600-Year-Old Coin Found on Kenyan Island by Expedition Team

A team of explorers uncovered a rare 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda that has made historians rethink international trade and migrating civilizations dating back centuries.

Researchers say the coin, which is made out of copper, shows that ancient trade was conducted between eastern Africa and China long before European settlers and explorers set foot on the continent.

Researchers revealed that after detailed analysis of the coin, they found it had originated in China during the reign of Emperor Yongle, who ruled from 1403-1425 during the Ming Dynasty. Scientists said they were able to determine that the coin came from this time period because his name was engraved on the coin.

The coin was found after a team of explorers conducted a joint expedition which was led by Chapurukha Kusimba of The Field Museum and Sloan Williams of the University of Illinois at Chicago. They were joined by other researchers from Kenya, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Researchers also found other artifacts that dated to the period, as well as skeletal remains.

Emperor Yongle is known for beginning construction of China's Forbidden City and was thought to be a leading figure in charge of fostering trade agreements with countries around the Indian Ocean and was closely tied to Zheng He, a famous Chinese explorer.

"Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China … it's wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya," Kusimba told the Associated Press.

"This finding is significant. We know Africa has always been connected to the rest of the world, but this coin opens a discussion about the relationship between China and Indian Ocean nations," he added.

He added the copper coin has a hole in the center of it in order so that it could be worn on a belt or fasten to a string of some sort to ensure the coin was not lost during travel.