15th Century Ryukyu Coins?

I have been busy writing about 19th century American silhouettes for the last five years on my silhouette blogs and have neglected this blog on Japanese cash coins. I believe I have written enough on silhouettes. Now, I would like to get back to writing about Japanese cash coins. Please check back often, as I will write something on this subject quite a bit from now on. Please remember THIS PAGE belongs to all of you. Comments are welcome. If you wanna write something for the blog, that is also very welcome. Many people read what I write, but they always stay silent. Let’s change that!

Uehara Shizuka touches on an interesting subject of Ryukyu coins in her recent paper in “The Journal of the Okinawa Archaeological Society” (南島考古). She writes about a recent “dig” where a partial cast branch (money tree) was recovered. It was nothing more than a branch; no coins were attached, and no coins were found at this site. She somehow believes there was a minting activity at this particular site in the 15th century. Hold your horses, Shizuka. This “branch” is no proof that coins were cast; it may have been used to cast something other than coins.

Other copper items (bronze, brass, whatever term you prefer) were also recovered from this site. Over yonder, somewhere in the hills, she (her team?) digs up a single Seiko Tsuho (Seko Tsuho to some of you). She had this coin tested for its metallic content. Of course, she also has tests done on the copper items found on her dig site. They match! Now, she firmly believes this Seiko Tsuho was cast where she dug up that “branch.” She can certainly connect the dots to her advantage.

The problems: Shizuka, not being a numismatist, does not mention which variety of Seiko Tsuho she found. She does not even illustrate her find. Furthermore, she does not mention how that coin and other items were analyzed. She does mention who did the tests, but she gives no analytical results. Her final statement was basically that the copper and lead used were from recycled material. Even I could have told her that. Does anyone know of any 15th century copper mines on the island? Or from any period? I sure don’t. On the tests, I wonder what the Pb ratio was.

I am sure Shizuka knows a great deal of Okinawa archaeology. Perhaps she may want to read up on coins in the future. I guess I was a bit rough on Shizuka. By the way, the Seiko Tsuho illustrated here was gotten from the internet. It is NOT her find.

On a different note, if you ever try to search Japanese keywords on the net, Google really sucks, as it gives results in Chinese most of the time. For Japanese words, gotta go with By the way, if you ever thought of using Google or Yahoo translator, Japanese to English or English to Japanese, do not waste your time.

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