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Mystery of Arnhem Land's ancient African coins

An expedition to a remote Northern Territory island in search of clues for the ancient coins in July last year uncovered rare indigenous rock art that could depict the first seafarers to reach Australian shores.

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Adidas All Star Red And Black

Video: Exploring Australia's ancient trading past

18th century Chinese coin found in Arnhem Land

Australia's earliest foreign contact

"With every find we are getting closer to unravelling more of Australia's early history and solving the secrets that still surround these ancient seafarers," Ian says.

"Two Manchurian characters on one side of the coin indicate that it was minted at the Chinese Central Government's coin manufacturing factory at Baoquan in Beijing," says Professor Zhu.

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The rock art, along with the African coins, an ancient swivel gun found in the Northern Territory in 2010, and the newly D Rose 2.5

For Ian, the Chinese coin adds another piece to the puzzle that he is currently working on to establish Australia's early contact history with other nations.

is more likely that he had paid the local Aborigines for access to the Arnhem Land site and its resources with this cash," says Australian scientist Ian McIntosh, an anthropologist at Indiana University in the US and a co founder of the Past Masters. "There is also the possibility of a direct connection between north Australia and China."

Dutch coins minted in the 18th century have been found previously on Macassan sites but this is the first time a Chinese coin from the same period has been found.

Indonesia, are known to have fished in northern Australian waters for trepang from about the mid 1700s until 1907, when the Commonwealth Government stopped the trade.

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The location of the find is in the vicinity of a known Macassan trepanger (sea cucumber fishing) site. The Macassans from Sulawesi, D Rose 9.8 Shoes

"The Chinese coin discovery provides further opportunity for re writing Australian history, as it suggests that Australia was trading with the Middle Kingdom in the period before it became a British colony," he says.

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Adidas All Star Red And Black

Among whales, snakes and fish, the ancient but as yet undated art shows white men with long pants and guns, ships of different sizes with sails and riggings that were used in different periods of seafaring.

Trepang trade: Australia's early industry

Map: Wessel Islands

McIntosh is also leading the research on five 900 year old East African coins that were found on the Wessel Islands north of where the Chinese coin was found.

Coin reveals early Chinese link to Australian trade

"One of these Macassans may have lost the coin on the beach, but it Adidas Climacool Green Shoes

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The Macassan presence is still visible in the Northern Territory today, in the tamarind trees the trepangers introduced, as well as in the language and traditions of the Arnhem Land people.

THE MYSTERY OF EARLY foreign trade with Australia has gained another intriguing piece of evidence: the discovery, on a Top End beach, of a Chinese coin that may have been minted in Beijing as early as 1735.

The coin was found on a beach on Elcho Island, part of the Wessel Islands off the coast of Arnhem Land, NT, during an exploratory expedition of scientists from the Past Masters (a multidisciplinary team who explores historic mysteries), in consultation with the local traditional owners. Australian Geographic recently sponsored one of these expeditions.

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Adidas All Star Red And Black

discovered Chinese coin all point to multiple foreign contact with European, Arabian, African and Indonesian seafarers before Cook's arrival in 1770 and potentially even before 1606 when Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon became the first known European to reach Australian shores.

The newly discovered Chinese brass coin dates back to the Qing Dynasty and was made during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong (1735 1795 AD), say experts Tiequan Zhu of Sun Yat Sen, an archaeologist at the University in Guangzhou, and leading Australian numismatist Peter Lane.

Aboriginal rangers from the Marthakal Homelands Resource Centre at Elcho Island shared this valuable knowledge with the scientists during their recent expedition, pointing out still existing stones where the Macassans laid their pots while boiling the sea cucumber.

The trepang trade is Australia's first documented export industry, occurring before European settlement.

Macassans would sell the trepang harvested on the beaches of Adidas All Star Red And Black north Australia to the Chinese in Singapore. For the Chinese, trepang was a rare delicacy with aphrodisiac properties.

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