How would you feel when you are walking on the beach and suddenly stumble upon a green piece of metal that would prove to be a centuries-old artifact? We would be quite happy about it, almost as excited as a kid. And talking about kids, an 11-year-old boy actually found a 500-year-old gun that would make scientists eager to come and study it.
Why so much fuss over an old gun? Well, it seems that this gun found on an Australian beach could be the item that will rewrite the history of the land!
20. DUNDEE BEACH
Christopher Doukas was taking a stroll on the Dundee Beach, which is two hours away from Darwin, his hometown. He would soon make a great discovery, all thanks to the exceptionally low tide in January 2010, when he could walk further on the muddy shore…
The boy had no idea that he would spot something in that mud.
As soon as Christopher and his father saw an item poking out of the muddy sand, they began digging. They had no idea how old this metal item was, and not even what it was made of. But they went home and started an investigation. Here’s what Christopher said to the media once he got famous for his discovery…
18. IT WAS OLD!
“As soon as we got it back into Darwin my dad got an angle grinder and nicked a little bit of it. We saw it was bronze, so we knew it was old,” said the boy.
They began looking on the internet and saw that the gun was strikingly similar to Portuguese swivel guns, which were used on ships as anti-personnel weapons. How old were these types of guns?
17. WAS IT 500 YEARS OLD?
These weapons were used in the 16th century, so was this gun 500 years old? Christopher’s mother, Barbara, notified the staff at the Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory about the find. She sent photos of the item and got an exciting answer! The experts wanted to see it!
16. BRINGING IT FOR EXAMINATION
According to a museum spokesperson, they knew about the discovery before being notified, but they waited for the item to be brought by the family or sold to them so that they can begin the examination.
The gun could change the history and suggests that Europeans arrived in Australia earlier than believed. Was it true? Here are the experts’ opinions at #9.
15. PORTUGUESE EXPLORERS
From 1515 until 1975, Portugal occupied Timor, but it’s still being debated whether they actually made it to Australia, which is only 700 km away. Did the Portuguese made it to Australia earlier or not?
The experts began to analyze the sediments inside the gun barrel…
14. FINDING THE AGE OF THE GUN
Matt Cupper from the University of Melbourne has been trying to find the age of the gun as he removed sediment from inside the gun barrel. There is also an optical method for finding the age.
According to local historian Peter Forrest, Portuguese explorers were highly unlikely to have reached Australia in the 1500s.
13. MAPS FROM FRANCE
It’s a controversial theory that Portuguese explorers found some part of Australia in the 1500s, but there are early maps from France in the 1500s that show a bit of Northern Australia – which could mean the Portuguese found it…
Was this swivel gun from that period?
12. DEMONSTRATING THE LOCATION AND MORE FACTS
If this is really a swivel gun from that time, it would mean the history must be revisited. But there were many missing pieces that had to be found. Was this weapon really connected to that time, or was it left there by antique dealers in the 1800s? Here’s what Forrest said…
11. NO EVIDENCE
According to Forrest, there is no evidence that shows Portuguese making contact with Northern Australia in the 1500s, adding it “is jumping to a very premature conclusion to link that object with a Portuguese presence in the Top End of the Territory of any great antiquity.”
Who got there first?
10. WILLEM JANSZOON
Australian historians know that the first European explorer to have reached Australia was the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon, on board of the vessel called Duyfken in 1606.
But this gun still had to be dated, so Australian scientist Tim Stone, a geomorphologist and member of the Past Masters, was going to uncover this historical mystery.
9. A SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL ARTEFACT
“The cannon is one of the most significant historical artifacts ever found in northern Australia,” said Stone. The Past Masters analyzed the item and realized that the gun might not be older than 250 years when Macassan or other Indonesian sailors might have lost it.
8. INDONESIAN VESSELS
The gun might be from 1760, at the start of the Macassan trepang (sea cucumber) trade. There could have been an Indonesian vessel that was blown off course and got on Australian shores, and this is how the gun could have been lost…
7. THE PAST MASTERS
Archaeologist Mike Hermes is holding the swivel gun found by Christopher at Dundee Beach, exploring the shore where the gun was found. The Past Masters are collaborating with the boy, the NT Museum, and different Universities from Australia and abroad to learn more about the sediment inside the barrel…
6. HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLD
“We are also making informed guesses on the age of the gun. It could range anywhere between 150 and 400 years,” wrote the team at the Past Masters in their article on the official site.
According to Matt Cupper’s analysis of the sediment, he found out that the gun has been on the seabed for about 250 years!
5. THE SOURCE OF THE BRONZE
The team is also analyzing the metal to find out the source of the bronze that was used for the gun, explained Ian McIntosh, who is the adjunct professor of anthropology at Indiana University (US):
“With the help of these tests the Past Masters hope to learn more about the exact age and origin of the cannon.”
4. EUROPEAN ORIGIN
In an interview with the media, the heritage group Past Masters also stated that the gun is likely to be of European origin and that it “shouldn’t be discounted just because it is obvious!” Here’s what another member of the group said about the gun…
3. THE SMOKING GUN
Mike Owens stated in an interview with The Times that “this is truly the smoking gun of the Portuguese discovery of northern Australia.”
As for Christopher’s family, they said they want to keep the gun in the country and not sell it overseas.
2. AT THE MUSEUM
The gun was displayed on the main ground floor at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT. Christopher said that when he looked up how much the gun is worth, he found out that a similar item was sold in Britain for almost $12,000. How much is this one worth?
1. SELLING TO THE MUSEUM
Christopher decided to sell the gun to a museum. His mother said that their gun was valued at $6,000. It’s so great that a simple stroll on the beach turned into a long debate on whether the artifact would change the history or not!