|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Wednesday, May 23, 2018
|Puzzle over 900-year-old African coins found in Australia reveals Aboriginal rock art|
An ancient Kilwa coin from Africa, believed to date from about 1100, from the collection of Sydney's Powerhouse Museum. Solving the mystery of how 900-year-old African coins ended up in remote Australia could not only recast the history of foreign contact Down Under, but shed light on Aboriginal rock art. AFP PHOTO / SUE STAFFORD.
SYDNEY (AFP).- Solving the mystery of how 900-year-old African coins ended up in remote Australia could not only recast the history of foreign contact Down Under, but shed light on Aboriginal rock art.
How the ancient Kilwa coins, believed to date from about 1100, came to be discovered on the Wessels Islands off the Northern Territory in 1944 has long posed questions about foreign visits to far off Australian shores.
Australian Ian McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University in the United States, said rock art found on the islands -- which includes one image which appears to show a type of European sailing vessel -- could hold some clues.
"A big part of the next stage will be documenting, dating and interpreting (the art), together with indigenous peoples," McIntosh told AFP from his home in Indiana.
The Kilwa coins were discovered lying in the sand by Royal Australian Air Force radar operator Maurie Isenberg during World War II when he was stationed on the island as the Pacific conflict raged.
He found nine coins in all, five African copper pieces and four Dutch coins of European origin which are not nearly as old.
Isenberg initially tried to sell the coins but was unsuccessful. He put them away for decades and it wasn't until 1979 that he sent them to a museum for identification, along with a map showing where he had found them.
McIntosh said there were several theories on the coins, including that they were washed ashore after a shipwreck.
European sailors are known to have sailed the coast of Australia in the 1600s, but it wasn't until captain James Cook landed in Sydney's Botany Bay in 1770 that the British laid claim to the country.
The coins -- believed to have originated in the medieval sultanate of Kilwa, an area which is now in Tanzania -- have led to speculation that parts of northern Australia were visited by other mariners from as far away as the Middle East and Africa.
As McIntosh wrote in a recent paper for the journal "Australian Folklore", in terms of the chain of events in the discovery, "the argument for the involvement of Kilwa traders and also the Portuguese is quite compelling".
He notes the sea route from Kilwa in east Africa to Oman and then onto India, Malaysia and Australia's close neighbour Indonesia was well established by the 1500s and probably for many hundreds of years before that.
McIntosh said a number of his team felt the coins had simply been washed ashore but admitted "we're still toying with a whole bunch of ideas here".
The academic says one explanation could be that a known Indonesian, a shipwreck survivor who lived his life on the Wessels Islands, could have brought the coins to the area. The coins, he speculates, may have represented this man's "worldly wealth".
McIntosh said an expedition he led in July to the site where the coins were discovered, which involved an intensive search in the harsh terrain, had not uncovered any further coins.
"Over the past couple of years we've developed a whole series of hypotheses to explain how those coins might have got from East Africa to northern Australia," he said.
"The whole point of this initial site survey was to try and get enough evidence to push us in particular directions."
What the researchers did uncover was the Aboriginal rock art and some potential evidence of shipwrecks -- a not unlikely proposition given the dangerous reefs off the islands -- in the form of a six-foot piece of timber from a boat.
McIntosh said the scientists would work with indigenous people to look at the art and see whether it matches any known ship types, adding that there were multiple stories of interaction in the past with "different people -- black and white from somewhere else, not Aboriginal".
For now the mystery remains.
"These coins probably remained in circulation for a couple of hundred years but only in the vicinity of East Africa, beyond that they didn't have value," McIntosh said, adding that other coins of this type had only been found in Zimbabwe and Oman.
"Nowhere else in the world have they been found, except for northern Australia," said McIntosh. "Very unusual. That's had everybody puzzled."
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
August 27, 2013
Puzzle over 900-year-old African coins found in Australia reveals Aboriginal rock art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to unveil recently acquired Edward Hopper painting
A premiere auction of fine art music photography from Morrison Hotel Gallery Collection at Antiquorum
Christie's announces three sales of Chinese works of art to highlight Asian Art Week in New York
William Travilla costume exhibition on view at The Newbridge Museum of Style Icons
Drawings by Dalí, Léger, Miró, and Picasso in Swann Galleries' Auction of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings
First jewelry auction of the autumn auction season announced at Sotheby's New York
'Asleep in the Cyclone' art immersion experience at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville
Fine Line Media to release Herb & Dorothy 50x50: A film by Megumi Sasaki
Exhibition of new large format nudes and landscape works by Blaise Reutersward opens at Camera Work
Morphy's Doll Auction features prized antique French bisques, German characters and 20th-century favorites
New website features original photos/videos & voice recordings of Martin Luther King speech
CIMAM, International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art announces board members
21 venues, 6 days, 1 ticket: Berlin Art Week presents an even more comprehensive programme
Asian Contemporary Art Week returns to the Bay Area September 19-26, 2013
Nature Theater of Oklahoma comes to Times Square's digital screens for September's Midnight Moment
Private collection of 1950s to present day Japanese motorcycles to headline Bonhams Autumn Stafford Sale
New book accompanies Basil Alkazzi's exhibition opening at The Bradbury Gallery
Dublin Live Art Festival 2013 to be held 25th-29th September 2013
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- New Rembrandt found after being bought at London auction
2.- Exhibition at Fotohof focuses on groups in society who are at risk of marginalisation
3.- John Brennan collection of Rock n Roll memorabilia offered at RR Auction
4.- A Bob Dylan guitar fetches $495,000 at auction
5.- Exhibition in San Francisco focuses on the latter half of René Magritte's career
6.- 'Mad' king Ludwig II of Bavaria lost gift to composer Richard Wagner gets rare show
7.- New Royal Academy of Arts opens in celebration of its 250th anniversary
8.- Researchers uncover Anne Frank's 'dirty jokes'in her diary
9.- New York art sales near $3 billion in two weeks as uber-rich hunt trophies
10.- Berlin's Ethnological Museum returns grave-plundered artefacts to Alaska
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.