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Ancient Chinese coin discovered on Kenyan island

(Courtesy: John Weinstein/The Field Museum)

Researchers have found an ancient Chinese coin on an island off the cost of Kenya, providing further evidence of Chinese exploration and trade that existed decades before Europeans launched their own Age of Discovery.

The team, led by researchers at Chicago's Field Museum and the University of Illinois, discovered the 600-year old coin on the Kenyan island of Manda. It's made of copper and silver and has a square hole punched in the middle.

Most importantly, the coin is inscribed with the name of Emperor Yongle, a Ming dynasty emperor who ruled from 1403 to 1425 AD. 

The Field Museum relates how Emperor Yongle sent Admiral Zheng He to explore the continents that surround the Indian Ocean.

"Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China," Chapurukha Kusimba, curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum, said in a statement. "It’s wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya."

Chinese rulers later put an end to such seafaring by banning foreign exploration. Expeditions by European admirals would spark centuries of exploration and colonial rule that redrew the world map and triggered conflicts that still persist to this day.

Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her on Twitter at @katecallen.




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