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600-Year-Old Coin Found on Kenyan Island

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A team of archaeologists has found a 600-year-old Chinese coin that was buried on the Kenyan island of Manda. Researchers say the find proves China and Africa were trading before European countries began their expansion across the globe.

“This finding is significant,” said Chapurukha Kusimba, co-leader of the expedition and curator of African anthropology at The Field Museum. “We know Africa has always been connected to the rest of the world, but this coin opens a discussion about the relationship between China and Indian Ocean nations.”

The coin itself is made of copper and silver, and has a square hole in the middle. Researchers say the coin is called a “Yongle Tongbao,” and was issued by Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle. Emperor Yongle, who reigned from 1403 to 1425 CE, was known to have sent a man named Admiral Zheng He on a mission to explore the Indian Ocean.

“Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China,” said Kusimba. “It’s wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya.”

Researchers say that the island of Manda held an “advanced civilization” from 200 CE to 1430 CE. After that, the island was abandoned and never again inhabited. Chinese expeditions dried up in the wake of Emperor Yongle’s death.

“We hope this and future expeditions to Manda will play a crucial role in showing how market-based exchange and urban-centered political economies arise and how they can be studied through biological, linguistic, and historical methodologies,” said Kusimba.

(Image courtesy John Weinstein/The Field Museum)

600-Year-Old Coin Found on Kenyan Island
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  • ThinkLikeMike

    “Researchers say the find proves China and Africa were trading before European”

    No, it just means they found a coin there. If I took a 2,000 year old coin today and dropped it in a location near Florida and it was found tomorrow or sometime later, does that mean there was trade here before Columbus?

    • jim s

      actually NO….because if u dropped a coin in Florida, chances are it would have a date on it greater than 1492…..u would have to get a coin from 1480s for people to think that!!

      • jim s

        what i mean is that i dont think america has coins that old…..but i could be wrong!!

  • Donna Kriss

    Exactly what I was thinking THINKLIKEMIKE…it does not “PROVE” anything…just as easily could have been washed up on shore etc. Sort of like building an entire Dinasaur from one toe bone or something.

  • Dave

    Giant chinese treasure ships travelled the world in the 15th century

    From 1403 to 1405 Shipyards up and down the coast of china were busy making ‘bao chuan’ or treasure ships, they were reportedly up to 50 metres wide and 120 metres long and traveled in fleets of up to 300 ships. In 1962 they discovered a rudder post at the site of a ming shipyard and it was more than 11 metres long. So yes for a short time in history the chinese did travel thousands of kilometres trading with many countries including East africa, Arabian peninsula, India, Java, Siam Bengal, Burma etc etc
    Btw The Chinese were using the compass 800 years before europeans as well as dry docks, balanced rudders and watertight bulwark compartments. In case your interested Im english

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