600-Year-Old Chinese Coin Found In Kenya

600-year-old coin

A 600-year-old coin has been found on the Kenyan island of Manda.

The coin, which was discovered by a group of scientists from The Field Museum of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago, is called a “yongle tongbao.” The Chinese coin is made of copper and silver and has a square hole through the center. It was issued by Emperor Yongle during the Ming Dynasty sometime between 1403 and 1425 AD.

According to a press release from The Field Museum, the discovery shows that China and East Africa were trading decades before European explorers started sailing around the world.

Researchers believe that the coin may have been carried by Admiral Zheng He who was sent by Yongle to explore lands across the Indian Ocean.

Dr. Kusimba, Curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum, said: “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 … 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.”

China may have been leader during the Age of Discovery if it wasn’t for Yongle’s death as the Emperors after Yongle banned foreign expeditions.


The 600-year-old coin was found on the island of Manda off the northern coast of Kenya. The island was home to an advanced society from 200 AD to 1430 AD before it was abandoned.

Kusimba said: “We hope this and future expeditions to Manda will play a crucial role in showing how market-based exchange and urban-centered political economies arise and how they can be studied through biological, linguistic, and historical methodologies.”