News National First relic of European contact returns to Australia

First relic of European contact returns to Australia

400-year-old pewter dish
The 400-year-old pewter dish was taken back to the Netherlands in the 1600s Photo ABC
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A pewter dish believed to be the nation’s oldest known artefact of early European contact is headed back to Australia.

The dish was placed at what is now Shark Bay on Western Australia’s coast, about 900 kilometres north of Perth, 400 years ago by Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog when he landed at Cape Inscription.

An inscription on the plate provides details of Hartog’s journey.

In 1697, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh replaced Hartog’s dish with another of his own, also containing inscriptions.

The Hartog dish was returned to the Netherlands and is now held by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, while the Vlamingh dish is held by the WA Museum, and is displayed at the Shipwreck Galleries in Fremantle.

The return of the Hartog dish will allow the museum to display both dishes together for the first time since Australia’s bicentenary in 1988.

“This will probably be the last time the two plates are able to be reunited, because they both are in a very fragile condition and they need to be looked after very carefully,” Arts Minister John Day said.

Corioli Souter
Maritime archeology curator Corioli Souter says the exhibition will include items never before displayed in Australia.

The dishes will form part of the Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean World exhibition, which will run from the end of October to April next year.

Maritime archeology curator Corioli Souter said the exhibition would draw together a wide range of items from different collections.

“It is the first time we will have all of this material together,” she said.

“Much of it has never been on display in Australia so it’s an opportunity to see Dutch heritage in its proper context.”

The exhibition has been organised with support from the British Museum and Rijksmuseum.


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