm in diameter. All eight coins were inside a turban shell about 7.5 cm tall. The shell had a lid made of another smaller 5 cm shell. The  shells might have been used for a ritual ceremony, and if that’s the case would be recognized as the first time in Japan. The coins were apparently intended to be used for a ceremony to purify a building site. With state of a clay figure around the site, and other unearthed objects, these gold coins are estimated to date back to around the middle of the 15th century.

The gold coins and shells will go on a public display from Tuesday at Okinawa Prefectural Archaeological Center in Uehara, Nishihara Town. Admission to the display is free.