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50kg Silver Bar Found in Madagascar may be Treasure of Notorious Pirate Captain Kidd

50kg Silver Bar Found in Madagascar may be Treasure of Notorious Pirate Captain Kidd

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Underwater explorers in Madagascar have made an incredible discovery – a 50 kg block of silver with inscriptions, which is now under armed guard on Sainte Marie island off the east coast of Madagascar.  The valuable treasure may be from the wreckage of a pirate ship belonging to notorious Scottish pirate William Kidd.

The Guardian reports that the silver bar was found in shallow waters off Sainte Marie island by a joint UK-US archaeological mission led by Barry Clifford, an underwater investigator who discovered the remains of William Kidd’s ship Adventure Galley in 2000.

The bar is imprinted with a ‘T’ and ‘S’ on one side and letters and numbers on the other, the meaning of which is currently unknown.

The 50kg silver bar found off the coast of Madagascar. Credite: Presidence de la Republique de Madagascar.

The 50kg silver bar found off the coast of Madagascar. Credite: Presidence de la Republique de Madagascar.

Clifford is convinced that the treasure came from the wreck of Captain William Kidd’s ship.

Captain William Kidd (1645 –1701) was a Scottish sailor who was tried and executed for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean.  He is typically perceived as either one of the most notorious pirates in history, or as one of its most unjustly vilified and prosecuted privateers. The latter view comes from the fact that his actions were allegedly less destructive and less lucrative than other pirates, yet he met a rather brutal end – he was hanged twice (the first attempt failed), before being covered in tar and hung from a gibbet over the river Thames.

Captain Kidd hanging from a gibbet over the River Thames

Captain Kidd hanging from a gibbet over the River Thames ( Wikimedia Commons )

“The son of a Presbyterian minister, Kidd was a buccaneer and a captain for a private British ship in the Caribbean for some years, but it is claimed he decided that he found piracy more rewarding after he was commissioned to sail to Madagascar on the Adventure Galley,” reports The Guardian. “His most famous capture was a 400-tonne ship, the Quedah Merchant, which carried silver as well as silk, gold, sugar, opium and cloth.”

 ‘Captain Kidd in New York Harbor’ by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1863–1930

 ‘Captain Kidd in New York Harbor’ by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1863–1930 ( Wikimedia Commons )

When Captain Kidd learned that he was a wanted pirate, he deposited some of his treasure on Gardiners Island, hoping to use his knowledge of its location as a bargaining tool. A small cache of Kidd’s treasure was eventually recovered from Gardiners Island in a spot known as Cherry Tree Field, however it was sent to England to be used as evidence against him.

Kidd was captured in Boston in 1699 and sent to Newgate prison. The treasure found on his ship was valued at £30,000 (around £10 million today), but the remainder of his treasure was never found. The belief that Kidd had left buried treasure contributed considerably to the growth of his legend and has also given impetus to constant treasure hunts in places Kidd is known to have visited.  

Illustration of pirate captain William Kidd's supervision of the burial of his treasure at Gardiner's Island

Illustration of pirate captain William Kidd's supervision of the burial of his treasure at Gardiner's Island ( Wikimedia Commons )

The BBC reports that “there is much excitement in Madagascar about the discovery and Mr Clifford's team has no doubt that the discovery is genuine.”

The silver bar, which was presented to the President of Madagascar in a special ceremony on Sainte Marie Island, is believed to have its origins in Bolivia, while the ship is thought to have been built in England. Work will now be carried out to verify the origin of the treasure.

Featured image: 50kg silver bar found off the coast of Madagascar, which is thought to belong to Captain Kidd. Credit: Presidence de la Republique de Madagascar.  

By April Holloway

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