THE MYSTERY OF EARLY foreign trade with Australia has gained another intriguing piece of evidence: the discovery, on a Top End beach, of a Chinese coin that may have been minted in Beijing as early as 1735.
The coin was found on a beach on Elcho Island, part of the Wessel Islands off the coast of Arnhem Land, NT, during an exploratory expedition of scientists from the Past Masters (a multidisciplinary team who explores historic mysteries), in consultation with the local traditional owners. Australian Geographic recently sponsored one of these expeditions.
The location of the find is in the vicinity of a known Macassan trepanger (sea cucumber fishing) site. The Macassans from Sulawesi, Indonesia, are known to have fished in northern Australian waters for trepang from about the mid-1700s until 1907, when the Commonwealth Government stopped the trade.
Dutch coins minted in the 18th century have been found previously on Macassan sites but this is the first time a Chinese coin from the same period has been found.