shell money


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shell money,

medium of exchange consisting of shells, the most widely distributed type of ancient currency. Shells are particularly useful as money because they may be strung in long strips of proportionate value or they may be used to provide a single unit value in exchange. Shells ultimately derived their value from their use as jewelry and in rituals. Relative scarcity of the type of shell used or the way the shell is fashioned often determines its value. Cowriecowrie
or cowry
, common name applied to marine gastropods belonging to the family Cypraeidae, a well-developed family of marine snails found in the tropics. Cowries are abundant in the Indian Ocean, particularly in the East Indies and the Maldive Islands.
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 shells have been the most common shell media and are probably the oldest in usage for exchange. Wampumwampum
[New England Algonquian,=white string of beads], beads or disks made by Native Americans from the shells of mollusks found on the eastern coast or along the larger rivers of North America, used as a medium of exchange and in jewelry.
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, used in North America, was usually fashioned from thick-shelled clams; dentalia, or tooth shells, were popular with the coastal Native Americans of W North America. Mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell are said to have been used for trade in ancient China. Oceanic peoples in particular use a variety of shells in trade.
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References in classic literature ?
They've got one hundred fathoms of shell money on his head now, which is worth one hundred pounds sterling.
A hundred and fifty pigs and shell money no end the village's collected for the chap that gets me and delivers.
As the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff noted last year in his book 'The Curse of Cash', early currencies once included "whale's teeth in Fiji, rice in the Philippines, grain in India, cowrie shell money in large parts of Africa and China as well as wampum beads in the United States".
1-21) and an illuminating appendix in which he compares Hylkema's work with the work of other scholars interested in Melanesian shell money such as Stephane Breton, Joel Robbins, and David Akin (pp.
Some of the Shell money is tied to subsequent settlements as well as the court's determination of damages, with 10 percent--after attorney's fees--set aside for the state's expenses.
Along the small river that provides fresh water, one can still see grooves in the rocks where traditional shell money was carved from fossilized giant clams still found amid fossilized corals and shells suspended in jagged lava rock during eruptions that created today's Marovo Lagoon.
He acquired an understanding of the structure of ownership of indigenous wealth, the ranked system of shell money, and the procedures of exchange, he says, but the strategies pursued, the practice of exchange over time, and the logic behind them eluded him for a long time.
During the eve of the occasion for the tumbuan to perform, the custodians of other tumbuans will come with rings of shell money as fees for the tumbuan to perform.
It started a long and painful journey of reconciliation in Bougainville, using traditional methods such as the exchange of shell money, feasts and mediation by tribal elders.