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My Oldest Chinese "Coin"

 
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Pillar of the Community
3772 Posts
 Posted 10/11/2014  07:03 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Medieval to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Like many other cultures the Chinese used cowrie shells as 'currency' in the early days, from the early part of the second millennium BC. Because access to cowrie shells was limited in large parts of China, the Chinese carved cowrie shells from soft stone.

Here my example, dated to ~800 BC:



Btw, cowrie shells were still used as 'currency' in many places into the modern times.
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22887 Posts
 Posted 10/11/2014  07:40 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I find these piece very interesting but do not know enough to tell which are real and which are recent copies being produced in China.
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513 Posts
 Posted 10/11/2014  4:33 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chuy1530 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
What I find interesting is how many different cultures (who as far as we know didn't have contact) used those shells. It's a bit eerie.
Pillar of the Community
3772 Posts
 Posted 10/11/2014  5:05 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Medieval to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It's really cultures around the Indian and part of the Pacific ocean, so there might have been contact contact between some of them, how much is up for archaeologists and historians to find out. Don't forget there was a lot of trade even in ancient times, the Romans traded with China (via intermediaries) and Roman bronzes are dug up in Sri Lanka/Ceylon.

Also cowrie shells are nice and shiny objects, if I dig up one of the modern ones I have, I'll post it for a comparison.

Note to 'echizento' : I picked the above up many years ago from a respected coin/antiquities dealer, before the storm of Chinese fakes started - so I am quite hopeful that it is genuine.
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 Posted 10/11/2014  6:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chuy1530 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
They were also used in Africa and by the Native Americans, although not necessarily as currency.

You're right that it's probably that they're just overall pleasing objects, but like I said I just think it's interesting some of the things different groups of people had in common.
Pillar of the Community
3772 Posts
 Posted 10/11/2014  6:37 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Medieval to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Didn't know about their use by Native Americans, would like to learn more about it, can you provide a link if you have?

Primitive money is an interesting subject in it's own, but most doesn't fit into this forum because it continues into pre-modern or even modern time eg Katanga Cross, Kissy Pennies or Larins.
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 Posted 10/11/2014  6:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chuy1530 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
They played a big part in the mythology of the Ojibway tribe, who used them in their ceremonies despite them having to trade for them from relatively far away. We're pretty far off the topic of Ancient coins and they probably weren't used as a unit of currency in any sense of how we'd think of it.

Here's a link with some good info about them in general.

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~call0031/ojibwa.html
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4732 Posts
 Posted 10/11/2014  9:14 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chrsmat71 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
interesting. I've seen these, but I always thought they were actual shells....didn't know they were carved objects. pretty neat med.
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 Posted 10/11/2014  10:25 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Topcat7 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Here is a photo of my gold plated bronze cowrie shell currency from ancient China.





Also used in Thailand until (relatively) recently (1800's) as 'currency'




Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 10/12/2014  12:44 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Medieval to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks 'chuy1530', interesting read - wonder where and when on their migration they picked up that creation myth, there are no cowries where they were located in the end.

But as promised, here a picture of simple cowries (which I picked up in New Zealand):

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 Posted 10/12/2014  12:53 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chuy1530 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It's a massive tragedy that we know so little about the Native Americans. Their history is likely every bit as interesting as the ones we know about, but it's almost all gone now...
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 Posted 10/12/2014  01:32 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Medieval to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply


Unfortunately school history (at least by my experience) starts in ancient times (Egypt, Sumer, etc), covers Greece and Rome but after the fall of the Western Roman Empire deals thinly with the migration of the (East) Germanic people and more or less jumps to the crusades. Just putting a label of "dark ages" on a period which saw plenty progress, but historians are only now digging through the remaining documents to clarify that period and the further ones. After the crusades it's off to the age of colonisation, onwards from then is a good coverage, but mostly European/Western centric.

A lot of history is coming still to light and drifting back into what this forum is about, numismatics play a significant role in helping written history to understand certain areas and certain regions - unfortunately a lot of history of those peoples who did not leave written documents or distinguishable artifacts like coins around will be lost forever.

Sorry with the diverting.
If a moderator feels like closing the topic, he/she has my full support.
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4778 Posts
 Posted 10/12/2014  02:00 am  Show Profile   Check VisigothKing's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add VisigothKing to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Eh, just go back to shells/coins and the thread should be fine.
"For as long as Belisarius lives, it is impossible for him to relinquish this city." - Roman general Belisarius, responding to a group of Gothic envoys, during the Gothic siege of Rome in 537 AD

Attributed coins in my collection so far - Roman: 241, Byzantine: 44, Post-Roman Germanic: 24
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5155 Posts
 Posted 10/12/2014  9:47 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Ancientnoob to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I want a real shell...
Pillar of the Community
3772 Posts
 Posted 10/12/2014  9:54 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Medieval to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Tempted to start a new collecting habit?
There are plenty around, not only the shiny cowries.
And shell segments/parts of other shells have been used as primitive money.
Or is it SHELL you want?
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