A Coin In The Mast Step

Author(s): Robert S Neyland

Year: 2017


Placement of coins in the mast steps of ships  has continued from the Roman 2nd century BC through the medieval, renaissance, and historic periods into the present day.  The tradition is still entrenched in modern shipbuilding and even current Navy ships have a coin placed under the mast or tallest structure on the ship. The practice of putting a coin in the mast step has had continuity in western shipbuilding for over 2,000 years, although it is possible the cultural reasons for the practice have changed.The ritual may have had religious significance to ancient Mediterranean shipbuilders and continues today as superstition, the use of a "good luck" token, or tradition, as a celebratory commemorative event.  This paper discusses some of the archaeological examples of coins discovered in the mast steps of shipwrecks, present day practices, and theories for this continuation of the practice.


Cite this Record

A Coin In The Mast Step. Robert S Neyland. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Fort Worth, TX. 2017 ( tDAR id: 435344)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 136