African Muslims Discovered Australia? - Politics | PoFo

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Were the African coins found in Australia from a wrecked Arab dhow?

Jonathan Gornall
May 29, 2013

Between 1606 and 1770, European adventurers and explorers made the land that would become Australia their own, imprinting their languages, names and cultures indelibly on the world's most remote inhabited continent.

Willem Jansz, Luis Vaz de Torres, Dirk Hartog, Abel Tasman and, of course, James Cook, all left their mark until, in 1787, the British finally despatched the First Fleet to claim and colonise Cook's New South Wales in the name of the British crown.

So much for accepted history. But what if Australia and its indigenous peoples had in fact been discovered by outsiders centuries before Cook and the others had even been born - and how different might world history have been had it been Arabs, rather than Europeans, who had settled and colonised Australia, as early as 900AD?

This is the extraordinary scenario that has been seized upon by the Australian media, based on feverish speculation surrounding impending fresh archaeological investigation of a small stash of Arabic-minted coins found 70 years ago on an island in northern Australia.

And, although the full story of how those coins came to be in northern Australia has yet to be told, the tale at which they hint speaks intriguingly of a time when it was Arabic and Persian sailors who ruled the ocean waves.

To the surprise of Australian archaeologist Ian McIntosh, professor of anthropology at Indiana University in the United States, his announcement this month of an expedition to visit the site of the find "has gone viral - it's absolutely astonishing".

"I had to call in the Indiana University head of public relations to discuss this, because it was the leading story in Australia and I'm still getting television requests," he says. "Australia is one thing - but Voice of Russia?"

Everyone loves a treasure story, of course, and the university's PR department has hinted at a cave of aboriginal legend, supposedly "close to the beach where [the coins were] found and ... said to be filled with doubloons and weaponry of an ancient era".

"I didn't write that," says Prof McIntosh. "That was a PR person at the university. But I do have a map, and it does have an X on it."

The map was drawn 70 years ago. In 1944, at the height of fears of a Japanese invasion, an Australian soldier, Maurie Isenberg, was stationed in the far north of the windswept Wessell Islands, part of Australia's Northern Territory.

Manning a radar station, he was on the lookout for Japanese aircraft, but what found instead while fishing one day on the shore of Jensen Bay on Marchinbar Island were nine coins, including five that would later turn out to have been minted by a lost Islamic civilisation from the east coast of Africa.

He drew a map to remember where he had found them, took them home and, for the next 30 years, forgot about them.

The story first surfaced in academia in 1979, when Isenberg rediscovered the coins among his possessions and had them assessed by experts. They found he had dug up four coins minted by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th century - nothing too unusual there - but that alongside them he had scooped up five copper coins from the city state of Kilwa, founded on an island south of Zanzibar, barely a kilometre off the coast of modern-day Tanzania, in about 900AD.

Only one such coin, unearthed during an excavation in Oman, had been found outside east Africa, yet the coins were fated to languish for years in a museum drawer.

During the 1990s, Prof McIntosh, who was pursuing his doctorate on the Wessel Islands, located the site where they had been found, but at the time was unable to raise funding to mount an expedition.

Read more: ... z2Uz56svPd

OK Auszzies... all out! ...but leave your beautiful women behind.

OH, but wait... how on earth can a country be "discovered" when other people were already living there for thousands of years?
Maritime trading routes controlled by the Arab traders had emerged in the 9th century to replace the Silk Road and their trading routes spanned from Mombassa in Africa to the Spice Islands in Indonesia. Kilwa was once a flourishing trade port located just below Mombassa on the map and an Arab trading ship, which was carrying the African coins issued by a former African sultanate, may have been shipwrecked off the north coast of Australia after straying away from its normal trading route. It's also known that some pre-European trade existed between the northeastern coast of Australia and Indonesia (Hiscock, 2008).

The initial use of the sea route linking the Mediterranean basin and India took place during the Roman Era. Between the 1st and 6th centuries, ships were sailing between the Red Sea and India, aided by summer monsoon winds. Goods were transshipped at the town of Berenike along the Red Sea and moved by camels inland to the Nile. From that point, river boats moved the goods to Alexandria, from which trade could be undertaken with the Roman Empire. From the 9th century, maritime routes controlled by the Arab traders emerged and gradually undermined the importance of the Silk Road. Since ships were much less constraining than caravans in terms of capacity, larger quantities of goods could be traded. The main maritime route started at Canton (Guangzhou), passed through Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and then reached Alexandria. A significant feeder went to the Spice Islands (Maluku Islands) in today's Indonesia. The diffusion of Islam was also favored through trade as many rules of ethics and commerce are embedded in the religion.
Last edited by ThirdTerm on 01 Jun 2013 21:54, edited 1 time in total.
"Discovering" a new place requires two things
1. Getting there
2. Surviving the trip back and telling others about it

The Vikings didn't make it back from Canada. The Phonecians didn't make it back from Brazil. And it would seem the Muslims didn't make it back from Australia either. So close but no cigar!
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