Mombasa, Kenya: In 1993, a mysterious old coin was found in Likoni, Mombasa, near the former summer palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, overlooking Kilindini Port. The coin was copper in colour and had an image of a horse rider on both sides. It had thick edges and was about the same size as current Kenya one shilling coin.

The coin was submit to Fort Jesus Museum to try and establish its origin and history. The Fort Jesus Museum carried out some tests on the coin and the Conservation Officer, Mr. Wazwa Mwadime, made a report on 24th February, 1994.(Ref. no. PUB.4/FJM/Vol.III/2)

Mr. Mwadime concluded that the coin was a form of Pendant or medal, in that the predominant design legend features a horse and does not feature a definitive observe and reverse side. He noted while coins are traditionally struck with the obverse and reverse aligned at a rotation of 180 degrees from each other (the head and tail sides are always upright if you turn the coin).

But the mystery “coin” was struck with the obverse and reverse aligned at a rotation of Zero or 360 degrees from each other (the reverse side is always upside when the “coin” is held upright and then turned). This alignment suggests that it was produced as a medal.

Mr. Mwadime concluded that due to its irregular size, it might be an off-metal strike for the purpose of presentation or sale to collectors. It might also have been a trial strike i.e. a first medal or impression produced from a new set of dices, hence the use of soft metal-copper. 

Fort Jesus Museum could not confirm the origin of the “coin” or its age but the fact that it was found near the former Sultan of Zanzibar’s palace in Likoni may give a clue that may have come from Zanzibar or Oman, the original home of the Sultan.

The oldest coins found in Kenya are about 600 years old and were found in Lamu in 2013 and were brought by Chinese traders who visited Lamu around 1400.  

Could this “coin” or medal be the oldest found in Kenya?