Species composition and origin of tropical cowries used in a round game in Zeeland, the Netherlands In the 17th and 18th centuries ships from the United Dutch East India Company (VOC), coming from Ceylon, brought home loads of tropical money cowries, to be sold to the Dutch West India Company. The shells were used as currency in the slave trade in West Africa. The occurrence of Cypraea moneta in the quantity needed for centuries of trade is restricted to the Maldives, especially its southern atolls. These cowries were preferred to those from Zanzibar or Manilla because of their lesser weight. Several VOC ships were wrecked at the coast of Holland. On the beaches of its southwestern province Zeeland these cowries are still to be found. Until 1955 only C. annulus and C. moneta were recorded. Since then, five other species have been found. In 1991 the author met a farmer’s family, playing a round game in which some 2,000 tropical cowries are used, totalling 15 species. The family has owned these shells for well over 100 years. How these shells were acquired is unknown. Many of them are muddy inside; had they been obtained from beach findings, sand and surf would have cleaned them thoroughly. The VOC archives contain accounts of public sales of cowries, like in 1739. Perhaps this is the source of the above specimens.

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Nederlandse Malacologische Vereniging

J.A. Buijse. (1993). Soortsamenstelling en herkomst van tropische kauri’s in gebruik bij een oud Zeeuws gezelschapsspel. Basteria, 57(4/6), 115–124.