Dry goods | Nick Szabo: The origin of money (Part-1): currency and collectibles


The predecessor of the currency, together with the language, helped early modern races to solve collaborative problems that other animals could not solve, including how to achieve mutual benefit, relative altruism and reduced aggression. These currency ancestors have the same specific characteristics as the illegal currency – not just symbolic objects or decorations.


When England colonized the Americas in the 17th century, it encountered a problem at the beginning – a shortage of metal money [D94] [T01] . The idea in the UK is to use the Americas to grow large quantities of tobacco, provide timber for their global navy and merchant fleets, and then switch back to the supplies necessary to keep Americas land productive. In fact, the early colonists worked both for the company and were expected to spend in the company's stores. Both investors and the British royal family hope so, instead of paying farmers metal money, allowing them to make their own supplies and leave a little bit of their own, as some farmers may suggest, um, the profit of hell.

There are other ways, and it is under the eyes of the colonists, but it took them several years to discover this – the aborigines have their own currency, but they are very different from the currency used by Europeans. American Indians have used money for thousands of years, and it turns out that these currencies are very useful for Europeans who are new to it – except those who are prejudiced with "the big man's head is real money." Worst of all, these New England natives use neither gold nor silver. They use the most suitable material found in the living environment – ​​the long-term preserved part of the prey bone. Specifically, it is a wampum made of hard shells such as venus mercenaria, which are stringed into pendants.

– Beaded necklace. During the transaction, people will count the number of beads, take them out and string them on the new necklace. Native American beading is sometimes squashed into belts or other commemorative or ceremonial meanings that indicate wealth or commitment to some treaties.

These mites can be found in the sea, but these beads are far inland. A variety of shell currencies can be found in various tribes of the American continent. The Iroquois never went to the apes habitat to do things, and the beaded treasures they collected were crowned by all tribes [D94] . Only a few tribes, such as the Narragansett, are good at making beading, but hundreds of tribes (mostly hunting-collecting tribes) use beading as a currency. The length of the beaded necklace is very different, and the number of beads is proportional to the length of the necklace. Necklaces can also always be cut or joined in series to form a length corresponding to the price of the item.

Once the colonists overcome their doubts about the source of the value of money, they also began to buy and sell beads. Apes have also become another expression of "money" in American jargon. The Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (now called "New York") borrowed a large sum of money from the English-American bank – borrowed from beading. Later, the British authorities were forced to agree, so between 1637 and 1661, beading became a legal debt service tool for New England, and the colonists also had a highly liquid trading medium, and the colonial trade flourished. [D94 ] .

But as the UK began to ship more metal money to the Americas and Europeans began to use their large-scale manufacturing technology, the shell currency was gradually declining. By 1661, the British authorities had already confiscated and agreed to pay with the kingdom's metal currency – gold and silver – and that year the shell bead was abolished as a statutory debt service for New England.

But in 1710, Beads was used as a legal debt service by North Carolina, and it has been used as a trading medium, even until the 20th century; but due to Western harvesting and manufacturing techniques, the value of beading has risen by one hundred. Times, then, because of the advent of the metal currency era, it also followed the gold and silver jewelry in the footsteps of the West, from the elaborate currency to the ornament. In the American language, the shell currency has also become a strange old word – after all, "100 shells" have become "100 dollars." "Shelling out" became a metal currency or banknote to pay, and now it has become a check or credit card [D94] . (Translator's Note: Shell is the meaning of the shell, that is, "shelling out" is the beginning of the shell)

We did not realize that this has touched the origin of our species.


In addition to shells, there are many forms of currency on the American continent. Hair, teeth and a lot of other things are widely used as trading media (their common attributes we will discuss later).

Before 12000, in the seat of Washington State, Clovis produced some amazing long-shaped meteorite blades. The only problem is that these blades are too easy to break – that is, they can't be used to cut things at all. These meteorites are made "completely for entertainment," or for some purpose that is completely unrelated to cutting things [G01] .

As we will see later, this superficial frivolity is very likely to play a very important role in their survival.

Native Americans are not the first group of people to make good-looking and useless meteorite devices, nor the first group of people who invented shell currency; it is necessary to add that Europeans are not, although they used to use shells and teeth in large numbers. As a currency – not to mention cows, gold, silver, weapons and other things. Asians have used all of these things, as well as fake axes issued by the government, but they have also introduced such tools (shells). Archaeologists have discovered shell necklaces dating back to the early Paleolithic era – simply replacing the currency used by Native Americans.

– Beads made from shells of pea-sized conch Nassarius kraussianus. These conchs live in the estuary. Discovered from the Blombos Cave, South Africa. Years ago, 75,000 years ago. [B04]

In the late 1990s, archaeologist Stanley Ambrose discovered that in a stone bunker in the Kenyan Rift Valley, there were some necklaces made of ostrich eggshells and shell fragments. They used the (40Ar/40Ar) argon dating method to determine the age of the necklace at least 40,000 years ago [A98] . Animal teeth found in Spain can also be traced back to this era [W95] . Perforated shells in the early Paleolithic era were also found in Lebanon. Recently, the complete shell (prepared as beaded) was discovered in the Blombos cave in South Africa and can be pushed forward to 75,000 years ago! [B04]

– Ostrich eggshell beaded and found in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. 40,000 years ago. (Thanks to Stanley Ambrose) –

These modern human subspecies migrated to Europe, and shell necklaces and teeth appeared there, 40,000 years ago. Shell and tooth necklaces appeared in Australia before 30,000 [M93] . In all cases, the production work was very skillful, suggesting that such practices can be traced back to earlier in archaeological work. The origins of collectibles and decorations are most likely to be in Africa, the origin of modern races in an anatomical sense. Collecting and making necklaces must have some extremely important survival advantages, because they are extravagant – making these necklaces requires a lot of skill and time, and at that time humans have long struggled on the verge of starvation [C94] .

Basically, all human cultures, even those that do not participate in large-scale trade or use more formal forms of currency, make and appreciate jewellery and those whose art or heritage values ​​are far more practical than practical. We humans collect shell necklaces and other forms of jewelry – just for pleasure. For evolutionary psychologists, the so-called "human beings do something for pleasure" is not an explanation at all, but a question. Why do so many people think that the luster of collectibles and jewelry is pleasing? To be more straightforward, the question is – how does this pleasure give humans an evolutionary advantage?

– A necklace found in a tomb in Sungir, Russia, 28,000 years ago. It is internally interlocked and interchangeable beads. Each mammoth ivory bead may take an hour or two to make [W97] .


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Author: Nick Szabo

Translation: Ajian

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