by Barbara Barkhausen
May 19, 2013
FIVE copper coins and a nearly 70-year-old map with an "X" might lead to a discovery that could rewrite Australia's history.
Australian scientist Ian McIntosh, currently Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University in the US, plans an expedition in July that has stirred up the archaeological community.
The scientist wants to revisit the location where five coins were found in the Northern Territory in 1944 that have proven to be 1000 years old, opening up the possibility that seafarers from distant countries might have landed in Australia much earlier than what is currently believed.
Australian soldier Maurie Isenberg was stationed on one of the Wessel Islands. While sitting in the sand with his fishing-rod, he discovered a handful of coins in the sand. He didn't have a clue where they could come from but pocketed them anyway and later placed them in a tin. In 1979 he decided to send the coins to a museum to get them identified.
The coins proved to be 1000 years old.
McIntosh and his team of Australian and American historians, archaeologists, geomorphologists and Aboriginal rangers say that the five coins date back to the 900s to 1300s.
They are African coins from the former Kilwa sultanate, now a World Heritage ruin on an island off Tanzania. Kilwa once was a flourishing trade port with links to India in the 13th to 16th century. The trade with gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian stone ware, Persian ceramics and Chinese porcelain made the city one of the most influential towns in East Africa at the time.
The copper coins were the first coins ever produced in sub-Saharan Africa and according to McIntosh have only twice been found outside Africa: once in Oman and Isenberg's find in 1944.
Archaeologists have long suspected that there may have been early maritime trading routes that linked East Africa, Arabia, India and the Spice Islands even 1,000 years ago. Or the coins could've washed ashore after a shipwreck.
(excerpted and summarized)