History

The history of money: strange things used as currency.

Money has taken many shapes and forms throughout history. From cowrie shells to gold coins, humans have used a variety of items to represent value and facilitate trade. However, some forms of currency are more unusual than others. 

Here are some of the strangest things that have been used as currency throughout history:

1. Giant Stone Discs/Stone Money

In the Pacific Islands, giant stone discs known as Rai were used as currency. In the Micronesian island of Yap, stone money known as Rai stones are still used as currency today. 

These stones can be up to 12 feet in diameter, weigh several tons, and are transported by canoe. The value of each stone is determined by its size, age, history, shape, and difficulty of transporting it.

Fun Fact: The use of Rai stones as currency is a unique and fascinating aspect of Yapese culture and has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

2. Tea Bricks

In ancient China, compressed tea leaves were used as currency. These tea bricks were convenient for trade because they were easy to store and transport. They were also durable and could be used as a form of payment for many years.

3. Feathers

In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, feathers from exotic birds such as quetzals and macaws were used as currency. These feathers were highly valued for their beauty and rarity. They were often woven into intricate headdresses and other ceremonial items.

4. Cowrie Shells

Cowrie shells have been used as currency in various parts of the world for thousands of years. They were particularly popular in Africa and Asia, where they were often used to represent small amounts of money. Cowrie shells were also used as ornaments and status symbols.

5. Salt

Salt has been used as currency in many different cultures throughout history. In ancient Rome, soldiers were sometimes paid in salt, which is where the word "salary" comes from. In Ethiopia, salt was used as a form of currency until the 20th century.

6. Teeth

Believe it or not, teeth (humans and animals) have been used as currency in some parts of the world. In Papua New Guinea, for example, teeth from wild pigs were used as currency until the early 20th century. When the supply of pig teeth ran out, human teeth were allegedly substituted.

In the Solomon Islands, dolphins' and bats' teeth were used as currency. Meanwhile, in the Fiji Islands, the tooth of the sperm whale was considered the most valuable form of currency. The rarity of these teeth made them a sacred object and they are still used in Fiji as bridal gifts. The value of each tooth was determined by its size, with larger teeth being more valuable. Until the 20th century, these teeth could be used as currency to purchase anything from land to the death of a rival chieftain.

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