AFP

SYDNEY

An antiquated cannon found on an Australian beach has raised questions about when the first Europeans landed, after new analysis Friday traced the lead it is made from to an old Spanish mine.

The 2010 discovery of the cannon by a schoolboy at Dundee Beach in the Northern Territory - with its 1500s Portuguese design - sparked speculation that Europeans arrived in Australia before the Dutch in the early 1600s and British explorer James Cook in 1770.

Early analysis showed that sand stuck inside the cannon - described as a swivel gun - was dated to between 200 to 300 years old, suggesting it had lain undisturbed for centuries. Now new analysis of the lead used to make the weapon has found it closely matches lead from a particular mine in Andalusia in southern Spain, University of Melbourne researcher Matthew Cupper said. ‘Certainly it is at least 100 years old and probably somewhat older,’ Cupper said, adding that additional information about when the mine first opened would shed more light on the weapon’s age. ‘The results definitely support the hypothesis that the gun is of European origin,’ said Mike Owen, a heritage consultant and director of the Darwin-based historical group Past Masters.