China was trading with East Africa Before Europeans arrived?

March 26, 2013 — 1 Comment
The coin is made of copper and silver and has a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt. Scientists say it was issued by Emperor Yongle of China who reigned from 1403-1425 during the Ming Dynasty (AP Photo/Courtesy The Field Museum, John Weinstein)

The coin is made of copper and silver and has a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt. Scientists say it was issued by Emperor Yongle of China who reigned from 1403-1425 during the Ming Dynasty (AP Photo/Courtesy The Field Museum, John Weinstein)

Scientists have found a rare, 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda that rewrites the history books on international trading. Researchers say the copper 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 set sail. Scientists say it was issued by Emperor Yongle of China who reigned from 1403-1425 during the Ming Dynasty, and his name is written on the coin.

The island of Manda, off the northern coast of Kenya (marked with a red dot, below), was home to an advanced civilization from about 200AD to 1430AD, when it was abandoned and never inhabited again. Trade played an important role in the development of Manda, and this coin may show trade’s importance on the island dating back to much earlier than previously thought.

A joint expedition of scientists led by Chapurukha Kusimba of The Field Museum and Sloan Williams of the University of Illinois at Chicago found the  600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda. Scientists from Kenya, Pennsylvania and Ohio also participated in the expedition. They also found human remains and other artifacts predating the coin.

Manda in Kenya, now a popular holiday destination, was home to an advanced civilization from about 200AD to 1430AD, when it was abandoned and never inhabited again - Image by © Keith Levit/Design Pics/Corbis

Manda in Kenya, now a popular holiday destination, was home to an advanced civilization from about 200AD to 1430AD, when it was abandoned and never inhabited again – Image by © Keith Levit/Design Pics/Corbis

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. 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, the researchers say.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the region of current-day Kenya, Vasco da Gama having visited Mombasa in 1498. The coast of East Africa was a valuable foothold in the eastern trade routes, and Mombasa was a key port for ivory. 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.

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. Trade played an important role in the development of Manda, and this coin may show trade’s importance on the island dating back to much earlier than previously thought. Source: dailymail.co.uk

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One response to China was trading with East Africa Before Europeans arrived?

  1. 

    In the current Zimbabwe, evidence at various archeological sites around Great Zimbabwe (the Shona Monomatapa kingdom) suggests that, by 1400 AD, a trading network existed between the Swahili coast and India and China.

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