Researchers have discovered one of the oldest-known European illustrations of a bird dating back to the period ranging 1241 and 1248 which has shed new light on medieval era trade routes between Australia and the rest of the world, thus challenging the colonial perception of Australia as "a dark continent."
Heather Dalton from the University of Melbourne, who contributed to the research published in the journal Parergon, said the discovery challenged "the British view" which depicted Australia as "a dark continent."
The manuscript which includes 900 drawings of falcons, falconers, and other animals kept by the emperor includes four of the images of a white cockatoo — a gift from the Sultan of Babylon to Frederick II.
"The significant thing is that this parrot provides a window to a world of quite busy trade to Australia's north," Dalton pointed out, according to Australian news site, ABC.net.
"The discovery of these images … highlight the fact that during the medieval period, merchants plying the waters just to the north of Australia were part of a flourishing trade network that reached west to the Middle East and beyond."
Dalton also stated while many scholars were aware the Sultan had given a "white parrot" to Frederick II, few were aware there were surviving images of the bird.
The research team looked at the details, such as the shape of the crest and the coloring of the cockatoo, and concluded it was likely a female — either a triton, sulfur-crested cockatoo or yellow-crested cockatoo.
Cockatoos travel well with people, being gregarious and long-lived, making a perfect gift, Dalton said, shedding more light on the bird, ABC.net reported.
"In captivity, they can have lifespans of up to 80 years and Australian greater sulfur-crested cockatoos have been known to live up to 120 years," she said.
"The journey along trade routes would have taken years, and their chances of surviving would have been much higher than the majority of animals."