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Cowrie shell


A single cowrie shell, Erosaria moneta, was found in a chest on the orlop deck of the Mary Rose.

While it might seem unremarkable to find a sea shell on an underwater wreck, E. moneta, also known as the Money Cowrie, is mainly found in shallow waters in the Red Sea, Indian and Pacific Oceans, notably in the Maldive Islands. Cowries were used as money in many areas, as far west as West Africa, by the sixteenth century, and were also used for decorative purposes, although this one has not been pierced for stringing. It was a personal souvenir or curiosity rather than a form of currency, and it predates formal English trading contacts with India; a previous contact with West Africa is possible but by no means certain.