Greek-Australian archaeologist Parry Kostoglou believes he could have found Australia’s first currency exchange on the site of the city’s new Myers store, according to a report from The Australian.
The Hobart archaeological consultant and his team have found coins and other artifacts more than 200 years old at a dig on the CBD site, which was being redeveloped after fire destroyed the old store in 2007.
“What’s really cool about the coins is that a lot of them are from overseas, they’re not just English coins,” he told AAP.
“There’s Indian coins, there might be a Mexican silver dollar there and other coins that as yet haven’t been cleaned up, but they don’t look English.”
A dig was ordered before the building started because the site has been developed five times since the earliest white settlement in 1804.
Convict period stoneware bottles, plates from China and gun flints from America are among the discoveries, but the coins could be the most important find.
“What that means is basically troops and people that came out on the first fleet (to Tasmania) were asked to empty their pockets, and they collectivized the money and created a sort of ad hoc currency system because there was no existing system of trade,” Mr Kostoglou said.
He says the find could be unique because the only other Australian colony rivaling Hobart in age, Sydney, was more carefully planned.
“This one was hurriedly organised to stop the French from getting their hooks into Van Diemen’s Land,” he said. “So it was rushed and they didn’t bring any money except what they had in their pockets.”
The best items in the discovery will become part of a display in the new store.
Mr Kostoglou says Hobart still has plenty of buried history because its lack of high-rise constructions means buildings are on slabs rather than anchored to the bedrock.
Parry Kostoglou is a consultant archaeologist. He has 15 years’ experience and has worked at sites relating to historic themes including whaling, sealing, mining, logging, fishing, trapping, convict settlement, agriculture and wartime POW internment. He worked as a project and management archaeologist for several government departments before establishing his own business. He has completed a PhD on the mid 19th century American sealers on Heard Island.