Seafarers from distant countries may landed in Australia
much earlier than is believed. Photo Getty
Five copper coins and a nearly 70-year-old map with an
''X'' could rewrite Australia's history.
Ian McIntosh, an Australian scientist and professor of
anthropology at Indiana University in the US, is planing an
expedition in July to revisit the location where five
1000-year-old coins were found in the Northern Territory in
The coins could mean seafarers from distant countries landed
in Australia much earlier than is believed.
In 1944, the Wessel Islands - an uninhabited group of islands
off Australia's north coast - had become a strategic position
to help protect the mainland.
Australian soldier Maurie Isenberg was stationed on one of
the islands to man a radar station and spent his spare time
fishing on the idyllic beaches. He discovered the handful of
coins in the sand.
In 1979, he sent the coins to a museum to get them
identified. They proved to be 1000 years old.
Still not fully realising their significance, he marked an
old map with an ''X'' where he had found them. The discovery
was apparently forgotten until a few months ago.
Professor McIntosh and his team of Australian and American
historians, archaeologists, geomorphologists and Aboriginal
rangers say 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
century to 16th century.
The copper coins were the first coins produced in Sub-Saharan
Africa and, according to Professor McIntosh, have only twice
been found outside Africa: once in Oman and Mr Isenberg's
Archaeologists have long suspected that there may have been
early maritime trading routes that linked East Africa,
Arabia, India and the Spice Islands, even 1000 years ago. Or
the coins could have washed ashore after a shipwreck.
When Mr Isenberg discovered the copper coins, he also found
four coins that originated from the Dutch East India Company
- with one dating back to 1690.
Professor McIntosh wants to answer some of these mysteries
during his planned expedition to the Wessel Islands.
He will also be looking for a secret cave Aboriginal legends
refer to. It is supposed to be close to the beach where Mr
Isenberg found the coins and is said to be filled with
doubloons and weaponry.