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Ancient coin proves that China was trading with East Africa long before Europeans arrived

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A rare, 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda has virtually rewritten the history books on international trading. The coin, which has a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt, proves trade existed between China and eastern Africa decades before European explorers.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Emperor Yongle of China who reigned from 1403-1425 during the Ming Dynasty is listed on the coin. Scientists say the coin is made of copper and silver and has a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt.

The island of Manda, off the northern coast of Kenya was home to an advanced civilization from about 200 A.D. to 1430 A.D., when it was abandoned and never inhabited again. Trade was an important part of everyday life on Manda and this coin may show trade's importance on the island dates far earlier than was previously believed.

Scientists from Kenya, Pennsylvania and Ohio also participated in the expedition, which uncovered human remains and other artifacts predating the coin.

Emperor Yongle, who began building 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.

"Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China," Dr. Kusimba, Curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum says.

"It's wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya," he added. "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."

This agreement ended 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.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the region of current-day Kenya, Vasco da Gama having visited Mombasa in 1498.

Modern European exploration of Kenya wasn't initiated until 1844 when two German missionaries, Johan Ludwig Krapf and Joahnnes Rebmann ventured into the interior from Mombasa in an attempt to introduce Christianity.

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