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CHINESE COIN A MYSTERY TO 19TH-CENTURY NEW YORK TAVERN DIG SITE
An E-Sylum reader forwarded this article about an unusual coin find at an archaeological dig in New York state. -EditorDigging through 200-year-old trash heaps isn't always glamorous. But a small Asian coin uncovered behind a 19th-century Latham tavern turned a routine archaeological survey into an international puzzle.
The copper alloy coin was unearthed as archaeologists combed through the soil behind the old Ebenezer Hills Jr. house. The one-time way station on a busy turnpike between Albany and Schenectady (now Route 7) was the equivalent of a Thruway rest stop when the trip between the two cities could take a day.
Last month, the Albany County Airport Authority moved the house about 200 feet to get the historic building clear of a runway.
The coin, which has a square hole stamped in the center and is the thickness of a dime, was discovered about a foot deep in the soil around a stone feature that may have been associated with an older wing of the building, which dates to between 1805 and 1810, said Corey McQuinn, project director for Hartgen Archeological Associates, the company hired to do the work.
From the site, the coin was shipped to Hartgen's laboratory in North Greenbush, where conservation director Darrell Pinckney placed it in an electrolytic reduction bath, which uses a solution and mild electric current to remove centuries of crust.
The bath revealed Asian markings -- possibly Chinese, Pinckney said.
Hartgen is looking into forwarding photographs of the coin to experts in the field, who may be able to date it based on the markings, which often show the ruling dynasty during which a coin was minted.
"It had to do some traveling," McQuinn said.
Town Historian Kevin Franklin said the source of the coin may always be a mystery, though he offered a few possibilities.
For instance, he said, the United States opened trade with China in the years after the Revolutionary War. An Albany captain named Stewart Dean commanded the ship "Experiment" on a 1785 trading mission to Canton, China.
The Asian coins are generally not very valuable or even rare -- but they can help tell the story of who called a place home, or -- in the case of the Ebenezer Hills Jr. house -- who was likely just passing through.
"The date of the coin would be kind of interesting," Franklin said. "Chinese coinage has been around for thousands of years (and the coins) have popped up all over the place."
To read the complete article, see: How in the world did coin land in Latham? (http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=720903)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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