Puzzle over African coins reveals Aboriginal rock art

SYDNEY, August 22, 2013 (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. 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.” How the ancient Kilwa coins, believed to date from about 1100, came t

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