Apr 06, 2018 I Brett Tingley

Medieval Mystery as Ancient Chinese Coin Found in England

Historians in England have a rare archaeological mystery on their hands thanks to the discovery of an anomalous ancient coin which has some researchers scratching their heads in wonder. The Chinese coin from the Song Dynasty was found in the Vale Royal area of Cheshire in northern England and appears to be around 900 years old. No other Chinese coins from that era have been found in the United Kingdom, making this one a truly strange case.

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The coin's origin remains a mystery. (National Museums Liverpool)

There is currently some dispute over just how truly anomalous the discovery of the coin might be. Some historians argue that the coin could simply me an historical artifact which made its way into the hands of a private collector before it was lost or discarded. Britain’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, a website which allows members of the public to catalogue archaeological finds, writes that it is “doubtful that this is a genuine medieval find (i.e. present in the country due to trade and lost accidentally) but more likely a more recent loss from an curated collection.” Still, other historians aren’t so convinced that this coin doesn’t represent an unknown chapter in British history.

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The 14th-century fresco Triumph of the Church appears to show a Chinese or Mongolian traveler talking to an English knight.

However, University of Cambridge archaeologist Caitlin Green writes that the coin may be “evidence for a degree of contact between people from East Asia and Britain in the medieval era,” although without further evidence, it remains impossible to draw any definitive conclusions. On her blog, Green cites a number of other examples of ancient Chinese artifacts turning up in Medieval excavations throughout England, possibly suggesting that Chinese sailors or traders had more contact with the West than is currently thought.

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With a 5,000-year recorded history and much longer prehistory, who knows what unknown chapters of Chinese history have been lost to the ages?

Chinese skeletons have been found in Roman-era graves in London, while other ancient Chinese burials have been found as far west as Peru. Chinese historians have long suggested that ancient Chinese peoples were far more advanced than the rest of the world or what is currently known in history books. Will these archaeological discoveries prove them right?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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