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The 2,200-year-old coin will go on display at the Cairns Museum later this year.

WW1 Souvenir? Or Proof Ancient Egyptians Sailed to Australia?

While the legacy of an ancient Egyptian coin discovered in a rainforest in far north Queensland, Australia baffles experts, it equally excites a growing faction of people who believe that ancient Egyptians visited Australia in prehistory.

Egyptian Coin Dug Up in Australia

According to a recent ABC News feature, the bronze coin was minted in Egypt between 221 and 204BC in the reign of Ptolemy IV and was discovered in 1912 when gold miner Andrew Henderson moved from Victoria for a warmer climate and “got a block of land in the scrub”, becoming a settler. Describing events leading up to Henderson’s bizarre archaeological discovery, far north Queensland historian Dave Phoenix said, “when he (Henderson) was digging a hole for a fence post his shovel hit something metallic…he reached into the hole and pulled out this coin.”

Phoenix told reporters that the coin had gathered dust in a drawer in Henderson’s house until "he became an old man and gave the coin to his neighbor’s 10-year-old son, a guy called Hank Gilmore.” Earlier this year Mr Gilmore walked into the Cairns Museum and told staff his incredible story and gave them the coin, inadvertently “sparking an investigation into how it found its way across the world,” reported ABC News.

Placing the Out-of-Place Coin

Dr Andrew Connor is a lecturer in ancient history from Monash University and told reporters that the coin had maybe “dropped out of a miner's pack as they walked along the Aboriginal trail on the way to the Hodgkinson gold fields west of Cairns.” Supporting this concept, he added "We know conclusively that this is the sort of thing that people would bring with them when they emigrated to Australia in the 19th Century," Dr Connor said.

On the other hand, a tsunami of pseudo archaeology has this coin as a smoking gun in the argument that ancient Egyptians sailed to Australia over 2000 years ago. Just Google it! Historian Dave Phoenix didn’t help the skeptics reasoning in the ABC News article in saying he “has pondered several possibilities, including theories from Egyptologists who believe Australia was colonized, or at least visited, by Egyptian sailors prior to European settlement.”

The Barque Chevert moored in Elizabeth Bay, 1875, prior to the departure of the New Guinea Expedition. Anonymous, ‘The New Guinea Expedition’, Australasian Sketcher June 12, 1875, 38 & 44. (Public Domain)

The Barque Chevert moored in Elizabeth Bay, 1875, prior to the departure of the New Guinea Expedition. Anonymous, ‘The New Guinea Expedition’, Australasian Sketcher June 12, 1875, 38 & 44. ( Public Domain )

Egyptians in Australia

Believers in ancient Egyptian visitation theories claim that in 1875 the infamous Chevert expedition retrieved an Egyptian mummy from Darnley Island and that the Tjuringa sacred stones of the Kimberley region include a sun symbol reflecting that of the Egyptian solar deity Aten. Today, Rex Gilroy is an Australian self-published author and the country’s leading researcher of unexplained phenomena. In his 2000 book Pyramids In The Pacific: The Unwritten History Of Australia. Katoomba , Gilroy claimed ancient Phoenicians established a matrix of colonies in Queensland and the so-called Gympie Pyramid is part of a vast network of pyramids across the Pacific Asia Region belonging to the mythical continent of Lemuria.

Tjuringa Sacred Stone with possible Aten sun symbol. Found in Australia, 1900. (Public Domain)

Tjuringa Sacred Stone with possible Aten sun symbol. Found in Australia, 1900. ( Public Domain )

According to a 2012 ABC News article academics in Australia finally spoke up in 2012 after a group of 300 carved symbols at a site called Kariong were persistently being presented as an “early form of Egyptian writing.” Professor Boyo Ockinga from Macquarie University's Ancient History Department first saw these inscriptions 20 years prior and had explained clearly why these glyphs were not Egyptian hieroglyphics. Among his arguments he showed that the way the stones were cut did not resemble the way ancient Egyptian’s cut rock and Egyptian symbols used thousands of years apart had been grouped together.

Symbols at Kariong some claim to be early form Egyptian writing. (Courtesy of Tripadvisor)

Symbols at Kariong some claim to be early form Egyptian writing. (Courtesy of Tripadvisor)

Creative Servicemen?

Now. Returning to the discovery of the Egyptian coin. In 2012 Professor Boyo Ockinga concluded that the engravings were most probably made in the 1920s, while interest in Egyptology peaked after the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. In the 2012 ABC News article, Professor Ockinga concluded that “the fake Egyptian symbols had been executed around the same time many Australian soldiers, who were stationed in Egypt, had come back from the First World War.” He then added that, "We have other instances of Australian soldiers having carved, Egyptianizing objects in the Kurringai National Park near Sydney.”

Might it be the case that someone from the far north of Queensland had ventured to north Africa to fight in the first world war and had maybe dug up this coin while posted at Cairo? Might he have buried it upon his return home to mark the end of his ordeal? Australian researchers would be well served to research the movements of WW1 military personnel who came from the area in which the coin was discovered. In that shortlist, the name of the person who buried this ancient Egyptian coin in Australia might be revealed.

Top image: The 2,200-year-old coin will go on display at the Cairns Museum later this year. Source: ABC Far North : Mark Rigby

By Ashley Cowie

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