28 Jun 2018

An image of what looks like an Australian cockatoo has led to the claim that the Islamic world was trading along the northern coast of the southern land mass in the medieval period. This is not impossible of course as Islam became embedded as the religion of the larger Indonesian islands at around this moment in time. However, it is also known that the Chinese were sailing such waters - umtil the 14th century (when it chose to isolate itself from the outside world). This had the effect of leaving SE Asia as the playground of the Islamic merchants - but how did a cockatoo turn up in Sicily from the intermediary of the sultan of Egypt? (in the 13th century). The Chinese may still be involved at that date but researchers have suggested the Indonesians themselves were probably sailing to Australia  and trading with indigenous Aborigines - using small boats and travelling around the various islands. They then sold them on in places such as Java (where Chinese, Arab and Persian merchants gathered). The 13th century manuscript is now in the Vatican library - and a cockatoo is also depicted on 1496 altar piece. See