What was the very first money in the history of mankind
Coins familiar to us did not appear immediately …
Even the earliest societies were in search of a thing to which they could assign payment functions. What just did not fulfill the role of money! In historical museums there are the most outlandish exhibits.
Many cultures used commodity-money. It was something that everyone appreciated about the same. In the interchange of products, the most popular commodity was singled out, in which the value of all other goods was measured. For each nation, various goods became such an equivalent.
"Money" with horns and hooves
The first money among the peoples who mastered cattle breeding were domesticated animals. The ancient Greeks in the Iliad count the cost of weapons, armor and household utensils in bulls. Cattle became money before wheat and rye, because wild goats and sheep appeared on the farm before people began to grow cereals.
This "money" had advantages. They were well preserved and served as a means of accumulation, increasing their weight and bringing offspring.
This is how money is – proud and pretty
A hardy pack animal, the camel was a popular means of payment in Muslim states even in the 20th century. Among the ancient peoples, money made of metal was called "bull". The Sanskrit word "rupa" (cattle) gave the designation to the modern currency of India (rupiah).
The treasury of the ancient Russian military leader was called a cowgirl, and its manager was called a cattleman. The word "capital" in the ancient Germanic language meant wealth, which was calculated by the number of cattle. The ancient Iranians, the Arabs of the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the Germanic tribes, and later the Turkic peoples of the Volga region and the Urals used it as money.
Pets became commodity-money because they possessed useful properties for humans. Buffaloes, mules and donkeys were harnessed to carts to carry heavy loads. The meat of domestic animals was eaten. Their skins served as an excellent material for tailoring clothes and shoes. And cows, goats and buffaloes gave milk.
Over time, even with such a convenient means of payment, problems arise. This type of money was not suitable for paying for small and cheap goods.
"Money" to eat
Grain has become a more convenient form of money. In the ancient civilization of Egypt, a developed system of banks developed, which accepted wheat for storage. They could belong to both a wealthy Egyptian and the state. These ancient prototypes of modern banks carried out non-cash payments. Grain was withdrawn from the seller’s account and credited to the buyer’s account without resorting to movement in space.
Grain is the most valuable thing that could be for an ancient person
The Mesopotamian shekel was a unit of weight and contained about 160 grains of barley. The first use of this term in Mesopotamia dates back to 3000 BC. In the Chinese Empire, the role of money was played by rice. In Indochina and the nearest archipelagos – sago (palm core). In Africa, rock salt was a common equivalent, in Tibet – walnut fruits.
In the 18th century in the North American states, many goods, including corn, wheat and other grains, served as means of payment. For many peoples, tobacco leaves, alcohol or plant substances with a narcotic effect became money.
Ah, money, money, money…
Furs, spices and salt eventually replaced the first commodity-money – pets and grain. Furs were used as money by northern peoples (Vikings, Altai peoples and natives of North America).
Ancient Russia traded furs with the Khazar Khaganate, Arab caliphates and Constantinople. The marten fur was most valued. They called him Kuns. The fur of a gray or red squirrel was used as money. For a squirrel skin they gave 1 kopeck, and one hundred skins could be bought for 1 USD. The more expensive fur of arctic fox and sable was especially valued. And in Croatia, the local currency has long been called "kuna".
One of the common types of commodity money is the shells of rare mollusks – kauri. They were used in the Pacific Islands, in the Chinese empire of Shan-Yin (XVI century BC), Indochina (from the VIII to the XIX centuries), Siam (XVII century) and Africa (XIX century).
For centuries, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean served as their main source, from where they spread across the Mediterranean, the Pacific region, and ended up in Asia Minor. Like silver and gold, they had the properties of money – there were not so many of them, they were easy and convenient to transport. In Chinese writing, there is a character for trade. Its writing resembles the image of a shell.
Money in the form of mollusk shells is the oldest and most common form of commodity-money that has survived to this day. Back in the middle of the last century, the natives of the Solomon Islands had their own monetary system. Local residents used three types of shells in exchange: the least valuable – dark (kurila), light (galia) and the most expensive – purple (rongo). Only in the 50s of the twentieth century, kauri finally ceased to exist as a means of payment.
Glass beads, imported by Europeans, have become the currency of the African and American continents. One of the tribal leaders in Uganda ordered the fields to be sown with glass beads. To his regret, this did not help him harvest his own coins. In trade with aborigines, settlements were made with beads strung on a string – “wampums". They were used not only as decoration. The Indians believed that they had powerful healing properties.
Elephant tusks were used as money in African tribes
Among African tribes, wealth was measured by the number of elephant tusks. As money, the inhabitants of Africa willingly used fabrics received from the British colonialists. Linen and chintz served as money in West Africa; in Tibet, silk was a similar means of payment.
The teeth of kangaroos, dogs and marsupial possums were used as money in New Guinea, and the teeth of a bat, sperm whale or dolphin were used on other islands. The Melanesians pull out the upper sharp teeth from wild pigs so that the lower ones grow, bending in a semicircle. This increased their value and thereby turned them into money.
In Papua New Guinea, bird feathers are used as money. Aborigines especially appreciate the beautiful feathers of pigeons and hummingbirds. More recently, in Oceania, there were tribes that recognized human skulls as money. Slaves were another "terrible" type of commodity-money. So, among the Celtic tribes at the dawn of the Christian era, one slave was equated to 12 rams, 6 calves or 3 cows. The monetary system of the ancestors of modern Norwegians included slaves captured in military campaigns, cattle and weapons.
During the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century, uniform buttons from the uniforms of French soldiers were very popular. In some areas of Egypt, they began to turn into a cash equivalent.
Just 5 centuries ago, 2/3 of the population lived in barter, in which one product was exchanged for another. It coexisted peacefully with primitive money. Now it is difficult to imagine our life without money, which serves as a means of exchange, measurement, accumulation and payment.
With the development of society and commodity relations, the earliest money is replaced by metal coins. Each nation had its own commodity-money, which prevented trade with distant countries. The story of the Tver merchant and traveler Athanasius Nikitin is instructive. At the end of the 15th century, he went to trade in furs in distant India and "burned out", because in a hot country, fur was not considered a value. It was difficult to pay for small items with the very first money – animals or slaves. It was difficult to keep them with you and move with them even for small distances.
So, human communities are gradually moving to metallic money.