C18 Chinese coin found in Arnhem land

One of the themes of this blog has been pre-european contacts between the Aboriginal populations of Australia and those of neighbouring parts of SE Asia. That’s clumsily expressed, essentially we mean contacts other than those documented contacts by european colonists and explorers from the early seventeenth century .

It’s clear that those are considerably more complex and extensive than originally thought.

Today’s news brings the discovery of a Qing period coin in Arnhem land – given what we already know, it’s not surprising but serves to confirm that there was commercial activity in the area – either by Chinese traders, or perhaps more likely Makassan traders as we know that Chinese coins circulated in what is now Indonesia as a local currency.

As an aside, when I was recently in Cooktown, so named as that is where James Cook beached his boat for repairs after a close encounter with the Barrier Reef, I went to the Cooktown museum, and in one of the exhibits is a quote from Joseph Banks about how ‘there was nothing but a few shanties, perhaps used by Indians for shellfish preparation.’

There is of course the question as to what exactly he meant by Indians – did he mean the local Aborigines or did he mean people from what he would have called the East Indies and we would call Indonesia? 

This is not quite so far fetched as it sounds – Alfred Russell Wallace gives a description of similar temporary fisherman’s camps he visited  on the coast of Papua when bug collecting in the 1850’s …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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1 Response to C18 Chinese coin found in Arnhem land

  1. Pingback: African Iron age | stuff 'n other stuff

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