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Medieval coin discovered in Canada

Archaeologists in the Canadian province of Newfoundland have come across a medieval coin, discovered on the site of England’s first attempt at the colony in present-day Canada.

The coin, a Henry VII “half groat”, or two-penny piece,  was minted in Canterbury, England sometime between 1493 and 1499. It was discovered at Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site, a colony established by John Guy in 1610. According to site supervisor and head archaeologist William Gilbert, who discovered the site in 1995 and continues to lead the dig, this is likely the oldest English coin to ever be found in Canada, and possibly all of North America.

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In 2001, an Elizabethan coin, dated 1560-1561, was unearthed on the same site. At that time, the coin was considered the oldest English coin ever found in Canada. This newly discovered coin is about 60 years older and would have been in circulation for at least 111 years before it was lost at Cupids.

Images of the Henry VII “half groat”, or two-penny piece, minted in Canterbury, England sometime between 1493 and 1499 and discovered at the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site in 2021. Photos courtesy the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

“Some artifacts are important for what they tell us about a site, while others are important because they spark the imagination,” say Gilbert. “This coin is definitely one of the latter. One can’t help but wonder at the journey it made, and how many hands it must have passed through from the time it was minted in Canterbury until it was lost in Cupids sometime early in the 17th century. This is a major find and I am proud of my team for all their hard work. We look forward to the next great discovery.”

Research on the coin is ongoing. It is expected that it will go on display at the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site in time for the opening of the 2022 tourist season.

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Steve Crocker, Newfoundland’s Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation, adds, “The historical significance of the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site has long been known and its value to the local tourism industry is proven. It is incredible to imagine that this coin was minted in England and was lost in Cupids over a hundred years later. It links the story of the early European exploration in the province and the start of English settlement.”

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