Previously I had posted three long blog entries [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3] about the Ptolemy IV coin allegedly found in Queensland by Andy Henderson in 1910. My conclusion based on the published photos was that the coin published by Michael Terry was a modern forgery, and that Rex Gilroy’s published picture was of a completely different coin. As there still remained many unanswered questions, I recently examined Michael Terry’s papers in the National Library of Australia, hoping to get more detail on the story. Here is what I found.
There are boxes of photographic prints from all stages of Terry’s exploration and later journalistic career, including a number that he either took or received relating to secret visitor claims. There is also correspondence surviving from the 1960s to about 1976, nearly all inward letters. I had therefore hoped his initial revelatory work on the coin was included. Unfortunately there is no correspondence relating to the coin, although there are any number of later letters that make reference to it before dealing with some other supposed Egyptian object. There are a handful of photos from the expedition Terry made to visit Major Gilmore. These include:
* copy of a portrait photo of Andy Henderson
* Joe Gilmore in shorts
* men reading a map on the bonnet of a truck [on back – ‘Map studying at Mackenzie’s Pocket …”, showing Maurice Passmore, Joe Gilmore and Stan Martin]
* Boy standing by Henderson’s grave [”Grave of Andy Henderson buried Apl 62, aged 83 … Harold Martin at head of grave’]
* Gilmore and others standing on the fence line Henderson was digging when the coin was found [‘These men stand on the burnt out stumps of a fence line where 60 years ago the Egyptian coin was found near Cairns’]
* Two blurry shots of the coin against a white background shot on an outside bench.Ptolemy IV coin found by Andy Henderson – obverse
Although the images are not clear it is immediately clear that the coin that Gilmore showed to Terry is the one later also depicted by Gilroy – with a distinctive split across one margin. This split is clearly visible on the photos. There is no sign of the other coin that illustrated Terry’s articles [Terry 1965, 1967; Megaw 1967], which is in much better condition, but displays mould marks indicating that it is a forgery.
How do we explain this? Terry must have been aware of the difference between the two coins – one is physically damaged, the other superficially complete. Terry was not a victim of a late printing substitution – the image of the good coin was often re-used. A few possibilities present themselves. All have to accommodate the fact that both Terry and Gilroy were shown the damaged coin and were able to photograph it.
Theory 1 – Terry’s own photo of the coin was poor quality. To publish something useful perhaps the editor of Walkabout substituted the close-up image of another Ptolemy IV coin. As the story was repeated and the image re-used Terry either did not object or accepted that the image was relevant to the thrust of his story.
Theory 2 – Terry deliberately substituted a good condition Ptolemy IV coin for the damaged coin. His intention could have been to simply have a good illustration or to be a deliberate deception. He was unaware that the substituted coin was an obvious fake.
Theory 3 – Gilmore substituted the coin at some time following Terry’s visit. Terry somehow accepted the photographs of the good condition coin in good faith and was not aware of the substitution.
None of these theories sounds particularly convincing. There is no sense that Terry was willing to risk his reputation by participating in a deliberate fraud or allowing misidentification to take place.
The issue remains that Gilroy’s coin is actually the same as the one seen by Terry in 1963, but the Ptolemy IV coin illustrating Terry’s articles is a different coin altogether and a definite fake. No clear statements can be made about the coin found in 1963, due to the quality of the photos. Doubt still remains as a result of the considerable gap in time between when Henderson says he found the coin and passing it on to Gilmore’s son.
Megaw, Vincent 1967
‘Archaeology, art, and Aborigines: a survey of historical sources and later Australian prehistory’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 53, pp. 272-294.
Terry, M. 1965
‘Did Ptolemy know of Australia?’, Walkabout, August 1965, pp. 30-31.
Terry, M. 1967
‘Australia’s unwritten history’, Walkabout, August 1967, pp. 19-23.
National Library of Australia
MS 611 – Papers of Michael Terry
Box 21 – Photos of Cairns and Rockhampton Nov-Dec 1963
The two photographs are from the National Library of Australia MS 611 – Papers of Michael Terry. They are included here consistent with the fair use provisions of Commonwealth copyright legislation for research.