A 'Kangaroo' In A 400-Year-Old European Manuscript Raises Questions About Australia's Discovery

Monk doodles: is this a kangaroo in a 16th century Portuguese manuscript?

A small red animal illustrating an 16th Century Portuguese liturgical manuscript that once belonged to a nun has historians once again speculating that Australia was discovered by Europeans earlier than the current wisdom.

The Age reports on the discovery of the drawing of a kangaroo inside a letter D. The document, now in the hands of Les Enluminures Gallery in New York, and valued at $US15,000 ($16,600), dated from between 1580 and 1620.

Historians currently record the Dutch ship Duyfken in 1606 as Europe’s first contact with Australian soil.

Les Enluminures researcher Laura Light told The Age that Portugal was extremely secretive about its trade routes during this period, which may explain why there are not records of visits to Australia, while the paper cites historian Peter Trickett as a long-time advocate of the Portuguese mapping Australia nearly a century before the Dutch.

The Age quotes National Library of Australia curator of maps Martin Woods as saying the image wasn’t compelling enough to proof alter Australia’s history books.

“The likeness of the animal to a kangaroo or wallaby is clear enough, but then it could be another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species, some of which stand on their hind legs to feed off high branches,” Dr Woods said.

The illustrated manuscript also features two male figures in tribal dress who could be Aboriginal or from PNG.

Read the full story here.

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