A recently discovered drawing of a cockatoo from the 13th century has opened up a slew of questions about European trade with Australia.
The drawing, which is 250 years old, depicts a cockatoo native to Australia.
So what was it doing in a manuscript from 13th century Sicily?
A historian at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Heather Dalton, who collaborated with the researchers for an article published in Parergon Journal, had this to say about the discovery:
I was just thrilled to bits of course. I just couldn’t believe that nobody had really talked about them, this is a high-profile document.
The main significance about it is we tend to think of our region, not just Australia, but the islands around it, as the very last things to be discovered; the European view is it’s almost this dead continent and nothing was happening until Europeans discovered it.
The fact that a cockatoo either from the northern tip of Australia, or from New Guinea or the islands around it, was traded to Cairo and on to Sicily is significant. It’s a window in on what I think was quite a vibrant trading network.