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Coin discovery shows Africa, China trade much older than believed

Last Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:48

Chicago: The recent discovery of an ancient Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda shows trade existed trade relations between East Africa and China is much older than previously believed.

The 600-year-old Chinese coin was unearthed by a joint expedition of scientists led by Chapurukha M. Kusimba of The Field Museum and Sloan R. Williams of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The island of Manda, off the northern coast of Kenya, was home to an advanced civilization from about 200AD to 1430AD, when it was abandoned and never inhabited again.

The coin, a small disk of copper and silver with a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt, is called "Yongle Tongbao" and was issued by Emperor Yongle who reigned from 1403-1425AD during the Ming Dynasty. The emperor`s name is written on the coin, making it easy to date.

Emperor Yongle, who started construction of China`s Forbidden City, was interested in political and trade missions to the lands that ring the Indian Ocean and sent Admiral Zheng He, also known as Cheng Ho, to explore those shores.

Dr. Kusimba, curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum, called it a "significant finding", adding that the coin opens a discussion about the relationship between China and Indian Ocean nations.

That relationship stopped soon after Emperor Yongle`s death when later Chinese rulers banned foreign expeditions, allowing European explorers to dominate the Age of Discovery and expand their countries` empires, Dr. Kusimba said.

Dr. Kusimba further said he hopes the recent discovery 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.


First Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:48

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