Amazing Discovery that Could Rewrite Australian History
According to the history books, the first person to discover Australia was Dutchman, Willem Janszoon, who landed in north Queensland in 1606 – more than 160 years before Captain Cook arrived and claimed the continent for Britain. However, the discovery of copper coins on Wessel Island, which originate from the former sultanate of Kilwa near Tanzania, and are dated as far back as the 900s, has the potential to rewrite Australian history.
In 1944, a solider was patrolling the strategically important Wessel Islands off the north coast of Australia when he stumbled upon five coins buried in the sand. Maurie Isenberg, who was manning a radar station on the uninhabited islands, stored the coins in a tin, and on coming across them again in 1979, sent them to a museum.
The coins had been gathering dust for more than two decades until Australian anthropologist, Ian McIntosh, came across them and immediately realised the importance of their discovery. The finding suggests that country may have been visited by explorers from East Africa or the Middle East, long before the Dutchman stepped foot on Australian soil in the 17 th Century.
The copper coins originating in Kilwa have only ever been found one other time outside the continent – in Oman in the early 20 th century. Now a World Heritage ruin, Kilwa was once a busy trade port and in the 13th to 16th centuries had links to India. Its trade in gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, stoneware, ceramics and porcelain made it one of the most influential towns in East Africa.
In July of this year, Dr McIntosh will lead a team to the Wessels comprising Australian and American historians, archaeologists, geomorphologists (scientists who study the shaping of landforms), as well as Aboriginal rangers, armed with a map on which Isenberg marked the spot where he found the coins. If further archaeological objects are found in the area it will provide further evidence that Australia was discovered much earlier than believed.