A tiny prayer book could upend the conventional wisdom about the European discovery of Australia. New York City's Les Enluminures gallery recently acquired a medieval Portuguese manuscript that appears to contain a drawing of a kangaroo curled into the letter "D." The manuscript, which provides text and music for a liturgical procession and was thought to be owned by a nun, is believed to date between 1580 and 1620, which means it just might predate a 1606 Dutch voyage to the island continent that's long been considered the first European visit, the Guardian explains.
The theory that Portugal beat the Netherlands to Australia has been floating about for years, fueled by Portugal's medieval reputation for maritime secrecy. "It is not surprising at all," a historian who has been a longtime proponent of the theory tells The Age; he believes Portugal charted the continent's coast in 1521-22. But the maps curator of Australia's National Library is skeptical. "It could be another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species," he said, pointing out that some stand on their hind legs while feeding. He adds, "There's no tail showing, which would be the, excuse the language, the major telltale." (Click to read about a manuscript that adds to America's history.)