Historian Mike Hermes, who discovered the copper coin, said it “could change everything” that we believe we understand about the history of global trade-sparking new discussion about who discovered the continent.
On an interview with The Guardian, Hermes said, “We’ve weighed and measured it, and it’s pretty much a dead ringer for a Kilwa coin, and if it is, well, that could alter it all.” Kilwa, an area in Africa‘s modern-day Tanzania, was an ancient medieval trading town.
Its coins had earlier been discovered on one of the Wessel Islands in Australia in 1944, but the discussion about how they got there quickly died down.
This find is significant because the earliest European contact with Australia still remains a much debated mystery.
British explorer James Cook is often famed for being the first Briton to land on the east coast of Australia in 1770 and lay claim to the continent.
Dutch sailors had already reached Australia earlier in 1606.
Historians and archaeologists, however, are still trying to find out who could have reached Australia without documenting it.
One explanation for the new coin discovery from the team of archaeologists who found it is that Portuguese traders visited Elcho Island to replenish their water supply from streams having come from raiding the city of Kilwa in 1505.
Other theories suggest that African traders from Kilwa brought the coins to Australian themselves or they could have washed ashore from a shipwreck.