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Field Museum, UIC anthropologists find ancient coin
Anthropologists from the Field Museum and the University of Illinois at Chicago recently led an expedition that unearthed a rare 600-year-old coin on an island off of Kenya that proves China traded with African countries before European explorers set sail.
The coin, called “Yongle Tongbao,” is silver and copper. The hole in the center was to keep it on a belt. Issuing the coin was the Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Yongle, who ruled from 1403-1425AD and helped construct Beijing’s Forbidden City.
The coin is currently off display at the Field, where Chapurukha M. Kusimba, curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum, is studying to make sure it is not a counterfeit.
“It is exciting,” Kusimba said. “But whether it turns out to be fake it is still extremely exciting. It speaks to the competition going on between merchants, the kind of competition that is still visible today.”
Chinese exploration and trading stopped after Yongle’s death, opening up the way for European explorers, according to information from the Field Museum. The coin was found on Manda, which was home to a sophisticated ancient colony between 200AD to 1430AD. The Manda excavation happened between Dec. 10, 2012 and Feb. 10, 2013.
“Chinese currency in East Africa is very, very rare,” Kusimba said.
Also part of the excavation was Sloan R. Williams, a UIC anthropology professor.