The Les Enluminures Gallery in New York recently purchased a 16th century manuscript from a rare book dealer in Portugal. The manuscript, dated between 1580 and 1620, features both text and music for a liturgical procession. The manuscript changed hand for the sum of $15,000.
When Laura Light, a researcher at the gallery, closely examined the content, she made an interesting discovery. She came across the image that looks closely resembles a kangaroo. She also found an image of two half-naked men wearing crowns of leaves.
Both images could prove that the Portuguese landed in Australia before the first recorded European landing by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606. If true, the find would rewrite Australia’s history.
Australia’s The Age newspaper wrote that “a kangaroo or wallaby in a manuscript this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travelers’ reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal.”
Not everybody is convinced. Dr. Martin Woods of the National Library of Australia stated: “it could be another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species, some of which stand up on their hind legs to feed of high branches“.
Other researchers argue that the manuscript may have been created a few years after Janszoon’s arrival in Australia, or could be the result of a 1526 Portuguese voyage to Papua.
Time (and a lot of research hours) will tell…